On December 1, 2004, T-Mobile made a network change intended to prevent some users from taking advantage of a wide open hole in their network. PDA and Smartphone users could get full, unlimited GPRS (TCP) access by subscribing to the $4.99 T-Zones plan, rather than the $19.99 GPRS plan. This was possible because up until now, the wap.voicestream.com APN (Access Point Name – the server used to provide network access), used by T-Zones, allowed the same wide-open full GPRS connectivity as the internet2.voicestream.com and internet3.voicestream.com APNs that the full $19.99 GPRS plans use. In response to this, T-Mobile shut down TCP access via wap.voicestream.com by blocking all ports except those used for WAP access.
The problem is that paying Blackberry customers are configured to use wap.voicestream.com for TCP access, and they were cut off, too. This has caused any application that needs TCP connectivity to the internet (IM applications, 3rd party web browsers and mail clients, etc.) to stop working.
In my case, I evaluated the IM application Verichat for several weeks. It worked great, so I paid my $35 for a year’s subscription. Less than a week later, it stopped working altogether, because of the T-Mobile network change.
T-Mobile has admitted that they didn’t intend for this to happen to Blackberry users. Yet almost a month later, nothing has been done to address the problem. No public statement, no estimation of when we can expect any action. Nothing. This is why companies need to blog! If they would just keep us apprised of the situation, I’d be a lot less upset than I am. I have been a loyal T-Mobile customer for more than 5 years, mainly because of their reasonably priced unlimited GPRS plans. They supposedly have the best customer service in the industry. Yet a poorly planned network change has left thousands of customers with only partial service for a month, and we haven’t heard a peep out of them about it.
IMO, this was a poor design decision on T-Mobile’s part, made when they implemented Blackberry support in the first place. They should have configured Blackberry users to use the internet2.voicestream.com or internet3.voicestream.com APNs, instead of the (more limited) wap.voicestream.com APN.
What I’m encouraging Blackberry users to do is call T-Mobile, speak to a supervisor, and calmly but firmly demand that Blackberry users be provisioned to use the internet2/internet3 APNs for TCP access. Do not request the $19.99 GPRS plan – request that your Blackberry plan be configured to use the internet2/internet3 APNs.
This isn’t something they’re going to be able to fix on a case by case basis – they need to reconfigure all of their Blackberry plans to reenable TCP access. They admitted they didn’t intend for this to cut Blackberry users off. If it were intentional, it would be a violation of their own terms of service, by changing the service they provide without giving any advance notification. (Yes, I read the whole thing…)
I don’t think they’re trying to be a big bad company that doesn’t care about its customers. I think this was an unforeseen result of a network change on their part. They may be guilty of poor planning and change control, but I give them the benefit of the doubt regarding their intentions. Let’s give them a chance to fix the problem. If they ignore us, or refuse to fix it, then we’ll escalate to the next level (PUC/BBB complaints, legal action, etc.).
In order for this to work, we need to bring as much attention as possible to the issue. I invoke the power of the blogosphere to link and repost this issue everywhere you can. We need the attention and links from people like Engadget, Gizmodo, MGN, and Scoble, and all the rest of the blogs and websites out there.
Most companies don’t understand the power of blogging, and the community that it represents. I’m learning more and more just what can be accomplished by this focused, dedicated group of people. We can help T-Mobile fix this issue, and make its customers happy. If they (or any other company) ignore what people are saying about them in blogs and on the web in general, they do so at their own peril.