Category Archives: Cellular

For $5 a Month, Verizon Wireless Will Give You a Workaround For Their Bug

Reference Number: <removed>
DATE/TIME: 2016-03-09 19:36:29
Chat Transcript

Verizon : Thank you for contacting the Verizon Wireless Chat Team regarding your account. How can we help you today?

You : I’m not having luck managing usage control on one of my lines. Keeps saying Function not available now but I need to implement a data control

DAMON : Oh my! I understand your concerns in regards to usage controls. No worries! I will assist you with this matter. Could you provide your mobile number please?

You : Line is <removed>, keeps going way over plan and I want a 2 GB limit on it. Main line is <removed>

DAMON : Thank you for that information. Allow me a moment to check into this matter for you.

You : thank you

DAMON : You’re very welcome!

DAMON : I am showing that the function is unavailable at this time. What I can do is recommend you to FamilyBase. This is a feature that allows you to set limits to calls, texts, and data usage. It is only $4.99 per month with the first month free. Would this be ok?

You : Why would the function be unavailable? That’s the problem I’m trying to get help with

DAMON : There may be a bug that was discovered with it and it is being fixed at this time.

You : For the amount we spend on this plan, I really dont want to spend more on a bug onVerizon side, that doesn’t make sense

DAMON : You’re not. What I can do is check and see what I can do to decrease your bill as well.

You : Please don’t. I don’t want to revisit the plan. I’m looking for a control on one problem line with data, that’s all.

DAMON : The system has a bug which is why it isn’t available at this time. I do apologize for the inconvenience.

You : So shouldn’t the $5 feature, if that’s a workaround, be free?

DAMON : It is free for the first month of use.

You : Right… and then it’s not and we’re paying for a workaround– that doesn’t make sense

You : we pay almost or over $1K per month here, this is really odd to say we have a fee for a broken feature that should be free

DAMON : You would have to wait until the bug is repaired to get the control set.

You : meanwhile the line gets abused and we incur the charges because the control can’t be set, and we’re identifying to you that we need it. We are in a no win. What is ETA for the fix?

DAMON : At the moment, I have not been informed of the ETA.

You : So… we faithfully, for years, pay tens of thousands of dollars on this bill. And when we need help, because there is a system bug, our only option is to pay Verizon to work around that bug with a feature that COULD be offered as a no-cost workaround for a customer need, but Verizon doesn’t see that as an option? Really?

DAMON : The charge is only applied after the free first month of use. You could use the feature until the bug is fixed. There will be no charge if you remove it before the free month is over.

You : This is lunacy. There is no ETA on a bug fix. The onus is on us to cancel the feature to not get charged and likely be right back to incurring overages. Damon, this is nonsense, and is the worst in customer service. It’s just terrible from this end to fathom how this could make any sense to Verizon

Then he bails out… abruptly, with no more dialogue.

Is It Just My Perception, or Are We Getting a Bit Screwed Here?

Warning: pissing and moaning ahead- if you’re not in the mood, click away now.

My daughter was lamenting today that her iPhone keeps filling up, no matter what she does to try to keep it’s storage lean. We’ll talk about that in a minute, as Rant #1. For Rant #2, I want you to to think about your mobile data plan, and the notion of paying for content you don’t want and have little control over.

Come on now, who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are,
Ha ha ha bless your soul
You really think you’re in control?
Well, I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
Just like me
– “Crazy”, Gnarles Barkley

Back to the iPhone. If you think that when you buy a 16 Gig iPhone, you’ll have 16 GB of storage for YOUR files, you’re sadly mistaken. If you think that 32 GB equals 32 usable Gigabytes on a mobile device, again you are wrong. Basically these numbers are agreed upon lies perpetuated by Apple and other gadget vendors (yes, Android too) and visited upon We the Sheeple who adoringly pay what they say and question little about the shiny new devices that we just gotta have. And if we find that we only get about 3/4 of the device capacity that we think we paid for because the rest is used by fat operating systems and installed bloatware apps, well that’s just our problem.

Or is it?

