Wednesday, March 30, 2011

AT&-T-Mobile: No Slam Dunk

We have been waiting for some indication of which way the merger approval winds are blowing. We are happy to see lots of people in power objecting to an AT&T/T-Mobile combination. It would have been a concern if all of the decisions were left in the hands of the FCC and the Department of Justice. Instead, Congress, various state Attorneys General, and consumer organizations have raised objections, which gives us hope.

Here's one more concerned party that can make a difference: You! So few people take the time to make a formal comment, the words of those who do, carry a lot of weight. If your state asks for opinion, give yours. When the FCC opens the comment phase of the application, make one. Even if you want to support the acquisition, make it known. So few will speak up, one voice speaks very loudly. We don't see a middle ground solution. If it isn't a 'win-win' for all of us, it should be a 'no-no.'

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Last Days of T-Mobile

By now you know AT&T has agreed to buy T-Mobile. It's actually a good fit for more reasons than just the fact that they're both GSM. Last week's news about a T-Mobile/Sprint combination may have been nothing more than a negotiating ploy. I'm sure you have formed an opinion of the demise of T-Mobile, but it is indeed that next step toward too much wireless power in too few hands. Have we become too much of an advocate of small carriers to be impartial? Instead of being a Debbie-downer, let me throw out some of the good things that may happen in this transition.

Let's hope that the FCC slices off a few pieces of the T-Mobile network and divest it to one or more other carriers to beef up their own network. Unfortunately, all of the rest of the Top 10 carriers are CDMA-based, let alone have enough cash to pick up any pieces. US Cellular or the new Alltel might be the only ones who can take advantage of those pieces of T-Mobile that would need to be split off by over concentration in urban areas due to their lack of presence in major markets. But, oh, that CDMA thing. AT&T would say the advantages are the great amount of new bandwidth, and they get it new towers needed. Instead of picking up any pieces, see if Cricket and MetroPCS seize the day and do what it takes to grab those T-Mobile customers who just can't fathom the idea of being absorbed into AT&T. Also, Sprint and their broadband partner, ClearWire, just may get healthy enough to survive by themselves.

Coincidentally, we had scheduled an article for Monday of the advantages we all share from the powerful Top 4 networks, not the least of which are the great deals offered by re-sellers like Page Plus, TracFone, Consumer Cellular and the like. We'll need to revise a few sentences before we post that. Hey, without T-Mobile, who's gonna make fun of AT&T now?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Idaho Changes

Idaho is where our latest cellular network changes have been found. In this case the changes are good. One of those little annoying cellular mysteries has finally been cleared up with the Cambridge Telephone Company's change of name from Snake River PCS to CTC Wireless. The Snake Wireless name was shared with the Eagle Telephone Company across the river in Oregon, but they each had their own separate network. Eagle kept the Snake River name, but the SnakeRiverPCS web site doesn't apply to either one.

On the other side of the state, Custer Telephone Company has turned over their cellular network to Syringa Wireless. Custer will sell Syringa phones and service. This is a healthy trend among telephone co-ops as they co-op with other co-ops, often giving Local customers a nice regional wireless footprint, helpful customer service from neighbors, and integration with their home wired phone lines. BTW, "Syringa" is the Idaho state flower.

Alltel has a small network in Idaho that would also make a good takeover candidate for Syringa with complimentary coverage up through the center of the state. Recently, Alltel announced upgrades in the Illinois and southeastern US portions of their network but not a peep about Idaho. Does this mean the Idaho Alltel properties may be sold or traded, or that Chad just hasn't found a good airfare to Boise? No comment from Alltel.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Losing More Carriers

With today's report that Sprint/Nextel is considering buying T-Mobile, we're converting our Fat Tuesday beads to Worry Beads. It does look like a slow but sure path of consolidation toward a "Big 2" in the wireless industry. This deal could be limited to T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsch Telekom, investing in Sprint's Clearwire network to give T-Mobile a 4G footprint.

Consolidation keeps on rolling whether this deal happens or not. We were saddened to hear that Cap Rock Cellular of west Texas has sold out to AT&T. AT&T already has extensive operations throughout the state, but when Verizon Wireless jumped ahead in west Texas with the Alltel acquisition, AT&T needed to act. They become another new player in west Texas and that just may be a positive change to the locals, but it's just one more step toward making the big ones too big. This marks the 5th small Texas carrier that AT&T has grabbed, with maybe just one left, XIT Cellular.

