This blog is all about greener (and better) living through technology, so one of the things I’m trying to do is to reduce my bills, or eliminate them altogether.
One of my bills that I have some level of control over is my phone bill. I’ve got two kinds of phone bills, my mobile lines and my “landline.”
I’ve had T-Mobile as my mobile phone provider since sometime in 2005. About that same time I signed up for Vonage’s VoIP service. For $25/month for unlimited local and domestic long-distance, the price was certainly right.
Recently I’ve tried to reduce that even more. I look into bulk-rate VoIP providers and found most of them to be decently priced, but one stood out above the rest: Les.net. First off, they’re Canadian, so I don’t have to pay any US taxes or fees if I use them (that eats up about $6/month with most state-side carriers), they have voice-mail built-in, and have great local and international rates. The down-side: no 911 coverage, not even a “program your own” feature to forward all 911 calls to a pre-programmed number (which would be fine for me). At CAD$3.99/month unlimited, or just CAD$0.99/month plus CAD$0.0115/minute they’re perfectly priced… but with no 911, that’s a deal breaker.
So, I did some more looking, but most others were much more expensive. I settled on T-Mobile’s @Home service, which is advertised as USD$10/month if you have a at least a USD$39.99/month wireless plan through them (which I do). I went to their web site (http://t-mobileathome.com) and learned all about it, no voicemail-to-email like I’m used to, but they do have E911. I clicked on the “I want it” button, which then asked me if I was or was not a current T-Mobile customer. I picked “current customer” which took me to the regular www.t-mobile.com web site where I was asked to log in, which I did. Then what? Nothing. I couldn’t find how to add a VoIP line, add a VoIP service, order the VoIP ATA/Router. Nothing.
I called my local, T-Mobile indirect authorized dealer and asked if they had the ATA/Router in-stock: yup. I showed up 10 minutes later, that’s when the fun began.
- First, the store rep. called T-Mobile’s dealer-support line asking them to activate a new line of service on the account, and that it was going to be an @Home VoIP line. After 30 minutes the line was set up… but wait! The T-Mobile rep. didn’t ask for the SIM card’s number; luckily my local rep. caught that and made sure it was really activated for that SIM and got a “temporary number” assigned.
- We waited several minutes for the local rep.’s systems to be updated with the new line of service. When that didn’t happen he called T-Mobile back to check on it. Sure enough, something had gotten screwed up. So we went through the process again, this time with a different “temporary number” being assigned.
- We waited several more minutes for the local rep.’s systems to be updated with the new line of service. This time is came through and he printed out a confirmation page for me.
- I went home and set up the ATA/router per the instructions and CD that was included. Unfortunately it bonked on my screen’s resolution, I had two of every button and input field (one that didn’t work, one that did). I got through to the point where it went to look for internet connectivity, where it bonked again. I had to manually log into the ATA/router and supply a cloned MAC address for Comcast (my ISP) to allow the device on the network. Luckily I’m a geek and was expecting that and knew what I had to to, otherwise it would have been a long and painful ordeal. Ultimately I finished the setup process and had a dial-tone on the line.
- I made an outgoing test call: it went through just fine.
- I made an incoming test call: it went straight to voice-mail. I tried a few more times with the same result. Then I looked more closely at the caller-ID that the new line was broadcasting: it was different from either of the two temporary numbers that had been given to me by T-Mobile. I dialed the number on the caller-ID and it rang through just fine.
At that point I had viable incoming and outgoing calls to and from my “temporary” number. So far, so good. I then logged into Vonage’s web-based dashboard and set my “network availability number” to the “new” temporary number that T-Mobile had given me. That way, people calling my “old” Vonage number would be automatically forwarded to the T-Mobile temporary number, so all our old calls would keep going through. That worked great. This was the 28th of August 2008.
We had a really interested experience with the “temporary” number, but I’ll have to write about that in a later post.
T-Mobile told my local rep. that my “old” Vonage number would be ported over to T-Mobile on Tuesday, 02 September 2008. On Monday, 01 September 2008 in the evening, we lost the dial-tone on the T-Mobile ATA, and all incoming calls were getting a “not in service” error. The next day, after noon, I called T-Mobile support.
The recording told me I’d be on-hold for an hour and 26 minutes. I was upset, to say the least. Luckily it was only 15 minutes on-hold. Apparently, the temporary number was “turned off” when the port was “completed.”
I was asked to restart the cable modem and the ATA in sequence, waiting for each to completely boot up before restarting down-stream devices. I did so. At that point I got a dial-tone back on the T-Mobile number and when we called it it had my ported number on it. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, no calls could be made into the ATA at either the ported number, or the old “temporary” number. I was told T-Mobile would re-push the porting request and everything should be fixed within 24 hours (noon on Thursday, 04 September 2008).
Today, Monday, 08 September, at 5pm MDT the problem still wasn’t fixed, so I called them back. This time they told me my hold time would be 1 hour 15 minutes. After 20 minutes I was speaking with Karisa (sp?). I explained the history, their systems noted that the LNP still has not completed and is talking with the mythical “wireline department” (in the number transfer center) regarding the “push to the switches, which usually resolves these kinds of problems.” Apparently they’re not allowed to transfer the number until the 11th of September 2008.
At that time I’m requesting T-Mobile credit me for one month of service with Vonage (that I had to pay due to the slowness & complications of the porting), 3 hours of my time on the phone (1 hour for the 4th, another hour for the 8th – today, and another hour for the estimated time on the 11th), plus some settlement of the breach of contract regarding the cancellation of the temporary number on the 3rd. Karisa didn’t feel that any of those were unreasonable requests. I also informed Karisa that I would be writing about this on my website as unbiased as I can be given that I’m stuck in the middle; that if it’s a good outcome I’ll detail that, if it’s a bad outcome I’ll detail that.
The story is still unfolding, so I’ll let you know when all this is resolved.