I ran across this article that talks about Apple being sued by users who have had enough of numbers that you can’t trust and vendors who don’t seem to care about how much of OUR drives they squat on. We’ll see if it actually goes anywhere, but I’d be happy with two outcomes:

  • An end to the industry wide practice of flat-out lying to people about what they are buying (don’t tell me it’s in the fine print)
  • A separate partition on the on-board storage that delivers what the vendor is promising- some amount of storage that truly is yours to junk up as you so choose, that comes absolutely empty. No OS, no bloatware- that goes in another partition.

Data plans have so many bullshit aspects to them it’s just sinful. I don’t know how you fix this one, but for those of us who like to get what we pay for, it’s a travesty. Let’s say you pay $50 a month for a data plan that’s only so big, and when you exceed that usage, you pay overage fees. That’s not unreasonable, right?

Where we have a problem is that you reasonably assume that YOU will decide how your data plan gets used. Ah, you sweet naive kid.

You know all those apps that come on your phone? The ones that you have no use for and can’t uninstall? Some of them are sizable- and so are their updates that eat into your data plan. Think about how many times you open CNN or Reuters and an inline commercial or add kicks off- you’re paying for those too. If you’re saying “so what? I have commercials on cable TV and on my home Internet” then you’re forgetting that those subscriptions are not metered like your cellular data plan is. But there is all kind of force-fed content that helps itself to your data plan regardless of your interest.

The only defenses? Use Wi-Fi as much as possible, root the device to remove the apps you don’t want, or buy some kind of ad-blocker software (you’re still going to get a lot of video that just starts playing when you open web pages). But should consumers really have to go to these lengths to not have their data usage squandered by applications they didn’t invoke or ask for?

So… we got devices that aren’t as big as they claim to be and data plans that will never be ours alone to control, despite that they are ours alone to pay. And “the industry” couldn’t be doing better these days.

So is it me, are are we not in fact getting screwed?

Cradlepoint Introduces a Beauty

(Quick edit, 8/17/15)

Of late, I’ve had a few opportunities to learn more about the mobile edge router space and the really powerful feature sets that exist in this market. I’ve been briefed by the big players on how their gear is winning over traditional networking in a variety of scenarios, and how slick tools like cloud management and SDR (software defined radio) make mobile edge gear pretty advanced in capability. Read more on the general topic of 4G edge-routing developments with a piece I wrote for Network Computing.

Cradlepoint’s latest announcement provides a great example of the impressive tech in play in this unique realm that creatively puts networking in a variety of interesting places, from public transportation fleets to retail kiosks that pop up and disappear as events come and go to permanent locations like restaurants and gas stations. The new product is the AER3100, and with it’s specifications and flexibility, it’s going to fast find it’s way into all of the markets that Cradlepoint serves with micro-branch/mobile and small branch style offerings.

Here’s the quick view, stolen from Cradlepoint’s web site:

AER3100

This is light-years past simple personal hotspot kind of 4G modem kit. If you ever get an opportunity to take a briefing with Cradlepoint, you’ll realize that the businesses using these sorts of components have a lot to lose by making poor choices with their networking, from lost revenue to data breeches. Cradlepoint seems to have covered all of the bases with robust security, multi-carrier support, and legitimate enterprise network feature sets (including 11ac support on the WI-Fi side) in small components that just happen to get their ISP connectivity generally via 4G.

Give the Tech Specs a look, and see if you’re not as impressed as I was when I first got familiar with them:


Technical Specifications

WAN

  • Integrated 4G LTE (with 3G failover) Multi-Carrier Software-Defined radio
    • Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Europe, and generic models available
    • Dual integrated modem option
    • Dual SIM slot in each modem
    • Most models include support for active GPS
  • 13 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports (WAN/LAN switchable)
  • WiFi as WAN (only on AER3100)
  • Failover/Failback
  • Load Balancing
  • Advance Modem Failure Check
  • WAN Port Speed Control
  • WAN/LAN Affinity
  • IP Passthrough

