Home General Bell to Blackberry users: “Pay us or get lost!” (Literally!)

Bell to Blackberry users: “Pay us or get lost!” (Literally!)

A number of mobile-related blogs and message boards are starting to pick up on a story that based on an internal memo, in the coming weeks, Bell will begin to interfere with the GPS signal that late-model Blackberry units (including the 8830, 8130 Pearl and 8330 Curve) receive.

Users of free GPS mapping applications (such as Google Maps or even the included Blackberry Maps application by RIM) will see the time required to establish a GPS lock increase to 2-10 minutes, up from the typical 15-20 seconds usually experienced. Additionally, there is some speculation that the resolution of GPS data will also be reduced to a 1-2.5km range as opposed to the existing 10-25m accuracy currently provided — not exactly useful when trying to find the location for your next meeting downtown in an unfamiliar city.

Of course, the existing level of service for GPS data can continue to be received, provided subscribers start to pay upwards of $10 a month to gain access to Bell’s own GPS service (“GPS Nav”). The memo apparently includes statements such as “high quality locates are only available by using GPS NAv”. This is all but guaranteed when you rig the system such that no other application (free or otherwise) has equal access to the freely-available GPS signals floating through the air. Then again, Verizon in the USA apparently fully blocks access to GPS signals from 3rd party applications on their device allowing only their own subscription service to be used rather than just degrading the quality of data.

Yet another phase in Cope’s plan to right the ship? (See George Cope has a plan to fix Ma Bell September 10 2008)

(disclosure: I own shares in BCE)

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13 Comments  comments 

13 Responses

  1. Marshall

    This is the type of crap that cell phone users hate. In a world where cell phone rates are falling, a company is trying to sneak in a new surcharge. As a business person I appreciate the need to increase revenues. But this method will likely alienate subscribers (especially in the consumer segment that Bell is trying to improve it’s share in). That will lead cause customers to switch to Telus or Rogers and thus hurt their top line.

    If Cope wants to right the ship, he should focus on where the future of mobile devices is going. Data-intensive handhelds that combine voice, email, internet, GPS, music, etc. 10 years ago it was all voice. 5 years ago text and email were the key features. Now it’s 3G wireless data. Soon it will be video calling, media streaming and interactive GPS that allows you to see the next bus time and live traffic feeds.

    Rogers is moving in that direction and has recently made data much more affordable. I hope for the sake of Bell’s shareholders (whomever they will be come November) that Cope leads Bell on a similar path.

  2. RMQ

    Bell is also putting the squeeze on Sympatico users. When my current 12-month plan ends in November, I move to month-to-month. There are no more contracts. My monthly cost will increase by 40 per cent.

  3. mobiGeek

    Before this thing gets too far, do we have any validation of this internal memo?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d not be surprised to see the rusted sinking hull of Bell make such a move, but is there any credible evidence that this memo exists?

  4. Lorne

    Not likely. Almost every product in Canada and the US has “must not cause willful interference on it”. If anyone intentionally degrades the 1.2 & 1.6GHz GPS signals they will be dealt with quickly.

    Perhaps you mean bell is planning to block Google and Blackberrys web servers? Technically possible but unlikely.

  5. Bell would not be interfering with the actual GPS radio signal the device receives itself, avoiding the regulations you cite. There would be no feasible way to accomplish this short of jamming the signal on a selective basis which would certainly attract the unwanted attention you note.

    Rather, they would block or degrade the quality of the location information once received by the mobile handheld device and pass this less informative / desirable stream on to 3rd party applications rather than the more accurate information Bell’s own GPS application would get.

  6. Blackberry Geocacher

    I sent a link of this blog entry to Michael Geist yesterday. Apparently I was not the only one:

  7. Latest update:

    Apparently changes to the GPS functionality have been delayed until further notice. It is not clear whether this is due to technical reasons or as a result of a customer backlash over the proposed action.

  8. John Moore

    I recently complained to Bell re trouble I was having with 3rd party GPS apps on my Blackberry 8830 WE. The response I received made it clear to me that Bell was in fact disabling apps other than their own Telenav software (10$/month fee). They appear to have a corporate policy to restrict competition in the GPS software space in an attempt to further Telenav sales (even though they would receive revenue from virtually ANY GPS software via increased data charges).

    Email received is below:

    Thank you for your recent email.

    My name is Alyssa and for your reference, my employee identification is

    Upon full review of your email, I wish to thank you for taking the time
    to contact us with your feedback. Please be assured that I have read
    all your comments with great care, and that I completely understand your
    concerns regarding the functionality of third party applications on your
    Blackberry, specifically GPS navigation.

    I wish to inform you that many reasons exist for which companies like
    Bell Mobility decide to make one choice rather than another. These may
    be financial, technical, regarding compatibility issues, exclusivity
    rights or a combination thereof. These decisions are negotiated between
    Bell Mobility and its business partners, the details of which belong to
    our internal business community and are therefore private. I sincerely
    regret the inconvenience this limitation may cause.

    Unfortunately, I will be unable to restore the access of third party GPS
    software/features on your Blackberry device. Please note that your
    Terms of Service stipulates that Bell Mobility maintains the right to
    make such changes to our services and products, in addition to
    increasing fees to features, or charging additional fees.

    We will not increase your basic monthly voice plan charge or
    out-of-bundle airtime charge during any Committed Service Period, as
    long as you remain qualified to receive your chosen plan and Services
    throughout the Committed Service Period.

    For your reference, I have included a URL to your Terms of Service,
    available on our website:

    Wireless terms of service- bell.ca

    If you have any other questions or concerns, please reply to this email
    and we will be happy to assist you.

    I wish to take this opportunity to inform you that it is possible for
    you to access your account via Internet. To do so, simply visit our Web
    site at http://www.bell.ca and click on “Register” in order to link your

    I appreciate that you took the time to provide us with this valuable
    information. I thank you, Mr. XXXXX, for your patience, your
    understanding, and for choosing Bell as your wireless communications
    provider. I hope to have addressed your points and welcome your
    response if you require further clarification.

    Kind regards,

    Bell Mobility – Online Client Care

  9. AlRich

    Nice post, it is so informative. I like its new device a new Wireless Handheld™ from Bell, we can really enjoy its latest wireless technologies. Well this is only a strategy from bell to get more customers.

  10. Ted

    As an eager Blackberry user and a Bell customer I couldn’t be more upset from this odd decision – I mean we should start a customer rebellion against them and show them who is boss!!!!!

  11. Does anybody knows when the BB OS.6 will be released for the 9700?

  12. keep up the wonderful work , I read few blog posts on this site and I believe that your web site is very interesting and holds lots of great info .

  13. […] readers have pointed to a blog posting at Wellington Financial that reports that Bell is planning to interfere with the GPS signal of […]

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