We thought the small telephone cooperatives would be a strong voice for local wireless service, but the smell of money is too strong. Coincidentally, Cap Rock purchased their wireline operations from Southwestern Bell, a predecessor of the current AT&T. Independence is fleeting. I hope reasonably-priced wireless isn't.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Verizon's Hidden Customers

We make note of the number of wireless customers reported by each carrier and allowed for AT&T to claim the top spot after the 4th quarter results at over 95 million csutomers. We were reminded by some our Facebook Friends that some carriers have a large number of customers who are not counted, mostly in the areas of telemetry connections. One such example was reported today by Verizon Wireless, excerpts below, that connects 70 large buildings in Charlotte, NC to report and control their energy consumption.

Does this reflect one customer, Duke Energy, with a large number of 'family' plans; 70 companies with a connection to each building; or maybe the hundreds of electric meters in those buildings, each with their own cellular connection? Wireless has great potential in aiding the Smart Grid effort in the US, with the potential of every electric meter having it's own wireless number. Verizon has a large number of these types of customers and does not report them in their 94 million plus customer total.

Should we stop reporting customer numbers because they don't really reflect actual wireless connections? Naw, we like counting noses in this horse race.

"CHARLOTTE, NC -- Duke Energy today announced that Verizon Wireless will provide the telecommunications network that will connect the digital meters, signs and media players that will be used in Envision: Charlotte, a first-of-its-kind, public-private collaboration to make the commercial buildings in Charlotte’s urban core more energy efficient.

Using digital energy technologies connected by Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network, Duke Energy will gather and aggregate energy usage data from about 70 participating buildings in Charlotte’s 1.94 square mile I-277 inner-belt loop. The information will then be streamed to large interactive lobby-level screens provided by Cisco.

Building tenants will see the nearly real-time commercial energy consumption data for the community and suggested actions they can take to reduce their personal energy usage in the office.

“We are pleased that Verizon Wireless has joined along with Cisco in making this very important initiative possible,” said Vincent Davis, Duke Energy’s director of smart energy community projects. “Having near real-time energy usage information – that’s not available today with analog technology – is the first step toward awareness and proactive human engagement to reduce the amount of energy that’s wasted in commercial buildings.”

“The Envision: Charlotte project is important not only because of what it provides the community but because it uses the latest 4G technology in a manner that could have only been imagined a few years ago,” said Mark Bartolomeo, vice president, global enterprise sales, Verizon Wireless. “Verizon Wireless is excited to be a part of such a cutting edge project that will surely become a benchmark for others who need the high speeds, low latency and reliability of LTE network in the future. This is a real-life example of how machine-to-machine (M2M) technology is an effective way to empower people as they become stewards for energy savings.”

To date, business and local government leaders controlling more than 12 million square feet of space have expressed a commitment to participate in Envision: Charlotte in an effort to reduce energy use by up to 20 percent and avoid approximately 220,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases by 2016. The organizations include:

- Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte, and controls approximately 7 million square feet
- Wells Fargo, which has its eastern bank headquarters in Charlotte, and controls approximately 3 million square feet
- The city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, which controls approximately 1.4 million square feet
- Duke Energy, which is headquartered in Charlotte, and controls 1.3 million square feet" More >

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sprint Coverage Changes

March 1st marks the end of Local or on-network Sprint coverage in ND, MT AND WY. We reported it a month ago and we have been seeking input from Sprint users as to their concern. The response has been predictable. Nobody wants to lose coverage, even if they never use it, but there appears to be very few people affected. I updated both the Sprint Voice/Text and 3G Coverage maps to show the new areas. AT&T will turn off the CDMA switch on those former Alltel sites that Sprint used as soon as everyone there has a nice new shiny GSM phone.

The big concern here is that the Sprint network itself, real or virtual, is no longer available in these areas, which means usage there will no longer be included in our plans. Current plans, like the "Everything" plans, apply to "on-network" calls only. Off-net calls and data will either come out of the extra bucket of minutes or be charged as roaming.

Fortunately, there is still coverage and some of it is 3G, ultimately provided by Verizon. So, for the few of us, and we found out there are very few, who travel to Casper, Bismarck or Missoula, the only things that change will be the location of the cell sites and maybe the amount we pay for service. The real loss for the rest of us is the warm fuzzy we got knowing that maybe, some day, we might go there.