Thursday, January 28, 2010

Carriers: "We're Here to Help"

I received an email from one of the major carriers who claimed "we're here for you" and listed several links to "helpful" pages on their web site. One of the links tells me I can "find the phone and plan that fits your needs." Visiting that page I can only find 3 plans listed, with 450, 900 and Unlimited minutes. What about their less expensive plans, like the $35/350 minute plan, or the $30 Senior plan? What if one of those plans "fits my needs"?

We're not bashing any carrier for showing only selected plans, we are cautioning consumers to either do your homework when selecting plans, or get your data from independent sources. An example is the site dedicated just to comparing Unlimited Wireless Plans, or our own Unlimited Plans Page.

What a concept: 'Buyer Beware.' I'm surprised there aren't more cellular users choosing to Pay-as-you-go. Fortunately, readers in this forum are leading the way there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tennessee Carrier Reviews

Unless you live in the Volunteer State, there isn't much interest in Tennessee cellular service. With the addition of our Mountain Wireless Tennessee Cellular Reviews the big news is that with this state, we have finally completed our carrier reviews for all 50 states. It's a big deal to us, and to those living in the area.

We started these reviews almost 10 years ago, and Tennessee certainly wasn't the hardest place to review, but quite often we added a state after the contribution of a knowledgeable local who knew which carriers served their state and how well. We salute those contributors, some of whom have slipped into the unknown. If you know of a carrier we missed, let us know. Some of them just change their name.

There have been a few difficult choices as to which carriers to include in a state. Like in Tennessee, Alltel now only serves one county, and the network in that area will soon be turned over to AT&T. Should we include them? We do. Or how about those carriers that have 1 or 2 cell sites just over the state line from their home area? We include them too. Sadly, some larger carriers don't offer a unique enough service that justifies a state-specific review for them. We do, however, provide carrier-specific reviews in the "general observations" entry at the top of the pages where we have enough opinion supplied for that state. I think it's time to update our Hawaii Reviews...personally!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Add US Cellular to the Unlimited List

Whew! It's good to see US Cellular jump on the lower Unlimited Plans bandwagon. It may not help their bottom line, but it keeps them in the game and that makes us happy. US Cellular is a great competitor and we like their alternatives to the other carriers. While Free incoming calls is of less value in the face of now more desirable unlimited plans, they are still the leader in family plan pricing for 3 lines and more. They only add $50 for each member after the first 2. US Cellular customers still get free roaming and don't overlook their free battery exchange.

Sprint appears to want to keep hanging their hat on their "Any Mobile Any Time" plan at the same $70 price point, hoping that nobody cares that calls to land lines and calls while roaming off the Sprint network are not included. C'Mon guys, just toss in Free Texts and you're golden!

Follow the changes on our Unlimited Plan Comparison Page.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

AT&T Matches Unlimited

As expected, AT&T has matched Verizon's new Unlimited plan prices. Friday we thought marketing departments may be scrambling. I now think this reaction is a prepared response that was sitting in a folder all ready for release. However, I bet Verizon's timing still kept some AT&T honchos from slipping out for an early weekend.

The next step is to see how Alltel and US Cellular respond. Alltel can do whatever needs to be done, they'll just hit 'reset' in a few months. But could this be the beginning of the end for US Cellular? There is also a number of small carriers who has set their own nationwide Unlimited plans at around $100. We hope they can compete...and still survive.

Cricket still offers the cheapest Unlimited Talk plan at $30, and that now includes a lot of coverage.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sprint Tries to Match Verizon

As expected, Sprint tried to "match" the new Verizon Wireless Unlimited plans. Verizon's price for Unlimited Voice, Text and Data drops to $100, and Sprint makes an issue of the fact that they now offer it all at that price, too. But they already did.

Sprint needs to drop their prices instead of playing the same old song. Verizon has fired the first shot of a potential price war, and Sprint responds with a press release. Maybe we don't understand their reaction, but they will need to make some cuts. You can bet wireless marketing offices are buzzing like beehives today, and they have Verizon to thank for cutting into their holiday weekend. OK, who's next?

Verizon Wireless Drops Prices!

Price reductions announced today at Verizon Wireless:

BASKING RIDGE, NJ — New monthly service plans from Verizon Wireless make connecting to the nation’s most reliable wireless network easier than ever. Beginning Jan. 18, customers may sign up for a new Nationwide Unlimited Talk plan that allows customers to call anyone in the United States for $69.99 monthly access or a Nationwide Unlimited Talk & Text plan to call and send text, picture and video messages to anyone in the country for $89.99 monthly access.
Nationwide Family SharePlans® will also have new unlimited options. Nationwide Unlimited Talk Family SharePlans will be $119.99 monthly access while the Nationwide Unlimited Talk & Text Family SharePlans will be $149.99 monthly access. All Family SharePlan pricing includes the first two lines of service. Standard text message rates will apply for customers on the Nationwide Unlimited Talk plans who do not sign up for a text messaging bundle.

The company also announced the expansion of the 25 megabyte for $9.99 per month data package requirement to include all Verizon Wireless 3G Multimedia phones, which gives customers quick access to Mobile E-mail, games and the Internet.

