Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Alltel the Future of Prepaid...and More?

We have been combing the notices from the FCC, ATN, Alltel and others trying to find a few morsels of what's coming from the "new" Alltel, also known as, 'That part of Alltel sold to ATN.' One of the findings is that Alltel's "U" prepaid brand is no where to be found, but now there is an interesting selection of 6 Alltel prepaid plans being offered:

  • Unlimited Talk
  • Unlimited Talk & Text
  • Pay Per Minute
  • Pay Per Day
  • Pay Per Month 200
  • Pay per Month 400

This collection of plans seems to include the features of every prepaid offered by other carriers. With the Pay Per Month plans they can even complete with the best of the no-contract carriers. This is the kind of thinking that has made Alltel stand out among carriers, and why we have long recommended them in markets where they are available. Will this happen with Prepaid?

Could this affect the rest of us? The same management team that created features like "My Circle", and other ideas copied by other carriers, are in place with the Alltel-from-ATN network. So, even though the number of people served by the "new" Alltel is drastically less than the old, this downsized carrier may still be influential in coming up with more creative ideas.

Some customers trying to sign up with Alltel are being forwarded to Verizon Wireless who cannot set up any Alltel services. These callers are being identified by their phone number as living in Verizon markets, and the trick around that is to hide your Caller ID by pressing "*67" before you call Alltel's customer service (800-ALLTEL-1).

Then there's that group of Alltel users who will be absorbed into AT&T. Some are thrilled at the prospect, others, not so much. It gives us this additional level of confusion that keeps us all in the guessing game. Help me, Chad!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Alltel Lives On

As expected, Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN) today completed the acquisition of the Alltel properties that were being sold by Verizon Wireless. ATN announced the closing of the purchase and paying $223 Million as the final price. But the big news is they will keep the Alltel name for many years. They also will be able to use the Alltel name in some other markets.

We suspected the final retail name would not be "Allied Wireless" because ATN never reserved the domain name, As a matter of fact, we were offered to buy the Allied Wireless web address. We're going to guess that several of the Commnet Wireless markets will become new "Alltel" markets and will be able to offer local retail services under the Alltel name, making wireless products immediately available in a whole lot more places than the markets in the 6 states involved in today's Verizon Wireless transaction.

We are fairly certain that the Commnet sites will be involved in the new Alltel network, and since Commnet already has good roaming relationships with most other carriers, the new Alltel gets a nice jump out of the gate. Go Chad, go!

Finding Our Pages

From time to time we actually meet face to face with fans of our sites and they often ask what happened to some of our old web pages. During 2008 and 2009 we converted some web pages to whole sites of their own, and added some new developers to watch over the info on those pages. Some of those pages turned out to be big successes, and few others didn't pan out so well.

So, for the last week we have been consolidating not just links to each web site, but links to each individual page. We incorporated that into a new, expanded Site Map, that includes almost all the pages on all our related sites. The only pages that aren't individually linked are the separate state wireless network Reviews (there's 50 of them), and the Archives for this Blog's predecessor (6 years' worth). We thought that would add way too many links to be useful.

We're always trying to come up with new and unique cellular topics, but from time to time we lose those new pages among all the others. We also hate to delete any old pages just because few people read them. After all, they're old friends of ours. You might want to look for some of those old friends, and new ones, at the new Mountain Wireless Site Map.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

FCC Approves ATN Takeover of Alltel

I thought I would give everyone a heads up on the FCC's approval, today. ATN will take over the markets that will be spun off from Verizon's purchase of the rest of Alltel. ATN is Atlantic Tele-Network and has named Allied Wireless as the company that Alltel Wireless will evolve into. ATN also owns Commnet Wireless and CC Communications Wireless with a total of nearly 600 cell sites across the US.

You read it here, first!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taking Your Phone Out of the Country

Over the past few weeks we expanded our very popular Mexico Roaming Page to an International Roaming Page. We haven't quite approached George Clooney's frequent flier miles, but we have traveled out of the US enough to know that wireless is almost as universally available in other countries as it is here. Even at the airport in Pokhara, Nepal, west of Kathmandu, is a huge billboard with the picture of a GSM SIM, inviting visitors to buy Nepal cellular service.

