First Thoughts On Verizon's TravelPass

What a great idea. Let international travelers have an option that saves them money when roaming outside the USA.  That's the premise behind Verizon's new TravelPass.

Unfortunately, as with any new product offering, there's always some teething pain it seems. In this case it's a clear lack of communications between marketing who told us all about it, the notification team, roaming team and billing team. Here's the scenario and the outcome, which was good in the end, but may serve as a warning to others who want to use it.

  1. Problem One-TravelPass isn't Automatic. You have to opt-in by checking a box on the VZW web site or contacting customer support to make it active. If you think it does without opting in, expect a big roaming bill.
  2. Once you activate it, it will work when you are in the countries it works in. It doesn't work everywhere in the world so it's important to check the country list. If you don't check, you can expect a big roaming bill.
  3. Once you start using it, after you land in the foreign country you will get an alert to opt into some roaming plan. You don't want to because you're already registered for TravelPass, but if you're not in one and think you are, you can expect a big roaming bill if you don't buy the other package. This is where Verizon's billing and notifications teams need to get their act together. Conflicts between what plan is active when, where you are, what countries are in all will cause confusion.
  4. Once you pass 50MB of use you're going to receive another false positive alert by SMS, then about 15 minutes later you'll receive an email telling you the same thing. Once again if you've got TravelPass active, and you find yourself in a TravelPass country, it won't matter. But the real problem arises when you've grown comfortable with TravelPass and don't realize you're not in a TP country and you end up with a big roaming bill.

These are all easily fixed, but at Verizon Marketing, Billing, Roaming and Notifications may all need to get on a call and sort out what they're doing, because as of day four of this service being available, it's sure confusing.

AT&T and T-Mobile's Wi-Fi Calling Blocked By AT&T's Wi-Fi Division

I travel so much and as a result naturally have to address the many issues that can get in the way of  "staying connected" while on the road. The biggest one has always been reliable cell coverage in hotel rooms, especially when I'm in a high-rise hotel that hasn't installed a neutral or carrier specific DAS system. The DAS allows for the cellular coverage to be extended, which is why at airports Boingo's other business, that of operating DAS systems is so important to travelers of all types.

The second is reliable broadband. One that not only downloads fast, but uploads fast as well and is free of any port blocking, deep packet inspection or firewalls that disrupt real time communications. 

Recently though, I ran into the most hilarious and serious condition of all. I was staying in an AT&T Wi-Fi powered hotel (formerly called SuperClick) the hip Hotel Indigo in San Diego when I realized that not only was my cell coverage on both AT&T and T-Mobile powered iPhones poor, but that while they were both connected to the Wi-Fi network, neither of them had Wi-Fi calling working. 

My call to AT&T Wi-Fi support, yielded no support as they put the burden on AT&T Wireless. AT&T Wireless support were clueless as to why it wouldn't be working (ironically the same phones on another AT&T Wi-Fi/SuperClick property in Miami worked perfectly for both operators on the 32nd floor of the Intercontinental.) They promised to look into the matter but two weeks later, no one has called. What's worse is I sent a LinkedIn message to the former CEO of SuperClick who now works for AT&T --no reply, as I wanted comments before I penned this. On the other hand, a friend at T-Mobile was very interested in hearing that an AT&T Wi-Fi powered hotel was blocking their traffic, comparing it to the situation at the Opryland Hotel and Conference Center were Marriott was blocking third party Mi-Fi's from working. And we all know what kind of fine that levied.

Oh, and as for being connected. My Verizon LTE coverage was good, not great, but at least I could place and receive phone calls.  That's why I call the game "Cell Phone Roulette" When you're in a hotel. You never know which mobile operator will work or not.

No VoIP on Time Warner Cable

Years ago Time Warner Cable exerted enough pressure on AOL that when the company was a part of Time Warner that the senior team forced AOL to kill their fledgling VOIP service and ultimately AIM phone line, a service which could have rivaled Skype in its era.

Well it seems that Time Warner Cable which now is deploying WiFi hotspots that are under the TWCC Passpoint SSID are still down on VOIP. Basically their firewall prohibits calls via Cisco's Jabber or CounterPath Bria from working with hosted or cloud VoIP service.

This experience mirrors what is experienced with their home cable modem/router/access point from Arris. Those devices default to blocking SIP traffic from any provider but Time Warner Cable. Of course at home the firewall can be turned off but when you're out and about the traffic just won't pass on their network.

Given the FCC is picking on hotels for blocking WiFi devices one has to wonder when they set their sights on the cable guys blocking third party voice services or any other traffic type.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone