The PhoneBoy Blog

Simplifying Telecom, Mobile Phones, Gadgets, Health, and More!

Cell Phone Service Sucking Less

I guess AT&T Wireless, soon to become a part of Cingular, is really hurting for customers after the botched Siebel CRM upgrade caused them to hemmorage customers at a very key time: when local number portability took affect in the largest 100 markets!

Probably one of the most aggressive things I’ve seen AT&T Wireless do in a long time is offer their new GSM America plans. Between building out more towers and signing a fsckload of roaming agreements (I’m sure the vast majority of which are with their soon-to-be owner Cingular), they’ve basically tried to fill in their coverage gaps and make it real simple for the average consumer. On their new plans, it basically comes down to this: Are you within your service area? Do you have usable signal? Can you make a call? Good, you can use your phone and not pay roaming charges. Doesn’t matter what the carrier is. Same with GPRS/EDGE. If you’re on a local plan and outside your service area, you pay roaming. About as simple as it gets.

While other carriers allow you to use other carriers networks (in some cases free), this is a bit more wider reaching. Usually, roaming agreements are used to cover geographical where a carrier doesn’t have appropriate spectrum and/or equipment. For example, Cingular customers travelling to Hawaii will roam on T-Mobile (Cingular has no GSM facilities on Hawaii). However, it appears from various reports on the AT&T Wireless Forums as well as my own experience that any AT&T Wireless customer can access any Cingular tower, even if both providers offer service in the same area.

It may not be limited to Cingular as well. I had taken my son to the park today and my wife, who was also out and about, called me to let me know she was having a problem 7-digit dialing from her phone. It turns out she was in an area which I know has absolutely crap AT&T Wireless coverage, but has excellent T-Mobile coverage. Based on my experience roaming on another carriers network, you have to do 10 or 11-digit dialing, even to make a “local” call. I didn’t ask her to read the Alpha Tag for the phone, but I’ll have to go in that area soon and see if the phone shows T-Mobile in that area. And now my wife will have to reprogram all her stored cell phone numbers with 11 digits like I told her to do originally. Being a good GSM citizen, all of my numbers in my phone are programmed in proper international notation, i.e. with the +.

(And if I really can roam into that particular area of town and lock onto a T-Mobile tower, I can cancel my T-Mobile service)

The downside is their newer GSM National plans include fewer minutes than their older National plans. On the upside, existing customers can take advantage of GSM America coverage, including roaming on other carriers!

#Cybersecurity Evangelist, Podcaster, #noagenda Producer, Frequenter of shiny metal tubes, Expressor of personal opinions, and of course, a coffee achiever.