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 With so much wireless consolidation, the notion seemed outdated.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.


CookieMonster said...

I know you're a fan of the smaller carriers, Bill. However, I'm curious as to what you think about the long term viability of some of these smaller carriers, especially the ones that have built out quality networks. At&t and Verizon have largely gotten to where they're at by swallowing up smaller carriers. Well that and anti-competetive lobbying, but that's another discussion. Anyway, if at&t and Verizon keep growing like gangbusters and Sprint and T-Mobile keep floundering, it seems reasonable that as a last ditch effort to stay relevant, that they might start emulating the top two carriers and start trying to buy up a number of the remaining regionals to expand their coverage in order to better compete. Do you think there's any likelihood of that scenario happening?

Oz Andrews said...

Absolutely! There is indeed a danger of having just 2 wireless carriers in this country. If the Top 4 are smart, they'll keep buying out the smaller players. Metro & Cricket probably need to combine to survive, and the writing is on the wall for US Cellular. Fortunately, many of the smallest carriers are operated as a wireless arm of a local communications company who really doesn't need to get out of the wireless business. They are indeed viable, but everything has it's price. A half dozen of these very small companies have fallen in the last 2 years to offers too good to refuse.

Our aim is to somehow support the small carriers in an effort to delay the inevitable so we don't end up paying monopolistic prices. That situation already exists in other countries.

Our support for small carriers is based as much on their higher level of service and attitude. If they lose that, then we're all doomed.