Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Opuscula

Cell phone service
For home phones:
It works, saves $$s

I JUST GOT AN OFFER from Consumer Cellular for a “free” ZTE Wireless Home Phone Base.

My Spouse muttered that “Since we already HAVE the device, maybe Consumer Cellular will refund the money we paid.”

In any event, what follows is a user’s experience with

    Consumer Cellular

    Consumer Cellular Customer Support

    ZTE Wireless Home Phone Base

CAVEAT: The ZTE Wireless Home Phone Base basically is a cell phone that can be connected to a hard-wired or cordless system, with all the advantages and disadvantages inherent to cell phones.

We have been Consumer Cellular cell phone customers for a couple of years.

The company briefly offered the ZTE Wireless Home Phone Base, hereafter just “ZTE etc.”, then it disappeared from view. But that brief encounter made me curious.

From a cost perspective, Consumer Cellular’s $10-a-month – plus the multitude of taxes, seemingly levied by all taxing authorities extant – was an improvement over the local telco’s $25 (with the multitude of taxes) and always creeping up monthly fee.

We already had two Consumer Cellular plans; one of many minutes for the Spouse and one with fewer minutes for me. (Consumer Cellular keeps increasing her minutes, but not the charge; got’ta love that.)

Bottom line: I ordered the ZTE etc. It arrived in a few days – free shipping, too.

We kept our landline number (just as we kept our cell numbers) when we switched.

Consumer Cellular Customer Service

When the device arrived the antenna was broken off of the body. It is made in China; need I write more?

I contacted Consumer Cellular and immediately got an advanced replacement order. A few days later the replacement unit arrived – in one piece – and I packed up the broken unit for return to Consumer Cellular – also pre-paid.

Being a one-time technical writer, I DID read the manual and set up the device according to the instructions.

It failed to work.

Called Customer Service. Told to try this, then try that, Always the same result – I was unable to access the device.

After a number of calls to Customer Service – and having one guy promise to call back after escalating the call – I sent my last email to Customer Service, complaining (a) that the (expletive deleted) ZTE etc. STILL failed to function and (b) that after several days, I STILL was waiting for a call back.

A few minutes after sending the email, Shari R., a Customer Service Rep (CSR) called. (The whole megillah may be read elsewhere on this blog.)

Bottom line, Shari R. resolved the problem, then tested and confirmed that everything was working to specification.

One problem with Consumer Cellular Customer Service is that it is scattered across the U.S. I talked with CSRs in several states before connecting with Sheri R. in Arizona. All on Consumer Cellular’s dime. (I’m old and remember dime calls from corner pay phones – another relic from the past.)

SOME DIFFERENCES NOTED

We have an old Uniden DECT 6.0 cordless system; a couple of handsets and a base station. The base station connects to the ZTE etc. (There is a second connection if a “regular” telephone or answering machine is connected in lieu of or in addition to the cordless base station.)

While calls within the U.S. are free, standard with most cell phone providers, international calls must be routed through Consumer Cellular’s international long distance provider. I was not able to program the provider’s number, a few second “Pause” and then the destination number into the Uniden handsets. (I did manage this with the cell phone handsets; obviously a Uniden problem, not Consumer Cellular.) Consumer Cellular’s international rates are better than most so abandoning my long-time carrier wasn’t as painful as I anticipated.

Checking voice mail is a “delayed action.” The procedure with the cordless phone is

      Press TALK

      Press “1”

      Wait four (4) seconds

      Listen to any voice mails

Every thing else – saving, deleting, etc., is pretty standard.

Voice mails also can be retrieved remotely. It is all in the decently written guide that comes with the ZTE etc. (I keep it handy under the unit.)

TWO PROBLEMS

Problem #1: If you need 9-1-1 you may have to tell the 9-1-1 dispatcher your location. Some communities can register a cell phone location – and that’s what the ZTE etc. is, a cell phone – but many cannot.

Problem #2: The ZTE etc. requires 120 VAC. It has a 3.5 hour battery backup, but . . .   Corded phones connected to the local telco get their power from the telco, so an AC outage is not a problem. Calls to a powerless ZTE etc. are routed to voice mail; when power is restored, the message light on the ZTE etc. (and my Uniden handsets) blinks. Since most people who got the Consumer Cellular offer already have a cell phone account, they can use their cell phones until the power is restored. (Hopefully they can recharge their cell phones from their vehicle’s battery.)

BOTTOM LINE

Consumer Cellular has provided cell phone service at least as good as the major providers.

The ZTE Wireless Home Phone Base – once the initial issues were resolved – has provided service that, to my ears, is as good as the landline carrier Consumer Cellular replaced.

The advantage of the ZTE etc. is that is does NOT require internet connectivity, unlike VoIP phone systems (e.g., Vonage, magicJack, Ooma).

For my money, in my location, Consumer Cellular's ZTE Wireless Home Phone Base is a keeper.

As an aside, AT&T does, or at last did, offer the ZTE Wireless Home Phone Base, but I don't recall it ever really advertised the fact.


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