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Is this the end of Speakout as we know it?
December 6, 2010
12:05 pm
andreww
Toronto
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I hate to be the guy that predicts the sky is falling, but...

Several things have happened as of late that lead me to believe that there is a change coming, and most of us probably aren't going to like it.

- I have noticed that in the 711 stores themselves, there seems to be a lot more space being given to other brands like Virgin. In fact, some stores usually have a very poor selection of Speakout phones.

- 711 has not improved the lineup of available phones, and still doesn't offer a qwerty phone despite introducing a texting plan a half year ago.

- The Speakout website appears to be gearing up for an online top-up system. That would elimnate any need to visit 711 stores themselves, also eliminating any purpose of backing the service.

- The number of 711 stores in Canada seems to be decreasing rather than increasing. For a chain whose coverage is spotty at best, this is not a good thing.

- And finally, Speakout has recently made changes to its online data service. Unless you have been living under a rock, you are undoubtedly aware that Speakout has gone fully 3G, a major improvement from its 2G or "EDGE" service. Although its an amazing feature right now, one has to wonder why they have done this? For starters, 711 does not sell 3G enabled phones. Beyond that, Speakout's service really does not merit a 3G data service as 3G is geared toward the Smartphone market, a market that Speakout is a long way from entering.

Now that Speakout is selling virtually unlimited 3G data for $10 per month, how long do you think it will be before the floodgates open and we are inundated with 10s of thousands of new users? On Speakouts 2G network it was very hard to rack up any real amounts of data usage in a month because of the slow speeds. It was a handy service, but just too slow to do any extended surfing. I'm sure that data usage by existing users will spike very quickly, and again, not go unnoticed by Rogers.

So what is going on? Who knows? My best bet is that Speakout is gearing up for a split with 711. I would assume that they will offer smartphones and possibly a monthly data service. It will not be $10 a month however. I would also expect that the costs of all speakouts other features to rise as well, bringing them in line with other carriers.

December 6, 2010
12:50 pm
bridonca
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Here is a thought. Ztar, the operators of speak out mobile, might be simply slowly jockeying for a better deal. Just because they are with Rogers right now does not mean they always have to be. It is conceivable that the new phones Ztar stocks will be able to do more than GSM. Ztar might eventually stock phones that also work with Wind and Mobilcity, and of course Bell/Telus. The advantage to Ztar is that if they have this network flexibility, they can get better terms and pricing than being tied with one network. Of course this will not happen overnight, but why not in 2 or 3 years time or sooner?

Ztar has never been known for their desire to stock a particularly modern lineup of phones. It could be as simple as there are not all that many new GSM phones being designed and made, and the HSDPA phones currently have too high a price point for Ztar's tastes. But is is pretty obvious that they will eventually have HSDPA devices sooner or later.

As for Speakout getting an online payment system, great. 7-11 is a very limited distribution channel for most areas of Canada. To not have to rely on it for airtime purchase is a major advantage. As long as 7-11 makes money out of Speakout, they will stock the phones and airtime. simple as that!

December 6, 2010
1:42 pm
andreww
Toronto
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bridonca, interesting thoughts. However, all we can say for sure is that some kind of change is coming. The changes they have made to their data network just don't jive with their current business model. I know relatively little about the way that cellular service is delivered, but could this just be something that Rogers is doing to increase its 3G coverage? After all, Speakout's 2G service hasn't been replaced. It still their and running normally.

December 6, 2010
8:46 pm
iamdrumming
Niagara Falls
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Andreww,

With all due respect, I think you are wrong on most counts.

The 7-Eleven closest to me has a good size SpeakOut display, and they always have had it that way. The banner over the doors as you walk in is about SpeakOut as well. SpeakOut is the most advertised phone there.

2. SpeakOut is a no/low frills carrier, and their market audience is for light users. From day one they never catered to the heavy user or the person that needs all the bells and whistles on a phone. If you need a phone that has everything, then chances are you are using it quite a bit and should go with one of the big boys.

