Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Predictions For SaskTel's Network Upgrade (spoiler: lots of doubt)

Everyone and their dog is tickled pink about SaskTel’s upcoming 3G+ network upgrade, which promises to bring better speeds and better devices to the SaskTel network. And the iPhone!!! OH GAHWD, the iPhone. Read any article in the Star Phoenix or the Leader-Post about the network upgrade, and you’ll believe that the sole reason for this upgrade is to bring the iPhone to Saskatchewan (despite the fact that it’s been available through Rogers for years).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of SaskTel - I’ve been a SaskTel Mobility customer for nearly 10 years and have no significant complaints. The province-owned crown corporation kicks butt in many areas: extraordinary province-wide cellular coverage, high-speed internet (again, nearly province-wide), SaskTel Max, and competitive rates for all of their services.

However, SaskTel has a severe technology deficits in some areas that call into question their ability to su ccessfully launch this new network successfully and on time. 

1. Web Presence

SaskTel’s website is
terrible, and they
must know it. Visit, then visit any other wireless website in Canada and draw your own conclusions. There’s no way that SaskTel’s tech guys are content with this bloated, Javascript-based piece of garbage.

“But it seems okay! It’s not that bad!!” - you. Yes, if you’re running IE6 on Windows ME. Here’s what’s wrong:
  • JavaScript links for EVERYTHING makes sharing links impossible. I can’t right-click then copy most links because they look like this:
    • javascript:c_d(s_0,new Array("1-16IMS8","s_7_2_16_1","SWERowId0=1-JMOXX,SWERowId1=1-16IMS8"),s_1,s_2,this) (This link, by the way, is for the BlackBerry Tour 9630 device info page)
  • Another side effect of the JavaScript links is that search engines can’t read/find SaskTel’s product pages. The result: when you search on Google for info about SaskTel products, you get terrible results. This is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and SaskTel doesn’t do it.
  • The ever-present search bar at the top-right of each page actually makes you select a search category. This is 2010; search is supposed to be smart.
  • SaskTel claims to support Firefox in their Supported Browsers List but anyone who has used the site with Firefox (or Google Chrome) knows this is a cruel joke. Hope you have IE installed.
Immediately after typing this list I spotted this announcement about an upcoming upgrade to SaskTel’s 
website starting July 16, ending July 19. I’m eager to see if they’ll roll out a new site, or add bloat to the existing piece of crap. I promise I will post an update. 

2. Smartphone Selection

SaskTel’s CEO h
as been using a classic formula to get his name in the paper: mention the iPhone
all the time. Maybe SaskTel will have it in August! Let's be honest with ourselves; it's not happening.

If you’re buying a smartphone from SaskTel, you have 11 choices right now. I have good news for you if you like buying obsolete crap: half of these phones are obsolete crap.

Here are some of the gems they’re selling:
  • BlackBerry Curve 8330, released 2007, even though they’re selling superior BlackBerry devices alongside it.
  • The universally-hated BlackBerry Storm, released December 2008, even though they’re selling the Storm 2 (the better, less shitty version) right alongside it.
  • Samsung Ace, released April 2008, possibly the dumbest smartphone anyone could buy.
  • Correction, the dumbest smartphone anyone could buy from SaskTel is the Palm Centro, released October 2007. Running Palm Operating System, it is now three years outdated by Palm’s new webOS devices, the Pre and Pixi (which SaskTel does not carry).
  • The Palm Treo Pro, released August 2008, another “classic” smartphone that won’t do anything modern.
“Maybe they’re saving their new phones for the upgrade!” - you. Yeah, maybe. My response: this lineup has remained unchanged for the past year, with the exception of the new BlackBerry Tour, Storm 2, and Curve 8530. SaskTel rarely gets new devices. Right now, they’re selling three modern BlackBerry devices and a bunch of crap, and it's been that way for a while. 

Apple, de
spite their ongoing iPhone 4
issues shitfest, are still concerned about their image and are not going to be selling the iPhone 4 to a carrier that is proudly selling the shitty, shitty, super-shitty Palm Centro.

So, hedge your bets. SaskTel has ~30 days until August 16, 2010, when they’re going to light up the new network. Sorry SaskTel! Here are my pessimistic predictions:
  • Some kind of launch day complication or delay that affects CDMA users.
  • Sub-standard device lineup on launch day.
  • No iPhone 4.
  • No Android devices (I would be truly sad about this one).
  • Palm Centro still available to purchase on SaskTel website.
I’m hoping that I’m wrong - I’d love to see SaskTel succeed so I could grab a next-gen (Android!?! But I’d hate to give up BlackBerry Messenger!) device on what I hope will be a very competitive data plan. Sadly, given the state of their device lineup and website, I don’t see it happening.

Extra Reading:
- SaskTel’s info sheet about the upcoming upgrade (PDF)


  1. Along the lines of which devices they will have, they announced:
    "For the commercial launch on August 16, 2010, SaskTel is planning to have a device line-up that includes the BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Pearl 9100, Nokia 7230, Nokia 6350 and a Novatel MC998D USB data stick." (

    The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is definitely a step in the right direction. Great phone and I would get it if I wasn't skeptical towards jumping onto the 3G+ network at launch. I'm going to wait it out until I need to renew my contract again. I agree that an Android-based phone should be available at launch but there's only so much we can ask of SaskTel.

    On another note, they haven't decided/announced anything about using an unlocked device on the new network which could be a dealbreaker for some people looking at using the new network. Maybe they are actually going to allow it (doubtful in my mind) and this is how they justify all the iPhone 4 "advertising" they have done.

  2. THere's a very good reason why every news article mentions the iPhone. I was in prairie mobile communications 2 weeks ago. In the 15 min I was there, I think the receptionist got at 5 calls where all she said was, you'll have to ask Sasktel about that, call them at 1-800-SASKTEL.

    I've found bugging them on twitter actually gets you a response too, which is amazing for a bloated company. The press conference did also mention looking at selling Android devices, so it's possible.

  3. @radoon - Thanks for pointing out that link, I didn't see it before.

    I'm not extraordinarily impressed by the launch lineup so far - the Bold 9700 is a GSM Tour with a trackpad, the Pearl is a better version of the flimsiest BlackBerry, and Nokia.. really?

    I'm surprised that SaskTel is saying "no unlocked devices on our network at launch" (source: their twitter account. Is that even reliable?). They'd better allow them as soon as they know the network works (ie, 90 days after launch would be reasonable). Currently, they allow unlocked devices on their old network... are they trying to drive business to Telus and Bell, who (I would speculate) would be using SaskTel's new infrastructure but will support Android/iPhone devices? It would be absurd to launch the new network with an unexciting phone lineup and restrict customers' ability to use cool unlocked devices, while roaming customers from other carriers get all of the perks. That's a whole other blog post in itself.

  4. @Caesar - What's the good reason? Putting pressure on SaskTel through thousands of call-ins? No sarcasm here, that's the only good reason I could see. I've emailed their customer service department before and have told them I was interested in advanced devices.

    Happy to see that SaskTel is listening to customers through Twitter - I was unaware!