[telecom] Cellco cheating with Prepaid?

Along with land lines I've had wireless in one form or another for more than 15 years, initially done as a 1 or 2 year contract; in later years month-to-month. In the past 18 months I've gone all prepaid.

For my call patterns (no data, no text) this is wayyyy cheaper. A US$100/1000 minute, 12 month prepaid from T-mobile typically lasts

6-7 months. This translates to roughly $16/month, with no additional junk fees. Contrast this to the most minimal "post-paid" T-Mobile plan of $30/month, with another $10 in fees and taxes tacked on.

I also moved recently and ported my old land line number to a cheap Tracphone prepaid. This account acts as a "place holder" until I can decide what to do with that old number, which I've had for 30+ years.

Here's what's odd. With all those years, I know my calling habits fairly well, both inbound and outbound. It seems that in the past two months way more wireless minutes are being used than should be the case, based on 16 months' prior experience with prepaid. The T-mobile minutes seem to be going by at 1.5x what they should; the Tracphone minutes seem to disappear at 2x (on a "double minutes" phone -- how ironic). No one but me has access to these phones.

Maybe I'm imagining all this or am not accounting for something. But before I start some elaborate external logging to verify actual usage, have there been any rumblings about Cellcos attempting to subvert their prepaid customers? Any rumors or actual cases of Cellcos padding the meter (or making it run faster) to burn up any extra prepaid time they can?

Is there any auditing that takes place, something like the state Weights and Measures office certifying the accuracy of the pumps at the corner gasoline station?

Cellcos no doubt hate users like me, who have noted the unused minutes each month, switched to prepaid, and cut the gross revenue on the account (sometimes significantly). If enough folks did this I could understand Cellco motives to engage in accounting skulduggery.

Mainly curious if any other prepaid users have sensed something like this and if so, how they've pursued it.

Thanks in advance, Frank

Reply to
Frank Stearns
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I think Tracfone does whole minute increments, so if you go a second over it costs a minute. Mark L. Smith snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com

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Reply to
Mark Smith

I haven't noticed any unusual usage, but I probably wouldn't notice it even if it happened. I maintain two Tracfone accounts, each one renewed annually for $100/year including 400 minutes plus 400 bonus. Neither phone uses anywhere near 800 minutes per year, so rollover minutes just keep piling up. As of today, my wife's phone shows >3300 unused minutes, and mine shows >2400.

Neal McLain

Reply to
Neal McLain

I have had the same T-Mobile PrePaid Gold plan as you for 6 years now. Paid the $100/1000min charge one time at start. I make/get about 2 short calls per month ! Usually maintain about 90 minutes/US$20 on the account, making minimum $10 recharges as needed. I have not noticed any issues with the minutes being deducted as used.

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I also use T-Mo prepaid, but I don't use the phone much, it's turned off most of the time. My last $25 lasted a year.

I have not experienced that with my stupidphone. Two things that occur to me are, if it's a smartphone it may be doing things on the network that you don't know about, and especially if you're web browsing. And text messages are pricey (IIRC @$0.25), though the ones from T-Mo are free. I don't do txts.

I believe that charges run from the moment you press "call", but think all the carriers do that.

You can call to #999# check your balance, or I think you check online if you've registered with T-Mo. While that wouldn't give you "elaborate" data, it would be enough to tell you if charges were occurring during periods that you knew you hadn't used the phone.

Reply to
Dave Garland

All I'm aware of is that the time (for your outgoing calls) starts when you press the green "send" button to start the call, and ends once the tower realizes you've pressed the red "end" button to hang up. What with rounding fractional minutes up (to the next full minute), that may be adding an unexpected extra minute to each call you make.

Received calls' timers may conceivably start when your first "ring" indication reaches you (rather than when you answer). And RingNoAnswer calls to you, that go to voicemail, probably get both a minute counted for the call attempt itself, and then however many minutes the forwarding to voicemail lasts.

Could the above help explain much of your "extra prepaid time"?

Cheers, -- tlvp

Reply to

Tracfone counts the minutes in the phone itself, so it definitely does. The phone knows nothing of free calls other than 911, so calls to voicemail and such all count.

That means the minute count you see on the phone's display is the real count, so it should be relatively simple to watch and see whether it counts down at a reasonable rate. I'm pretty sure that mine does.

Reply to
John Levine

As far as I know all US mobile operators use "send-to-end" billing meaning that you have the possibility to be charged any time you press the "send" or talk button. You are only charged if the end calling party's line answers. If it does answer you are charged for the entire length of the call process i.e. you will be charged time from call setup, called line ringing, actual time the conversation is going as well as the time it takes to take down your call.

This is in contrast to the way some operators work. In Canada (on Fido) for postpaid service you are charged exact billing and only are charged for actual off-hook time. This is also the norm for many foreign GSM operators. I'm guessing that send-to-end billing is a remnant of analog mobile calling since (I'm guessing) there was no "supervision" available for analog systems.

The domestic operators saw no reason to change the system since it helped them make more revenue even though with today's sophisticated systems exact billing is easily possible. It's not so important for people who have unlimited talk on their mobile plans, but can mean higher charges for anyone who is still paying for their voice calls by the minute.

Reply to
Joseph Singer

Omnipoint used to charge from _answer_ to "end". They switched to "send to end" (rounded up to the minute [a]) very roughly five years ago. (Which is probably ten by now...).

[a] With the notable exception of Nextel, which used to round up to the tenth of a minute (six seconds), all major US carriers have always done full minute segments. Then again, so did AT&T in the wired phone days.
Reply to
danny burstein

Thanks for all the replies on this.

I have been aware of the end-to-end and whole-minute billings; this has been factored into the my sense of "something is rotten." (Remember the good old days when 6 second interval billing was a sales point?)

So today I noticed that in the space of a week 30 minutes has gone missing from the Tracfone. It does not get used; it is only a placeholder for an old land line! I have another cell and VOIP line for all my regular calling.

Only a few random inbound calls appear on the Tracfone, and as 0:00 calls at that -- not more than 3-4 calls like that. So where did the time go??

wrote to Tracfone CS today, requesting an itemized call log. Wow! What an amazing set of requirements they demand to obtain such a list, even though my old cell carriers and LD carriers provided that as a matter of course. These extra hoops (and no online way to view the logs) adds to the smell factor a bit.

But I am going to keep digging; this is all very odd.

Hmmmm. In wonder now if faked or empty caller ID calls from the "robo-Rachels" of the world are connecting and burning time, but because of the bad ID don't show up in the handset's log... hmmm.


Reply to
Frank Stearns

You're lucky you got that far from their email support. Most times I have contacted them by email, I am told that I need to call customer service, which can end up being a five to 30 minute waiting time, all of it billed, of course.


Reply to
Jon Danniken

I'm really not surprised at the extra hoops you have to jump through. Your other lines were tied to you and your billing address. Your Tracfone is essentially anonymous. Anybody could be asking for that log. Not handing over your information to any random person who asks seems like a feature, not a bug. Proving you're entitled to the information is not so simple a task.

Reply to

Interesting about OmniPoint - they switch to VoiceStream and then got sold off to T-Mobil. Now T-Mobil bought MetroPCS so I'm once again going to be with Ominpoint/VS/T-Mobil.

Reply to

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