Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back From the Road

I disappeared for a few weeks as the family and I traveled across parts of the western US.  While I'm gone, Scott decided to jump on those of us who have chosen to go prepaid.  He says we're gonna lose coverage.  Well, most of what he says is true, but the coverage 'problem' is a bit overblown.

After our return from roaming across rural Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, I can say there are a few alternatives that will keep your from losing coverage when moving to prepaid.  The biggest surprise was the AT&T GoPhone.  When you lose AT&T coverage, that's roaming.  The T-Mobile prepaid phone was far more useful with almost as much off-network roaming available as T-Mobile postpaid plans.  We'll talk about CDMA-based phones later.

The real stars were the Straight Talk and Net10 'Bring Your Own Phone' plans that kept some kind of coverage virtually everywhere.  Like the AT&T and T-Mobile networks they are based on, Data coverage was best on the home network, but there were far more roaming possibilities on Straight Talk and T-Mobile.  Critics say the Straight Talk/Net10 coverage maps are too optimistic, but I found them spot on.  That's a good thing.

The low lights are that rural data networks are still hopelessly slow, and once our Straight Talk phone 'forgot' that it is supposed to roam on AT&T (a reboot fixed that).  Then there's the issue of GSM roaming on Verizon Wireless.  Yes, there are parts of the old Alltel GSM network still supported by Verizon.  There  is no Data and there's a end date for this coverage that needs to be addressed by the GSM community soon or there will be a loss of service.

We are putting together a full report on the TracFone, Straight Talk and Net10 coverage capabilities and how they may be a good choice for your conversion to cheaper prepaid service.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Go Prepaid & Lose Coverage?

I have been watching the process of BillRadio and a number of others who advocate switching to Prepaid wireless to save money.  What are you guys thinking?  This web site for years has been focused on getting the maximum cellular coverage and most moves to prepaid are taking a trip in the opposite direction!  Go from AT&T postpaid to GoPhone and you'll be cutting yourself off from coverage in thousands of locations.  Here in New Mexico, I spent almost as much time roaming on Commnet Wireless as I did on AT&T.  I didn't know what good service was until I switched to Alltel, and found even better service when I was transferred to Verizon Wireless.

I know that Bill Radio is making a reluctant move from Verizon to AT&T with the idea that doubling what he pays to Verizon just isn't worth it.  At least he found out T-Mobile won't cut it for him.  Bill and I agreed long ago that AT&T's Ratings belong below those of Sprint and a handful of other smaller carriers.  I believe there will come a day when he returns to admit his mistake. For years he has been claiming that AT&T's coverage ranks third, at best.

I understand that some of you east of the Mississippi wonder what I'm talking about.  AT&T in the west suffers from a whole lot of no coverage that was improved with the acquisition of some of those Alltel properties.  But if you switch to an AT&T prepaid plan, you're losing nearly the entire state of Nebraska, just to name one hole!  Who is willing to do that in this technology-dependant world?  Well, apparently anybody who is willing to give up their all-encompassing postpaid accounts that work almost everywhere in the US, including T-Mobile!  Yes, there are some exceptions and the TracFone family of services claim service in as many places, but a scan of various forums reveal complaints about their coverage as well.

Another group I haven't heard from are those who went with Sprint to gain unlimited data, but give up that service while roaming.  At least their phone can make calls while roaming, something GoPhone and some AT&T MVNO users can't do.  When I lost AT&T coverage right up the street from downtown Santa Fe, I gave thanks for the ability to roam on T-Mobile.  Yes, T-Mobile prepaid is a better choice there.  But, come on.  Are you willing to give up coverage?  Oh, you're saving money?  How's that working out for you?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

US Cellular Sells Chicago to Sprint

US Cellular is one of our top-rated networks.  One one hand it's sad to see them sell off spectrum and customers to Sprint in the Chicago to St. Louis territory, but it's also nice to see they're staying in the fight.  It would have been great to see US Cellular become a nationwide network but they just don't have the financial resources.

There's a lot to not like about the deal, especially if you're one of the millions who get sent over to the Sprint tent.  It could be the best thing to happen to the rest of the network.  US Cellular has a chance to survive for a bit longer and service could continue to get better.  US Cellular is still expanding 4G coverage and still treats customers better than the others.  Where US Cellular is good, they're very, very good.  In the affected areas they were not their best.  I believe they're lucky to find a buyer since Sprint doesn't really need the spectrum.

This is similar to the recent deal with Plateau Wireless in New Mexico who sold off a piece of their network to Verizon Wireless.  The idea is to create a better and stronger long as it isn't one of the Big 4. 

Those of us in the affected areas could do worse than Sprint.  Then there's the folks in the US Cellular home office in what?