Blackberry data services
While the Blackberry makes a decent smartphone (Calenday, to-do,
addressbook, notes, etc), I am very interested in what else it can do.
In particular, the applications that use TCP/IP to do cool stuff. Like
access Google, Mapquest, the Yellow Pages, etc. Instant messenger. RSS.
SSH. To do these things, you need a way for packets to get to and from
your Blackberry. It is, in a word, complicated.
If you buy service from most cell carriers, they will sell you cell
service plus data service. But it's not that simple, either. There are
two tiers of data service:
Your current email/job may determine this for you. If you work for a
large company, they may already have BES/MDS up and running for the
PHBs that run the place. If so, congrats, you're done here. Unless, of
course, they don't allow web access. If they don't allow it, your only
option is to buy your own Blackberry and service.
- Blackberry Web Client (BWC, a.k.a 'Unlimited email'). This gets
you a new email address, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. You have to
forward email here. Works, cheapest, no desktop integration. This is
20-30/month as of Feb 2005.
- Enterprise. This uses the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) and
its Mobile Data Services (MDS) to handle email, desktop integration,
and TCP/IP. All packets are run through the BES/MDS combo. And the BES
server is thousands of dollars, and they don't have hobbyist licensing.
40-100/month as of 2/2005.
- OK, there's a third option. Some carriers, Nextel and Rogers as
of 2/2005, provide direct TCP/IP connectivity. No firewall or APN
required. About 30-50/month as of 2/2005.
If you're paying for your own service as I am, and looking for a
bargain, then you have more reading to do. I, as most people probably
will, wanted no-limits data access for the lowest price possible. I
started out on Nextel's BWC plan, which I was told was $15/month on
their educational pricing. However, after a couple months I was
corrected; it's actually $35/month, discounted from $50.
This is more than I am willing to pay. That's $420 bucks per
year, which is a lot to pay for convenience. Due to an NSF peculiarity,
I cannot have my employer pay for this even though it's all about work.
As an aside - Nextel provisions their Blackberries to have the browser
in WML-only mode. If you want a real browser on Nextel data service,
you have to buy Reqwireless. Or keep reading.
T-Mobile almost solves the problem
After digging around quite a bit, the cheapest provider all unlimited
Blackberry service seems to
be T-Mobile. So I may get a
7290 (7520 for GSM, basically) or the
bigger-screen 7730, and swap my 7510 for a basic Nextel cell phone.
Just as I was about to buy a unit from T-Mobile, this
story came out about T-Mobile blocking port 80! This would break
my programs - IM, Web, SSH, the works.
As of Feb 2005, T-Mobile has now unblocked all ports. Except that
their $20/month plan is BWC, and does not include other TCP/IP
applications. In other words, it's useless. If you want Enterprise, its
$40/month. Still too expensive for me, so T-Mobile is out. Pity, I
quite like the 7290, and United is running a promo for a free 7230 on
MyBlueBerry, badly named but wonderful
After quite a bit of reading in the Blackberry forums, I found MyBlueBerry. They provide
BES/MDS for $10 bucks a month, with a $30 setup fee.
In addition, they provision you with the RIM browser in full HTML + WML
support. Nextel only provisions WML, so the ten bucks also gets you a
top-rate web browser!
They also include Outlook integration (useless to me), and a web-based
Exchange application. Very nice indeed. All the benefits of BES/MDS on
However, as I discovered, you still
need the carrier (Nextel, T-Mobile, etc) to allow access. So it's
$10/month plus whatever the
carrier charges for BES/MDS.
Other notes about data
like most carriers will be allowing normal net access in early 2005, so
this will hopefully become a non-issue. In the mean time, you can get
BES/MDS access for $10/month. This forum
discussion lists places to buy the service. This page
explains why BES/MDS are required on some carriers. Looks like
blackberry started out old-school, with a totally closed network, and
is only now changing over.
Caveats about MyBlueBerry
As noted in the T-Mobile section, some carriers will not allow you to
use another BES/MDS without buying their more expensive Enterprise
service. Google, and read the Blackberry forums before you switch over!
I got burnt on this, and am most annoyed at myself.
Various prices for data service
I've found a good reference for various carriers' prices:
I'm now looking at T-Mobile and the 7290 again. Sigh.
prices (20 for BWC, 30 for BES)
rate plans (40-50)
rate plans (40-50)