Thursday, December 30, 2010

Don't Overlook the Small Guys

As part of our monthly housekeeping, I deleted one of our Cellular Secret Tips, the trick that if you can't get the wireless carrier you want at home, sign up at work where there is local coverage. With so much wireless consolidation, the notion seemed outdated. I just happened to ask a few of our wireless neighbors about the carrier they use and found that they liked the one they have at home and don't get at work.

In this case, it happened to be from Viaero Wireless, which is available in and beyond the suburbs of Denver. These users love Viaero, and their phones work just fine when they roam across other parts of the Metro area. Instead of listing this as a new "Tip", I want to reiterate here how smart it is for you to include these small, local wireless carriers among those considered for your next phone. Some of these carriers (including Viaero) will pay your Early Termination Fee to make the change. In most cases, the smaller carriers have superior customer service and are far more willing to 'bend' the rules to keep you happy.

Sadly, there aren't too many of these carriers located near larger population areas, however, make sure you don't overlook one near you. We list them among our Reviews. With Verizon and AT&T now appearing in new markets, you might be tempted to jump and join the big players and, in some cases, that's OK. But if you live in Dayton, remember Cincinnati Bell, or in Wichita Falls, Cellular One. Tip: they may be the best game in town.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Tis the Season to Buy a Phone

This is a good season to be buying a new wireless phone, mostly for yourself. Obligating somebody else to a new 2-year agreement is not my idea of a good gift, but it's an OK thing to do to yourself. There are exceptions if you can just switch SIM's on somebody. But the contract can't be overlooked. Of course, this also could be the year you choose to pay for your wireless by the minute instead of by the month.

The days after Christmas are a fine time to get a little something cellular. The holiday deals are still available and you can guage your self-gratification on what you already did or did not get as a gift. As we have advised in the past, don't over-analyze your choice, and try not to pay for more than you need. After all, you'll probably be replacing it in the next 2 years, more or less.

Let me add a shameless promotion for our own wireless discount site, where there several online specials still going on for the holidays. Our guys want as much business on the books before the end of the year as possible...even if you want prepaid. You still have a chance to make it a real happy holiday, unless someone has taken on a 2-year contract for you. We wish you best.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More Ways to Cut the Cord

Now that Verizon Wireless has launched 4G broadband, the options for those of us who would rather not be tied to wired communications have increased. While maintaining The Unwired Home web site we give much coverage to the fact that users who are accustomed to fast Internet connections often need to keep that copper, fiber or cable connected. Now that 4G wireless is becoming more widely available, that's becoming less so.

With speeds ranging from 3Mb to a lot more, available from a cellular modem, who needs wires? Hopefully, coming soon will be those cellular "hot spots" with one connection to cellular enabling several others to connect by wi-fi. Imagine a wireless modem on your laptop running your games, your TV and even, gasp, your phone!

These aren't future hopes, it's available today. Several carriers are serving several markets so we already have some competition. The carriers consider themselves serving a 'mobile' community. The prospects are equally useful at home...which is also becoming more mobile.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Verizon's Big Week

Verizon topped this week's news. The introduction of their 4G network in 38 markets and 68 airports was sorta big, but with no handsets and only one 4G modem available, users will adopt slowly. More newsworthy for users like us is Verizon's new rates on Prepaid. We noted that AT&T's new $2 per day rate for GoPhone was a potential game changer and it may have contributed to a big drop in Verizon's prepaid numbers. This week Verizon dropped their pay-per-day rate to $1.99, a whole penny less than AT&T.

Verizon also attached some strings. They increased the accompanying Text rate from .01 to .02, that's a 100% increase. They also added restrictions on the handsets available for Prepaid, primarily to keep postpaid customers from switching. We're not sure if that will affect Verizon users who choose to switch to Page Plus.

Prepaid was once the stronghold of the credit-challenged among wireless users. The trend now is for cellular in the US to be more like that of other countries: pay-as-you-go. It's great to see competition in the Prepaid arena. Even US Cellular introduced 3 new Prepaid plans this week. Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS have been trying to increase their base rates from the $35 to $45 zone but may feel too much pressure from the big players. It may be enough pressure to force those two together.

If nothing else, the increase in the number of prepaid offerings gives consumers confidence to switch to prepaid. Savings can be substantial, as Prepaid moves more toward the mainstream.

Also, Page Plus announced their $80 refill is now valid for a full year. More objections to Prepaid fall by the wayside.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Is Sprint Worth Twice as Much?

I was updating our Unlimited Wireless Plans Page recently and it occurred to me there was a big difference between the top and bottom priced Unlimited wireless plans. Under the minimum criteria we set for the plans on that page, Sprint just happens to be the most expensive at $100. That's what you pay to get Unlimited Calls and Text to any US phone number. Cricket, MetroPCS and several others are less than half that.

Admittedly, you can pay a little more or less here and there and the numbers aren't quite double, but it certainly has me wondering if the Big 4 are really worth that much more. Now that most under-$50 wireless plans include nearly nationwide roaming, I'm trying to find justification for the extra cost. I don't mean to pick on Sprint, their $70 Unlimited everything-except-calls-to-landlines is a good deal. I'll also add that there aren't really that many of us who can truly benefit from Unlimited service, even data.

As Verizon Wireless kicks off their new 4G network this weekend, you'd think they would make those wide open airwaves available on an Unlimited basis to those brave pioneers who sign up first, and restrict the rest of us later, but they're not. They must remember the first days of AT&T's GSM network.

Over in the low rent part of town, Cricket and MetroPCS keep humming away, happily offering Unlimited everything, most of it in 3G, and some in 4G, mostly for much lower prices. I'm gonna keep asking, "it the more expensive signal worth it?"