Wednesday, February 29, 2012

MetroPCS Cheats on Cricket

Sprint came within a whisker of acquiring MetroPCS last weekend. We can talk about the one that got away, but we wonder even more what the future now looks like for Cricket. Many of us thought MetroPCS and Cricket were partners just made for each other, and they have complimentary networks. Where one has spectrum, the other doesn't, they both use CDMA, and they have a similar prepaid business model.

So now we know MetroPCS would rather cavort with the likes of Sprint, what's to become of Cricket? The Top 2 probably can't take over such a large network, so you need to follow the money...but it looks like nobody has any. Unless a outside suitor like Dish comes forward, it looks more than ever like MetroPCS and Cricket will need to shack up and at least take advantages of what synergies they can. We may have a couple that just can't get along, but it's what happens when you're left crying at the alter.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Plateau Transaction Clarified

As we reported, Verizon is purchasing a portion of Plateau Wireless of New Mexico, but the sale will not affect Plateau customers in Curry, Roosevelt or Quay counties. Plateau CEO Tom Phelps said Saturday that Verizon is purchasing the southeast New Mexico quadrant, which includes portions of Roswell, Carlsbad, Artesia, and Hobbs and Ruidoso. Wireless infrastructure in Eddy, Chaves and Lea counties are part of the purchase. Additionally, the wireless communications network in part of Lincoln County is included.

Phelps said the sale won’t affect customers in Clovis, Portales, Tucumcari or portions of west Texas. Phelps said selling a piece of the business gives Plateau more cash to invest in upgrading services such as high-speed wireless. The purchase includes Plateau Wireless' Cellular customers, and related operations just in the southeastern New Mexico market.

Some wireless users in the remaining Plateau areas wondered if they will still have wireless service in the affected areas since they have incompatible technology. There has been no announcement yet about whether or how long GSM service will be maintained. The subject may be addressed by the FCC, whose approval is expected this summer. How long can an even smaller Plateau survive?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Plateau Wireless Gives Up!

It's understandable when a small wireless carrier sells out to one the Big 4, but it's troubling when it happens to the wireless arm of a rural wireline co-op. They're the ones who are supposed to operate with the best interests of their members. Today, Plateau Wireless of New Mexico agreed to sell their cellular network and customers to Verizon Wireless. It really is the new economic reality for small telecoms, but it seems so short-sighted. The future is wireless, and now it looks like Plateau has mortgaged away their future. Those wireless channels could have been used for more than just phone calls. No matter. Money talks.

The good news is that life will probably get better for Plateau customers. While Plateau offers a wide variety of plans, most of them are overpriced. When Verizon takes over, everybody gets a new CDMA phone and a chance to upgrade to the iPhone. Previous Verizon conversions from GSM to CDMA have gone smoothly and we expect this one to be, too. Plateau was a real champion of the rural wireless user, even keeping analog operating because so few farmers could afford to convert their wireless sprinkler controls over to digital.

We wish Plateau's main parent, The ENMR Telephone Cooperative, well. We hope they'll still have some customers left to co-operate with. Most of us may have cut the cord.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The PrePaid iPhone!

I noted a recent rumor about a prepaid iPhone, or more accurately, a SIM that you can stick in any AT&T, T-Mobile or unlocked GSM iPhone. The rumor is that American Movil, parent company of TracFone, Net10 and Straight Talk, will offer a prepaid SIM for Straight Talk's regular plans which include their $45 Unlimited Talk, Text and Web. Unlimited? Well, yes, for the time being. Who knows what will transpire if this approaches reality. T-Mobile and AT&T might object to any Unlimited users on their networks, but stranger things have happened.

You might want to grab (or hold on to) an old iPhone. It might become your new, less expensive friend.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can Sprint's Broadband Get Better?

Sprint has been hot and cold with their relationship with Clearwire, the wholesale 4G broadband network that has been providing almost all of Sprint's 4G coverage. Sprint recently stated they will now start using their own network for 4G LTE coverage instead of Clear's WIMAX 4G network. That transition will probably will be slow to roll out. Sprint actually issued their own 4G Coverage Map which is identical to Clear's Map.

Sprint will will probably use as much of their legacy 1900MHz PCS spectrum as possible for their own flavor of 4G service, which is slightly better than Clear's higher, 2500MHz spectrum. Sprint's broadband will also reflect coverage more like their voice network, which may or may not cause problems for current users.

We can't help but think this situation will change again. Clear may convert to LTE, and Clear and Sprint may need each other strictly from an economic standpoint. Neither one of them can afford a new network, especially as an overlay, and there are other clouds on the horizon such as the potential failure of Lightsquared...or a potential competitor with the new Dish broadband network. Both events may force Clear and Sprint to play nice(r). After all, Sprint has invested lotsa Million$ in Clear that they probably can't get back.

As usual, nothing is certain and there's also always a chance of any one company not doing the smart thing. Would you be surprised if AT&T bought Clear? We expected Cricket and MetroPCS to tie up long ago. Just because they haven't doesn't mean it's still not the best course of action. The only Smart they may know, is their Smart Phones.