There's more than one way to get what you want from wireless. Great phones? Low Prices? If we can't get it from the carriers themselves, there are other ways. We've been maintaining a list of "alternative networks" which gives you a way to dump your carrier but stay on their network. If you wanted to use the Verizon network, you could sign up for Page Plus instead, and pay quite a bit less. You could enjoy the AT&T network by grabbing a GSM Tracfone or just a Stargate SIM. While your phone selections would be smaller, you could be saving some bucks and still be on the same network.
This process recently moved to the next level. First, the carriers themselves started offering cheaper prepaid services such as Verizon's Prepaid as low as $50 per month for Unlimited Talk & Text. Then there's Straight Talk that now offers a phone model for each of the Top 4 cellular networks including an Android phone that uses Sprint's 3G network. This past week, Cricket announced they will offer their phones at all Best Buy stores whether or not they're in Cricket markets. In non-Cricket locations, the phone will access the Sprint 3G network just as if you were on Cricket's own network, so you access the Sprint network at Cricket's lower prices.
The 3rd end-around is a little farther over the horizon. Sign up today for one of T-Mobile's value-priced plans and you could end up as an AT&T customer at less than AT&T rates. If AT&T should lose out on their quest to buy T-Mobile, you will still be left on a stronger and broader T-mobile network that could end up in the hands of a different and more enlightened buyer. Now that the transaction is headed to court, don't expect this end-around to produce fruit for maybe a year.
Confusing for the casual wireless shopper? Yes. For the rest of us...opportunity!