Friday, March 31, 2017

US Cellular on the Cheap

We have always thought of US Cellular as worth a premium price, after all, they're a real carrier.  However, when there's a chance to do it cheaper, we take it.  If you live in US Cellular territory you can use Google Project Fi and enjoy the benefits of US Cellular for a much better price.  However, the chances of using their network is low if Sprint and T-Mobile are nearby.  We can't predict which network gets priority, but we can be fairly certain that where US Cellular is your best, or only, choice, Google Fi will find it...which is a good thing.

Google Fi can also seek out a Wi-Fi network, so your chances of using US Cellular are potentially even less, unless a nearby "Off" switch removes that Wi-Fi from the equation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sprint's Spectrum: Money in the Bank

More than one analyst this week claims that Sprint and T-Mobile must merge.  Each analyst also notes that the marriage faces a number of challenges: anti-trust laws, incompatible technology, and more.  So, after I stopped gritting my teeth, I looked at the advantages of each company to go it alone.

As we noted earlier this week, T-Mobile was the beneficiary of some prime ex-AT&T spectrum in their failed merger attempt. T-Mobile also has their new 700 MHz bandwidth and may have won some of the 600 MHz space from this year's auction.

Sprint may be sitting on a spectrum gold mine.  A Wells Fargo analyst claims Sprint still has some prime holdings across the country but now the 2.5 GHz spectrum they acquired with Clear Wireless gives them some prime 5G real estate as well.  All Sprint needs to do is add water, some capital expenditures, and they'll grow an even more robust network, maybe with help from someone who can make withdrawals from that spectrum bank.

Friday, March 17, 2017

T-Mobile Doesn't Want to Merge with Sprint

I cringe every time I hear someone say it's time for Sprint and T-Mobile to merge.  This rumor has been floating around ever since the Feds denied the merger of T-Mobile and AT&T in 2011.  A few days ago T-Mobile's CFO, Braxton Carter, said at a Deutsche Bank investor conference that the carrier is more interested in merging with a cable company like AT&T did with DirecTV.

It's this thinking that keeps us from losing sleep over the US falling into a Canadian-like situation of only 3 major wireless carriers, but you can't say it can't happen.  Sprint's parent company does have deep pockets and could make an offer T-Mobile (and their stockholders) can't refuse.  All concern about losing one of our carriers goes out the window when there's money to be made.  Additionally, increases in interest rates have made the cost of money greater, making a big deal just a bit less likely.

Some of T-Mobile's recent success (and improved coverage) has been built from the $4 billion of cash and licenses it got from AT&T as a breakup fee when AT&T's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile was blocked in 2011.  T-Mobile would be smart to avoid that scenario by staying away from a merger of another wireless carrier.  They don't want me to lose sleep, do they?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Verizon Gets an AttaBoy

A few weeks ago we gave kudos to T-Mobile for giving Verizon a good run for their money as they finished the download derby in almost a tie.  More recently, the Root Metrics measurements put Verizon back in  first place for performance in both local and national performance.  We report this to keep from appearing like T-Mobile fanboys.  To be fair, the RootMetrics reports on network performance, not coverage, which is why Sprint continues to do well even though they do it in fewer locations.

Yes, RootMetrics is a bit more credible in this measurement, but after years of marginal coverage compared to the Top 2 carriers, there has been such a huge improvement with T-Mobile, primarily using their newly-acquired 700 MHz spectrum, we can't help but note how far they have come.  700 MHz provides better building penetration in urban areas and longer distance coverage in rural areas.  We presume that T-Mobile will add to these "low-band" holdings to further expand this better coverage in areas where they are not yet available.

I recently had a discussion with a reader about how T-Mobile has made inroads into Montana, a state that we did not expect a carrier like T-Mobile to ever cover well, but it looks like they will, soon.  With even more recently-acquired spectrum there, we expect improvements in the Big Sky state.  However, I will give credit to Verizon Wireless for giving us faster downloads and more reliable connections so we can post those pictures of us posing with the bears in Yellowstone National Park.  What better use can we ask of our spectrum?

Monday, March 13, 2017

An AT&T Grows in Mexico

AT&T, the newest cellular carrier in Mexico, is finally showing substantial growth.  With about 20% of the Mexican market, AT&T isn't the top dog, but a closer look shows a remarkable 38% growth in the past year.  We didn't predict that AT&T would dominate the country anytime soon, but over a year ago we did predict that roaming South of the Border would become a much better experience for US roamers.

Oddly, T-Mobile was the first US carrier to enable "Free" Mexico roaming, with AT&T to quickly follow.  Today, roaming in Mexico just isn't what it was just 2 years ago.  Last December our AT&T and Cricket phones roamed there on whatever network was available, which wasn't always AT&T.  We'll be looking for improvements this year at Spring Break.

Also, the other networks in Mexico are upgrading to 4G-LTE more hastily, most likely in response to the invasion of the Yankees who are pushing the AT&T network to be the fastest in the country.  TelCel, the country largest wireless operator still faces government pressure to slice up their communications monopoly and when (if?) that happens, AT&T (and Movistar) should stand to benefit.  ¡Muy Bien!

Monday, March 6, 2017

To Pay Less for Wireless: Pay Attention

This is a Tale of Two Teenagers.  One is in my family, one is in my sister's family.  We'll call them "He" and "She."  Both of them spend lots of time on Snapchat, Instagram and who knows what else on their smartphones.  They both use over 20 GB of bandwidth per month.  His parents are paying $10 per month, Her parents are paying over $70 per month.  What's the difference?

He has parents who won't pay for cellular data since he spends most of this time within range of Wi-Fi. He and his family sat down and looked at how much Talk, Text and Data he needs and found a rock bottom priced plan to fill those needs.  They set rules.  He has a few hundred MB of cellular data in case he needs an important document while having lunch off campus.

ALSO READ: Cheap Data Plans

She has parents who aren't paying attention.  She also spends most of her day within Wi-Fi coverage although She also uses quite a bit of Text.  She could have a fixed amount of Talk minutes and Unlimited Texts along with a little cellular data for less than $15 per month.  Part of the difference is that without turning off cellular data, she uses about 6GB of paid data per month.  She's not paying attention.  Her family had to subscribe to a larger family plan to cover mostly her usage.  They would also be wise to look into a new Unlimited plan.

While researching plans and carriers for our 4Net Wireless site, we found lots of people who knew about cheaper plans, but didn't know how to set rules. Even though we provide tools for wireless users to cut their cellular cost substantially, someone needs to pay pay less.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

When FREE Isn't Cheap Enough

As part of our "Cheapest Wireless Plans project", we were putting the finishing touches on our new "Cheapest Plan" web site at 4Net Wireless.  The argument was which plan was the cheapest on the Sprint network?  One of us said it was Tello's plans that start at $15 for a usable 500 MB of data, but then it was hard to argue that it was any better than FreedomPop's FREE plan for about the same amount of Talk, Text and Data.  The argument was that FreedomPop wasn't a real wireless provider, it was more of a hot spot service.  But they also offer their own phones, and support for Bring Your Own Device.

We hear regularly from the FreedomPop program that they're doing well, are not going bankrupt and even offer more Free promotional features from time to time.  Of course, they have lots of customers who send them some money each month, so not everyone needs Free.

So, the absolute cheapest plan that uses the Sprint network?  How can we argue that FREE isn't cheapest?  Remember, we didn't get paid for this article, but we do have an advertising relationship with FreedomPop, Tello and Sprint.