3. Yes, the site is gearing up so that you can buy top-ups online. People would still go to 7-Elevens regardless. My closest 7-Eleven is just down the street from me, so it's not even close to going out of the way for me to go there.They never said they will sell phones online, so you might still have to go to a store to get a phone package. The reason to go online is to go after all those without a 7-Eleven (Maritimes, Ottawa, all of Quebec). That is a HUGE untapped market.

Do not think that SpeakOut is going away. They just revamped their site. That is a sign there that business is good. They are gearing up for the future.

December 7, 2010
12:28 am
springbok
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If speakout goes away then petro canada mobility will go away. Both are run by ztar (sp?).

I think they will stay. A company who might be going away, in my opinion, would not have spent money on their new website.

I hope they stay!

December 7, 2010
2:40 pm
andreww
Toronto
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I don't believe they are going away at all. But they could possibly split from 711 and run Speakout as its own brand. The pay and talk market is crowded, but what the market really lacks is something like we've got right here. A pay and talk service that is geared toward smart phone users. I think that many people out there are like myself, and don't need a ton of minutes and unlimited texting. I make 2 or 3 mins of calls a month and send no more than 50 texts. That a grand total of $5.75 here. Why should people be obligated to take an expensive plan in order to have the privilege of using data?

Speakout as a customizable 3G service, with web based account manageability, would be far better off than the half a$$ 711 project that they are.

Problem is, there is nooooo way Rogers will ever let Speakout sell unlimited 3G data for $10 per month.

December 7, 2010
5:55 pm
bridonca
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Rogers and Bell are getting squeezed though, and they know it. Forget for the moment we still own the frequencies these carriers use, we in Canada pay the highest rates in the world for data. If they want to push it, see what enough angry voters can do about it. They are already pretty cranky, and the telcos have not been that good to them.

I does not hurt there is more competition. For $25, you can get unlimited data or voice. I know the wind and mobilcity network is small right now, but they are taking a lot of customers away from the incumbents, and they seem to be growing. I would go with them if they had it here just because they do not nickle and dime.

.

December 8, 2010
1:31 am
andreww
Toronto
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I wouldn't be so eager to jump to a carrier like WIND. I know a lot of people in Toronto were very irate at just how bad their coverage is. I've had people tell me that their phones are utterly useless, and that they are unable to get a signal in the heart of the city. Don't know if its gotten any better, but I really wasn't overly impressed with their pricing anyway.

December 12, 2010
7:16 am
ddsdude
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Wind currently has a promotion going for $40/mnth, offering practically unlimited everything (local minutes, long distance to Canada/US, global texting, data including BIS). Very nice plan assuming you're in a good coverage area and have a need for all the unlimited goodness. If I weren't such a light user (esp. for voice), I'd probably jump on it.

My concern is that Rogers will put an end to smartphones using the $10 UMB plan, much like it has done for its own customers.

January 12, 2011
11:29 pm
andy123
Ottawa, ON
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January 12, 2011
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I totally agree that SpeakOut has a very very poor phone selection. They used to offer good music phones, but not anymore. And worse of all, none of the phones they currently offer have a micro-sd slot, so you don't have much space to store photos and music plus you can only transfer photos to your computer via Bluetooth (which is only available on one phone). However, I emailed them in November 2010 and they said that they will be offering a new handset sometime in 2011.

Here's a picture of their email response.
[Image Can Not Be Found]

Uploaded with ImageShack.us

Does anyone know the month or date that they will be offering the new phone? I signed up for their phone selection newsletter but I haven't received any emails about this yet. I'm just curious.

January 22, 2011
6:22 pm
fefrie
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SO probably has crappy phones because they are probably required to as per their contract with Rogers.

They probably also quietly rolled out the 3G because they probably can't advertise a $10 ULB plan.

In fact, they probably can't advertise at all as stipulated to them by Rogers.

If they carried 3G phones, if they advertised their $10 plan, if they advertised their 365 exipry, if they advertised at all they'd probably be kicked off of the Rogers network because SO beats Rogers in quality in so many ways.

SO is getting quietly better.

And that's the way I prefer it. Why ruin a good thing?