Monday, June 27, 2011

South Central Wireless Bites the Dust

A few days ago South Central Communciations (SCC) of southern Utah stopped offering cellular service. This means their customers have been set free and their employees have gone home. SCC operated a good network and they were the only cellular service in several remote corners of Utah. Their Internet, phone and video services continue to operate as usual.

It'ss distressing that SCC could find no takers for their wireless looks like they couldn't give it away. This did not come as a complete surprise as South Central notified their 7,000 wireless customers in advance and helped them switch to another wireless carrier. Part of that assistance was keeping those towers where they were the only cellular service in town operating, with the assumption that their CDMA operating partners (Verizon, Sprint, etc.) can still roam on those towers. Who operates those towers now and in the future is not clear.

This may reflect the plight of small carriers all across the US, even those with other strong communications departments. So far we haven't received any official announcement from SCC. Most of our information comes from those directly affected by the changes. This reduction in service also affects some of the tiny carriers in Utah and surrounding states that helped each other with intersystem roaming, and will affect our coverage maps for those systems. We will release additional information as we get it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chicago Loves US Cellular

Chicago is the largest city in the US Cellular network and residents of the Windy City should consider themselves lucky. They are among the ones who can choose US Cellular as their favorite carrier, and many of those that have, love it. By the end of this year, US Cellular will offer 4G over much of its network with a whole bunch of new Android devices.

It's great to see a company that is pretty much ignoring the inroads of the larger cellular carriers and making wireless user-friendly and competitive in several US markets. There's no reason to avoid US Cellular and they can only lose to the louder markeing efforts of the larger carriers. Winning rave reviews at Mountain Wireless, in consumer magazines, and among savvy users, is no small fete. With 98% of their network already 3G, with 4G right around the corner, Chicago-landers, and all users in US Cellular markets are lucky indeed.

While the financial winds may not be blowing in their favor, the owners of US Cellular are treating their network like it will operate independently forever. Considering that the Carlson family still enjoys the job, it just may. Enjoy it while we can.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Are Your Wireless Costs Going Down?

In response to fears that wireless prices will rise after the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, responded that after 5 big mergers in the past 10 years, "Telecom prices have dropped by more than 50 percent." and that "AT&T's price for one megabyte of data has dropped by 90 percent over the past four years." He added customers are paying more because they're using more. So it was time to get out my calculator.

Most members of my family are not big wireless users and the cost of a minimum number of minutes over the past 5 years has risen from $30 to $40. Adding a few useful App's has added an additional $2 to $6 a month. These Apps formerly just used minutes, now they're a separate charge. Next is the use of data. Data was also allowed at a per minute rate but are now charged in blocks from $2 to $60 per month. How about 411 calls? They were once .69 per call, now they can be $2 each.

I agree we are using more Apps and other services but the carriers have found a way to make more money from our desire to choose other than just chocolate and vanilla. Those of us at the bottom of the wireless food chain who take small bites of these additional services are now easily paying more than double what we were paying as few as 3 years ago. Our prices have not dropped 50% even though our usage has changed very little. Of course, those of us using gobs of broadband are indeed watching the price drop, but it's competition that's keeping these top-paying customers around. By my calculations, the lower and middle classes appear to be paying 50 to 100% more.

Where is Ralph getting his data? By looking at the bills of his top wireless users? We'll do what we can: watch for more articles here on how to get your wireless costs back under control, hopefully with a choice of 4 major wireless carriers in the years to come.