Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quote of the Year

The US Department of Justice said today:

"AT&T could obtain substantially the same network enhancements that it claims will come from the transaction if it simply invested in its own network without eliminating a close competitor..."

Just like we said.

Monday, August 22, 2011

AT&T Spins the Facts in Montana

AT&T made statements published today in the Independent Record newspaper in Helena, MT that makes us wonder if they're ignorant or hope that we are. Montana is one of the most-researched states among the Mountain Wireless Cellular Networks, and there is much concern about wireless service in such a rural state. The Independent Record reported that "(AT&T Regional President Adam Grzybicki) said that now they look to increase the coverage and expand its power from 3G to 4G LTE. That build-out, however, is contingent on a merger with T-Mobile." That means that in order to add 4G service in Montana, AT&T needs T-Mobile's spectrum.

The reality is AT&T has held 1900 MHz PCS licenses in Montana for years. AT&T also possesses a large amount of AWS (1700/2100 MHz) spectrum in Montana and many other states that also remains undeveloped. They do not need T-Mobile's spectrum in these areas to offer new service just as they did not need Alltel's spectrum to offer cellular service in Montana. It was just easier, and probably cheaper, to take over all of Alltel's cell sites and customers than build their own. AT&T wants to expand through acquisition of existing networks instead of using their already-owned spectrum. The elimination of T-Mobile as a competitor is just icing on the cake. Is expansion by acquisition necessary, especially in places like Montana where there is no T-Mobile network?

Dangling the carrot of 4G wireless broadband service to the isolated rural residents would certainly encourage locals to support the AT&T/T-Mobile combination. This has happened in several rural states where politicians have added their support to the deal. The question remains, though, why hasn't AT&T used their existing unused spectrum to offer service in these areas long ago? If you live in a rural area like Montana, are you watching the carrot or are you wondering why hasn't this been done already?

Friday, August 19, 2011

This is the Other Bargain Season

Aside from the 2 months before Christmas, it appears this is another one of the biggest bargain seasons of the year. Most carriers are offering 'Back to School' specials that are geared toward the college student using a phone away from home, but can easily apply to your own wireless usage.

We don't have a list of these individual deals, but the best way to find them is to choose your favorite carrier or prepaid service and see what their offer is like today from a site that lists offers from ALL the cellular services. Other Back to School deals can be found at the top wireless retailers, Lets Talk and Wirefly.

These deals should disappear by September 1st, then you'll need to wait for Black Friday.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

AT&T Falls Flat in Four Corners

Of all the areas where the transition from Alltel to AT&T has gone badly, it looks like the Four Corners, that area around the intersection of AZ, CO, NM, & UT, has suffered the worst. We have read anecdotal stories about poor coverage and a difficult transition in a handful of other ex-Alltel areas, but here AT&T may have failed the wrong group of users. The reports of poor service have been experienced right in the hands of the local government of San Juan County of New Mexico, probably AT&T's largest customer in the area. The complaints are serious, from poor 911 service, unusable coverage, and the inability to get phones fixed.

AT&T's assistant vice president for consumer sales and service, Leighton Carroll, was called before the county commission and was caught saying, "We are adding capacity, adding cell phone towers, increasing our footprint." He said that to the wrong person. San Juan County General Services and Community Development Administrator Larry Hathaway noted, "I am in charge of issuing the building permits for San Juan County. They are issued out of my office. We have not seen any activity from AT&T at all, but we have seen activity from your competition. You tell us that activity is going to happen by the end of the year, but we aren't seeing those permits coming through our office." AT&T says otherwise, but their actions, or lack of them, speak louder than words.

If AT&T becomes the largest wireless operator in the country with the addition of T-Mobile, should we expect them to be even less responsive? Bigger is not always better. If I was living in Farmington I would be dumping my AT&T phone. Yo, Sprint!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

MetroPCS Can't Save Us From the Dark Side

Financial results for MetroPCS today caused their stock to drop one third, that's over 30% in one day. We try not to focus on the money side of the carriers, but poor performance, or at least not stellar performance, is why T-Mobile is jumping into the arms of AT&T. It was hoped that Sprint, Cricket and MetroPCS would rise to fill the void left by T-Mobile. Metro's rise was counted on by wireless users across the US, the FCC, and, yes, even by AT&T itself.

AT&T claims that there's plenty of competition and was referring to MetroPCS as much as anyone. With such a poor showing, we can only hope that Metro will start playing nice with Cricket Wireless again to assure at least a 4th significant US wireless carrier. The two have been hinting at a merger for several years but just haven't made it to the alter. Now MetroPCS may be coming courting, and Cricket should chirp out a 'yes'. These two have complimentary spectrum so it's something that should happen sooner rather than later.