LAN

  • 13 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports (WAN/LAN switchable); Supports four ports of PoE (9-12) for class I, II, or III devices (up to 15W) or two ports high power PoE for class IV devices (up to 30W)
  • LLDP support
  • VLAN 802.1Q
  • DHCP Server, Client, Relay
  • DNS and DNS Proxy
  • DynDNS
  • Split DNS
  • UPnP
  • DMZ
  • Multicast/Multicast Proxy
  • QoS (DSCP and Priority Queuing)
  • MAC Address Filtering

MANAGEMENT

  • Cradlepoint Enterprise Cloud Manager¹
  • Web UI, API, CLI
  • GPS Location
  • Data Usage Alerts (router and per client)
  • Advanced Troubleshooting (support)²
  • Device Alerts
  • SNMP
  • SMS control
  • Console Port for Out-of-Band Management

¹Enterprise Cloud Manager requires a subscription
²Requires CradleCare Support

ROUTING

  • IPsec Tunnel – up to 40 concurrent sessions
  • OpenVPN (SSL VPN)¹
  • L2TP¹
  • GRE Tunnel
  • OSPF/BGP/RIP¹
  • Per-Interface Routing
  • Static Routing
  • NAT-less Routing
  • Virtual Server/Port Forwarding
  • VTI Tunnel Support
  • NEMO/DMNR¹
  • IPv6
  • VRRP¹
  • STP¹
  • NHRP¹

¹–Requires an ECM PRIME subscription or an Extended Enterprise License

SECURITY

  • RADIUS and TACACS+
  • 802.1x authentication for Wireless and Wired Networks
  • Zscaler Internet Security¹
  • Certificate support
  • ALGs
  • MAC Address Filtering
  • CP Secure Threat Management²
  • Advanced Security Mode (local user management only)
  • Per-Client Web Filtering
  • IP Filtering
  • Content Filtering (basic)
  • Website Filtering
  • Real-time clock with battery backup for CA certificate validation

¹–Requires Zscaler Internet Security License
²-Requires a CP Secure Threat Management license

PORTS AND BUTTONS

  • 54V DC Power
  • 13 10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN
  • Console port
  • Two cellular antenna connectors (SMA)
  • GPS antenna connector (SMA)
  • Lock compatible
  • External USB port for USB modem and/or firmware updates
  • Factory Reset

TEMPERATURE

  • 0° C to 50° C (32°F to 122°F) operating
  • −20° C to 70° C (−4°F to 158°F) storage
  • Redundant internal fans for reliable cooling

HUMIDITY (non-condensing)

  • 10% to 85% operating non-condensing
  • 5% to 90% storage non-condensing

POWER

  • 54VDC 2.25A adapter
  • 802.3af (15W) or 802.3at (30W) PoE capable

SIZE

  • 12.2 in x 10.6 in x 1.75 in (310 mm x 270 mm x 45 mm)
  • 1U height for rack mount

– See more at: https://cradlepoint.com/products/aer-3100#!specs


I’m new to this space when it comes to looking at it to any real depth. What I’ve seen so far makes me think beyond my own typical wired ISP approach to certain branch environments, and it does get fascinating when you contemplate robust networking being enabled anywhere you have halfway decent 4G coverage. I’ve really just skimmed the surface of a pretty big story here, and I look forward to learning more.

Do you work with Cradlepoint gear or competing mobile edge solutions? I’d love hear your take, and examples of success or failure with kind of solution.

AirMagnet Enterprise Doesn’t Miss Much in WLAN and Cell Analysis

What separates good, secure wireless from under-performing wireless or an RF space that actually works against the organization’s best interests? Frequently, the differences lie in murky corners where network managers can’t see reality, for a number of reasons. Keeping a busy WLAN both healthy and in compliance with policy can be a daunting task, and one that certain environments simply can’t afford to get wrong. Sure, native tools built into enterprise WI-Fi gear have some ability to characterize the RF goings on where they provide client access but these feature sets are usually limited in scope and are of varying degrees of  quality. I recently had the chance to play with AirMagnet Enterprise from Fluke Networks, and I can say I was pretty impressed with what this purpose-built solution can do.