Verizon Wireless will also offer customers new prepaid plans beginning Jan. 18. For those who prefer pay-as-you-go options, but want a no-holds approach to calling and texting, new Monthly Unlimited Prepaid plans will give customers the same great calling options as monthly contract subscribers for just $5 more per month. Prepaid Monthly Unlimited Talk is now available for $74.99 per month while contract subscribers pay $69.99 for the same unlimited calling option. Prepaid Monthly Unlimited Talk & Text will be available for $94.99 per month. The 450- and 900-minute Monthly Prepaid plans will also be available for $5 more per month than comparable postpaid plans.

Today’s announcement will not have an impact on existing customer contracts, although customers may choose to move to any of the new plans. The company allows customers to change their service plans at any time without penalty or contract extension.

We'll track these changes on our Unlimited Page and our Prepaid Site.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Important Numbers in Your Phone

So there I was, for the first time in decades, stranded on the side of a rural road with a car that wouldn't run, and no idea where I was. Fortunately, with GPS I found there was a town relatively close by, and with cellular I knew I could call for help. But who to call?

I haven't had car trouble in decades, so I never joined AAA. The easiest answer is to call "411" on your cellular phone at a $1 to $2 charge. I found that doesn't work for all wireless phones. What does work is Google's automated directory service, "Google-411", which I had programmed into my phone (800-GOOG-411). For no charge, they connected me to a couple of repair garages.

While waiting for Ralph to rescue us, I thought of all the important numbers I had programmed into my phone book. Everyone should do it and we listed them on our CellularBackDoor Tips Page. Don't put it off. Do it now. Enter your "ICE" number, "Home", a Directory number, and your auto club, but don't enter "911". I can assure you, the day you need it, you will praise yourself for thinking ahead. Yes, it can mean life or death. I'd rather think it justifies every penny spent on cellular, and on that glove box spare...on a different wireless network.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Unlimited Changes

It was just a few days ago we updated the look and data of our Unlimited Plans Page, when more changes appeared, not all of them good. Cricket's $25 plan is no longer available except in a few markets where the competition forces them to keep that price (Hello Texas!). MetroPCS no longer offers their $30 Unlimited plan, however, they have improved their $40 plan again. Now it includes all taxes and fees. We expected these cheaper plans to disappear after the holidays.

The good news? NET10 has dropped their Unlimited plan from $80 to $50 (thanks, William). For now, it's only available at retail stores (Target) and not online. NET10 phones are still GSM only.

We're still expecting something from Sprint's Virgin Mobile brand. Last week Sprint added CDMA phones to the Boost Unlimited offerings using the Sprint PCS network, without the PTT function.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Following The Rules

A month ago the Federal Trade Commission started requiring bloggers to disclose if they are receiving compensation from advertisers for their endorsements. This applies to all of us here at the 'Noise, so I thought I would address the issue. We don't get one red cent for any of our opinions or endorsements here.

The FTC released their guidelines and we think the requirements are pretty simple and, dare I say, logical. Yes, we get revenue from advertisers, but not for our opinions. We are known for panning the carriers as much as "endorsing " them. We still call it as we see it.

From time to time carriers let us know our opinion is off-base, and we let them use this space to tell their side of the story...for free! Maybe some day, one of us will be put in the awkward position of deciding whether to follow the path of righteousness...or grab that free Smart phone and run. We can dream, right?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More Unlimited News

I had the bright idea to split off Bill's Unlimited Plans Page at Mountain Wireless and create a new web site dedicated to Unlimited plans. It was a cool looking site, but I made mistakes that made advertisers avoid it. So I transferred all the new information and a few graphics back to the old Unlimited Page. Normally, creating a site out of a page is a good idea, but not this time.

Among the discoveries among Unlimited plans was how many Prepaid Unlimited plans are available, the wide variations of included features, and how cheap Unlimited can be ($25!). If you're paying more than $60 per month per line for a normal plan, you should consider the Unlimited alternatives, possibly with your current carrier and handset. And it's a good time to re-visit some of the outstanding local small carriers, most of which offer some form of Unlimited minutes, many with roaming minutes included.

I still don't talk that much.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The End of Roaming?

Our annual Christmas road trip crossing 4 states (CO, NM, OK, TX) is always a study in phone roaming behavior. In previous years we would access several roaming carriers and experience how they perform in coverage and completing calls. This year our Verizon Wireless phone did not roam at all over the entire 800 mile distance. With their acquisition of most of Alltel, Verizon makes another step toward seamless coast-to-coast coverage.

In previous years, Verizon did not roam exclusively on Alltel. There were 4 or 5 roaming partners to enjoy. Now zero. This is an indication of just how far Verizon has come through acquisions and expansion. The fact that there have been few roaming changes among our other phones also shows how far some of the other carriers still need to go. And it's a little unsettling to find that our GSM phones were roaming primarily on Alltel's old GSM network which, where we were, is now controlled by Verizon Wireless. The FCC requires Verizon to maintain those GSM sites for roamers, but not forever.

This may be unpleasant news for our partners who maintain the Roaming Zone web site, but the idea of "roaming" is slipping out of the cellular glossary. Like kids today who have never experienced the joy of playing a 45 rpm record, and their even younger counterparts who have no need to even handle a CD, cellular roaming is passing into history. For years, phones haven't told us they're Roaming, but instead that we're using "Extended Network," but even that is disappearing.

In the western US, the GSM carriers still need to roam extensively, but we may never know it since it's normally included service. If the screen doesn't say so, then it isn't happening, right?