On our new Global Roaming page, we try to explain how using your phone overseas is just a little different. We have compiled the experiences of worldwide travelers into a list of global roaming options as well as Tips & Considerations. The majority of us want to know if we can just pack our own cell phone in our carry-on and head abroad. This includes those who want to take a cruise, but can't bear with the idea of leaving the cell phone behind.

For travel around most of the globe, AT&T and T-Mobile phones have, by far, the widest roaming capabilities. Some CDMA carriers will loan you a CDMA/GSM phone as GSM dominates outside the US. Even then, international roaming is not cheap. We found less expensive alternatives but how many hoops are you willing to jump through to find the best rate?

I have traveled from the airport to the hotel many times, with no way to find a local prepaid phone or SIM, until I was able to venture from the hotel, which may be far from any stores. That's where the roaming abilities of your current phone help you at least get through the first few days. We may be talking about dollars per minute roaming fees instead of the pennies we expect at home. There's a whole bunch of considerations: like on a cruise ship, you can either pay the $3 per minute roaming rate (or more), or find a way to connect through wi-fi, which is also not free. Or the fact that a prepaid phone or SIM purchased in India roams more cheaply in surrounding countries than most US phones. The experience can be fun as you deal with foreign businesses at a "locals" level, even in Mexico.

If you're taking a foreign vacation or business trip, we hope to hear from you. Just don't pay too much for the call.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ready for A 6-Band Phone?

As part of our work on International Roaming, we see today's advanced, "quad-band" cellular phone as tomorrow's old school technology. Some of today's networks require a "tri-band" phone just for "normal" US coverage. Cricket uses the third band for additional markets, T-Mobile uses it for much of their 3G coverage. And there's more coming. There are 5 such wireless "bands" on the air today.

Verizon, and others, are working on 700 MHz services, and the FCC is looking for a few more slices of spectrum pie to feed our insatiable need for bandwidth. Fortunately, the manufacturers are keeping up with the RF requirements, but we see clouds on the horizon. Much like the brick wall that prevents the cross-use of GSM and CDMA networks, the need for so many new frequency bands, and phones that serve them, may provide a similar stumbling block.

Sure, technology should be able to come to the rescue, but are we ready to face the need for new equipment every few years? Some Americans replace their phones almost that often, but to be required to do so may reach a resistance level. And we haven't put much thought as to what is happening overseas. India is having a spectrum auction right now that will add to the bowl of band soup.

Besides, a "sex-band" phone (sex = 6) does have a certain ring to it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

You Can Roam- Can Your Friends?

A few weeks ago we were making one of our semi-regular visits to Mexico. On this trip we had several friends stay in nearby hotels. But we had a heck of a time hooking up with them because their cell phones don’t work down there.

We all take for granted just making a call to each other’s wireless number to make plans for meeting up when away from home. Hotels have pretty much made their room phones superfluous with their ridiculous fees and surcharges. But that’s the old school way of communicating. Even “older” is our expectation that any messages left at the hotel for us would be saved at the front desk. Now it’s more likely left in your room’s voice mail. What, our room has a phone?

Some of our friends just don't know they must enter "001" or "+1" before their US number. This is just one more of those adventures in Roaming, and it certainly extends to more than just making plans with friends while on the road. We also depend on our wireless devices for our access to email and the Internet.

The latest wave of wi-fi capable phones has also opened new horizons for us. We may be headed back to those old school internet cafes just to make phone calls. Our hotel charges up to $70US per week for wi-fi access. So, we're happy to pay international roaming cellular charges...if it works. Some of our friends’ phones didn’t. Which left them on the beach, alone, snoozing, unbothered. Hmm.

We’re keeping up with roaming developments at the Roaming Zone, Mexico Roaming, and at our Cellularmaps web sites.