During my trial of AirMagnet Enterprise (AME), I was able to quickly bring a robust monitoring and reporting framework to life across multiple sites thanks to the cloud-hosted AME server. I can’t stress how much I value not having yet another server to feed and care for. The response times of the interactions between the cloud server and my local sensors was generally good enough that I eventually just stopped thinking about the distributed architecture.

I had a mix of sensor types at my disposal, and though my primary scope of responsibility tends to be WLAN, I was impressed by the ability to monitor cellular activity in my areas with AME.

base station

I spoke with Fluke Networks about scenarios where cell monitoring is important (calls being made where none should be, jamming, signal quality, etc), and they identified prison environments and DAS performance verification as among the main use cases.

On the Wi-Fi side, there is just an absolute slew of information gathered, displayed, and reported on with AME. I contrived a number of security and interference exercises as I got more familiar with the WIPS tools– like this one:

wireless camera

The official list of WIPS capabilities reads like this:

Powerful WIPS Protection and Architecture

  • Continuously scans every Wi-Fi channel, including all 200 in 5 GHz band to detect every rogue device
  • Detection, monitoring, and remediation of spectrum activity in a broad frequency range that includes 3G, 4G LTE, and CDMA. Activity by cellular devices like cell phones and jammers is tracked and reported on.
  • Alerts when rogue APs are on wired network or inside premise for quickest focus on most dangerous cases while blocking unwanted connections and devices
  • Protects against latest vulnerabilities automatically via DTU
  • Detects over 120 security threats, including Karmetasploit, AirPWN, 802.11 fuzzing and WPS brute force attacks
  • Compliance reports for PCI, HIPAA, FISMA, DoD 8100.2, Basel II and others
  • Scales to over 1000 sensors with a single server cluster in a data center
  • Powerful local processing to enforce security policy even if connection is lost to server
  • Automated forensic capture simplifies deep analysis

The AME reporting module feels a bit dated in appearance, but the details provided are simply incredible. There are dozens of reports that can be drilled into for hundreds of key metrics, and all can be scheduled, exported, etc.

AME reports

Veteran Air Magnet customers will recognize the very effective Infrastructure View for each sensor in play:

top sensor


This consistency with other AirMagnet tools speeds the AME learning curve, and information gathered from multiple sensors can be combined in reports simply by having multiple sensors highlighted when invoking the report. Each sensor can also be tapped for live packet capture and decode, remote monitoring of spectrum and specific channel activity, and all the functionality of  both AirMagnet Laptop and Spectrum XT programs per sensor :

channel

spectrum

The capabilities of AME are comprehensive, and moving between sensors and interacting with the cloud server was pretty smooth for me. Aside from the impressive wealth of information provided by the sensors, you also have the option of leveraging performance testing (Automatic Health Checking) from each sensor to gather metrics on general network feel:

AHC

When you put it all together, AME is certainly far-ranging in capability and impressive in what it can quantify. The centralized control and monitoring of distributed sensors is very empowering, and allows for a small team to cover a lot of analysis ground without leaving the office. I’m a longtime fan and user of a number of AirMagnet products (note that I hardly consider myself a fanboy here, there are certain AirMagnet tools that I really like, others not so much), and AME does impress me very much.

My trial was an absolute blast in that it was easy to stand up test sensors and just dig in playing at harvesting the important RF and WLAN data that AME was built for . A real AME deployment would take a lot more work, and interaction with Fluke Networks, to determine the right number and placement of sensors. The sensors themselves are very much like WLAN APs in that they need cabling and power. And even with the advantage of the cloud-hosted server, AME is still another system to keep up, use, and to stay proficient on. That being said, it’s pretty easy to envision the AME payoff in environments that simply must have secure, high-performing Wi-Fi and automated threat reporting. Where regulatory compliance is critical, AME is a force multiplier. The entire suite is well-executed, and when used properly leaves very little to the imagination when it comes to what’s really going on in your WLAN (and cellular) environments.