LAPTOP Rescinds Best of CTIA Award for Zer01 Mobile
In LAPTOP’s 18-year history, we’ve given out hundreds of awards, each chosen to educate our readers about best-in-class products with great potential to change their lives for the better. These awards range from our Editors’ Choice Award, which appears on reviews for our highest-rated products to special sections like our Best Notebooks of the Year to tradeshow awards like those we give at CTIA Wireless. We’re proud of the many innovative products we’ve highlighted, and we’ve never had to rescind an award, until now. Effective immediately, we are rescinding the Best of CTIA Award given to Zer01 Mobile at April’s CTIA Wireless 2009. We’re taking this extraordinary step, because of serious ethical questions that have arisen about the company. We can no longer endorse its service and therefore are compelled to warn our readers to avoid it. Trade shows such as CTIA Wireless are all about potential, as vendors announce and demonstrate new products that have yet to hit the market. We meet with the most interesting of these vendors to get a sense of what they have to offer our readers, and we choose Best of Show award recipients based on our best effort to determine the potential of products that have yet to be released. However, in the case of Zer01 Mobile, it appears that the information the company provided was inaccurate and incomplete. The company claimed that it would offer unlimited voice and data for $69.95 per month and use VoIP technology to let users make calls. We were informed at CTIA that Zer01 would launch its service by July 1. However, the company has since broken its promises both to consumers and to us. Serious questions have also been raised about Zer01′s network and whether it can offer the coverage it promises. The company says it has interconnect arrangements with GSM providers yet refuses to tell us who they are. AT&T denied to us that they have any agreements with Zer01, and T-Mobile declined to comment. As we’ve reported, Zer01′s coverage map is identical to that of AT&T’s, which raises even more doubts. We also take issue with the fact that Zer01 changed its business plan after CTIA Wireless 2009. Initially, the company claimed it would offer its service directly to consumers. Then in May, Zer01 said it would provide its unlimited voice and data service to Buzzirk Mobile subscribers, a chosen distributor whose parent is a multi-level marketing company called Global Verge. A report from Network World recently revealed that Global Verge’s CEO, Mark Petschel,has plead guilty to securities fraud. When we asked Zer01′s CEO Ben Piilani about it, he told us that Petschel had resigned, though we have no independent confirmation of that. As of July 1, according to Network World, Zer01 changed the content of its Web site and began calling itself a mobile virtual network enabler. Even more unsettling is the fact that sales associates for Buzzirk Mobile, which is the public face of Zer01, have deceived the public by claiming that Zer01 owns 2100 MHz spectrum when it does not. When we interviewed Zer01 CEO Ben Piilani on July 22nd and confronted him about our concerns, he promised to deliver a phone for us to test by the following week. However, to date we have yet to receive an evaluation unit. In addition, an e-mail message sent to Zer01′s public relations firm last week, which warned that we may rescind our Best of CTIA Award, was not answered. At this time we can only urge extreme caution to those interested in using or selling Zer01′s service.