Controlling the customer experience

In just over two weeks, as of December 1, customers who purchased their phones from a Canadian carrier will have the have them unlocked at no charge, but many consumers likely have no idea that their phones may not be welcome on any network of their choosing.

At least one US carrier is restrictive about the devices it allows to connect to its network. Verizon will “refuse to provision devices it hasn’t tested or certified,” even if the unapproved phones may technically be compatible with Verizon’s LTE network, according to a recent article in PC Mag. Verizon says “customers tend to blame Verizon if their device fails, rather than going to the manufacturer.” So, like a number of other carriers, Verizon conducts network-compatibility testing on all phones it sells.

“If it was never tested on our network, it may not work well. You may make voice calls, but you won’t get the experience you come to expect from Verizon.”

Two months ago, I wrote a piece called “In case of emergency, who do you call?” There have been a few cases of devices being sold in Canada with compatibility issues that impact emergency calling. I asked a number of questions in that article:

  • Did the CRTC even hear evidence about the ability for advanced features to operate correctly on devices moved from one service provider to another?
  • Do consumers know that not all devices work on all networks?
  • Are service providers expected to provide support for devices that have not been purchased from their stores?
  • Has the CRTC created unrealistic user expectations?

I have been using unlocked devices for international travel for a number of years, but compatibility issues arise with advanced features on some carrier networks. It isn’t clear to me that most Canadian consumers are aware of what limitations may arise when bringing their own device. I suspect that we will be seeing a number of complaints arising from reality not matching expectations.

In order to improve their customers’ experiences, will any Canadian carriers follow Verizon’s lead and refuse to provision service on devices that have not been certified for compatibility?

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