Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Alltel's Shrinking Pains

Some carriers suffer from growing pains, but the "new" Alltel has that in reverse. As their own network coverage area shrinks, some customers are getting pushed aside. The first response has been to a group of Alltel customers in southern Illinois who are using Alltel Wireless as their Internet service provider, mostly with a wireless air card plugged into a computer. Alltel claims these customers are using their Internet access too much while roaming. This does not affect users with broadband phones like Blackberry.

Alltel has offered to credit most of the expenses for the equipment involved and allow these customers to escape without an Early Termination Fee. Alltel is even throwing in a few weeks more of service, just to be nice. Surprisingly, some of these people just don't trust Alltel to credit the fees, so they sit and suffer and complain to whoever will listen.

We think Alltel is being more than fair, but we wonder if this is happening in other parts of the country where customers continue to use their Alltel modems wherever they want. Alltel claims these people had ample notification, and we believe them. To find the termination clause in Alltel's terms & conditions, you need to download the .pdf version.

These customers claim there is no other source for high-speed Internet access, but if they are being kicked out for excessive roaming, they should check to see who they have been roaming with and look for service there. Fortunately, for the foreseeable future, all other Alltel roaming is still okie-dokie.

Monday, June 28, 2010

No More Pay-Per-Call

We’ve been roaming again which is why the blog hasn’t been updated. Yes, it’s pretty simple to update these pages from the road, but it’s awfully hard when you’re having that much fun.

The somewhat sad news is that we were unable to find Pay per Call plans any longer in Mexico. I must admit it seemed too good to be true when it first appeared a few years ago. After paying about $1.30US per minute for calls from American phones with Mexican SIM’s installed, to the US from Mexico, it was unbelievable to be able to make a 30-minute call for that much. Then it was 20 minutes, then 15, now it's back to 1.

The calling rate from Mexico was only part of the potential. We thought if it works in Mexico, it could be expanded to prepaid accounts in other countries, like the US. Alas, it is not to be. This also takes away from the desirability of using a Mexico SIM in your unlocked US GSM phone while in Mexico.

We updated our Mexico Roaming Page accordingly and now feel even more strongly in our prepaid AT&T GoPhone at .25 per minute whether in California or Cancun. We just forward incoming calls from our regular number (our other wireless, Google Voice, and/or the home phone), and outgoing calls are no hassle. Oh, Caller ID still works and you end up with usable calling time when you get home. So for those callers who block their number when they call the house, sorry about that. Not gonna answer…not even for 2 bits.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Alltel to AT&T Ups & Downs

By now the FCC approval for AT&T to acquire the remaining "old" Alltel properties is well-known among the wireless community...that is unless you've been standing in line at the Apple store for the last 2 days. I'm not going to re-hash the good & bad points about the deal, but I am going to point out a few details we discovered.

In the FCC approval documents, AT&T stated that they will continue to offer CDMA roaming, "...as long as AT&T provides CDMA retail or roaming services at that cell site." and "...nothing in this commitment shall be construed to restrict AT&T from terminating CDMA services at any cell site to all CDMA carriers at any time...under its roaming agreement with Verizon Wireless..." Since Verizon is selling the affected Alltel properties because they already have service in the area, and there's no mention of other carriers, it seems if Verizon says, "OK", AT&T can turn off CDMA and leave the other CDMA carriers with only one choice: to roam on Verizon.

Otherwise, there are no real surpises in the final documents. The approval did force us to change Our Reviews for AT&T and Alltel for all 50 states as well as our General Observations for about half of those. Whew! AT&T is already snatching customers from the Alltel web site who enter a Zip Code for the newly-acquired areas.

If you live in one of the areas acquired by ATN, it's Alltel business as usual. However, the "new" Alltel is now down to its fighting weight and no longer has the power of a company with millions of customers. There may be a fewer things, like fewer phones, or fewer stores.

Some of the transition to AT&T GSM can happen rather quickly as most of Alltel's western sites already offer GSM coverage, but it should improve greatly under AT&T. We could also expect Verizon to start disconnecting any Alltel GSM equipment as soon as roaming agreements allow, and AT&T doesn't have coverage in much of those new areas. It could be interesting, if not traumatic, to watch coverage disappear in so many areas so fast. It looks like the customers of Sprint, T-Mobile and a bunch of other carriers, including AT&T, may be in for a few surprises. I would hope it'll be later rather than sooner, some roaming agreements continue for several years.

Does this mean higher roaming charges for these other carriers, and thus higher charges for you and me? AT&T and Verizon Wireless wouldn't let that happen...would they?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Talk for Less

We feel one of our biggest contributions to cellular users is the myriad tips and secrets we have shared about saving money and keeping you from being a victim of the slow creep-up of wireless costs. We have even started entire web sites dedicated to cutting your wireless costs by more than half like CellularByTheMinute.com. So we created another weapon in the war against overpriced wireless, Secrets to Cheaper Wireless.

Check out potentially huge savings ideas that are listed in their order of difficulty. At the top of the list is “Change Your Plan”. Boy that seems awfully simple, right? But we found dozens of colleagues and friends who know they are on the wrong wireless plan and just haven’t got around to changing it. There is also a wealth of other valuable options that could save your wealth.

We're helping you pay only for what you really want. The more selective customers are, the more the wireless carriers will cater to those of us who make it known what we want, instead of just trying to profit from our ignorance. Go ahead, get the advantages. No more excuses!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Learn to Let Go

I have been following the story on Usenet of an unfortunate wireless user in San Francisco who could no longer use his beloved AT&T phone at home since they ended analog service there. He recently took, what he considered, the drastic step of buying an AT&T "micro cell" and placed it in a window of his house, only to find he had traded one set of woes for another.

Over the last few years we have recommended a few third party repeaters and micro cells from the likes of Solid Signal and Tiger Direct, which not only give you a usable signal where you need it, they do it at a reasonable price and not tied to a single carrier. But that's not the story here.

The problem is how long can you hold on to a wireless carrier that just doesn't suit your needs...or your coverage? Why is it so hard for a cellular user in a large urban area to just switch carriers? Most likely, several carriers serve any one given dead spot for another carrier. Is it because of the iPhone? Think of some of our loyal readers who live in places like Montana who can't get the iPhone (yet). Are they trying aluminum foil hats or comfy window seats...in their garage? No, they're choosing the best carrier in their area and the best phone they offer, and getting on with their lives.

Spending hundreds on a microcell, and then a monthly fee, just doesn't make sense when there are much cheaper options, including just switching carriers. Yes, even perfectly rational adults are subscribing to, say, Cricket, and not looking back to their "old" carrier, who never covered then with anything other than a nice warm monthly statement.

Let it go...just let it go.