Friday, January 22, 2016

ZTE Wireless Home Phone

& Product


This blog entry is about Consumer Cellular and the ZTE Wireless Home Phone device.

The primary purpose is to help others avoid the back-and-fourth Consumer Cellular CSRs and I went through to get the ZTE operational.

The ZTE also is used by AT&T, U.S. Cellular, and at least one other company.

First of all, the product is Chinese.

When I received my first ZTE unit the antenna and its connector were separated. A call to Consumer Cellular quickly had a replacement unit on the way. The defective unit was returned to Consumer Cellular in a pre-paid Priority Mail envelope.

Once the number transfer (from ATT to Consumer Cellular) was complete - within a few days - I tried to use my Uniden DECT 6.0 cordless phones via the ZTE.

Each time I tried to activate the ZTE by entering my account information, the automatic voice response was "Your activation code is not valid."

I emailed Customer Service explaining what I had done and the results.

A Customer Service Representative (CSR) called me (on my Consumer Cellular cell phone) and worked with me for a half hour or more, then said he was escalating the issue and would call back.

After waiting for a call back for several hours, I sent another email to Customer Service. This email included all the information on the underside of the ZTE, including

    IEMI # Unit Serial Number SKU Model ID and FCC ID

I did not know to

  1. Open the battery cover
  2. Remove the battery
  3. Remove the SIM card (exposed when the battery was removed)
  4. Remove the SIM card, and
  5. Write down the SIM card's ID

Within a few minutes of sending the email, a CSR named Shari R. called - again on my cell phone.

The first thing Shari R. told me was that the clue to my problem was the IEMI number; it failed to match what Consumer Cellular had on its computer. Apparently when the replacement unit was shipped, the data in the Consumer Cellular database was not updated.

Shari R. told me to give her the last 4 digits on the SIM card - and then told me how to find it. Getting the battery cover off is a challenge, and getting the SIM card out also is challenging, but with a thin blade, anything is possible.

With the SIM card information in hand, she updated the database and we tested the ZTE to make certain it worked.

This time, when I entered the activation code it was accepted.

Shari called me via the ZTE. It worked.

I called my wife's cell. It rang and communication was established.


The point of this exercise is two-fold:

  1. To give Sari R. and most of the other Consumer Cellular CSRs who worked with me, recognition for their effort and a Gold Star for their patience and professionalism
  2. To advise both CSRs and users that to expedite problem resolution, the CSR needs to know all the information about the unit - any unit - that may not function to specification; in the case of a ZTE, all the information previously listed.

The ZTE is not a perfect option, but it is functional.

My main complaints are (a) a "fast busy" while the cordless connects to the ZTE and (b) the delay between the end of the "fast busy" and the dial tone. Neither issue is present on the corded phone that also is connected the the ZTE. My cordless phones are old Uniden DECT 6.0 devices and that may account for the "fast busy" and delay before dial tone - although I don't think the problem will be eliminated with newer wireless devices.

My set-up is shown below, with both the cordless remote base unit and the corded phone connected to telco ports 1 and 2 on the back of the ZTE. The ZTE can be accessed by any cordless phone in the house.

Why the corded phone?

In the rare event of a power outage, the cordless phones are useless.

The ZTE has a battery with roughly 3.5 hours of talk time.

The corded phone gets its power from the ZTE battery - it used to be powered by the phone company Central Office. I tried the corded phone with the ZTE disconnected from the AC and it had a dial tone. Interestingly, there is NO "fast busy" or delay before hearing a dial tone with the corded phone, ergo my suspicion that those are cordless-to-ZTE problems.

The vertical black box in the background is a modem/router.

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