The last week of August I noticed my Sony Ericsson T62u was acting funny.
The T62u is a GAIT phone. It operates on GSM, TDMA, and analogue cellular networks. I LOVED it because I could be assured of having services ANYWHERE, especially around Tallahassee where Cingular's GSM penetration has been crappy. (In their defense, Cingular is not completely at fault... we are the arm put of technology: we get everything last, and it is done half-assed when it gets here.)
Being the proud geek that I am, my T62u was in debug mode, which I put it in by entering *666 (or *777? I forget now) and power cycling the phone. Next to the signal indicator I would see a G, T, or A, for the respective networks. I noticed that I was not able to send or receive SMS (text messages) nor get on the Internet when the T62u was connected to a TDMA network.
I called Cingular about it. I was given several different stories before I finally got pissed and had a nice rant session with someone who gave me the real scoop.
1. TDMA never had those capabilities. (An out and out lie.)
2. Your phone doesn't work on our system anymore. You need to buy a new GSM-only phone.
3. Your phone needs updates which I will send to it.
4. Those updates did not turn off your TDMA... we don't have the ability to do that.
5. We have been shutting down the TDMA network in anticipation of the full GSM network rollout which is a combination of our "Blue Towers" (AT&T Wireless) and "Orange Towers" (native Cingular.)
3&4: A helpful tech at Cingular told me that she needed to send updates to my phone. I accepted and went about my business. But I then noticed something even more strange... the phone NEVER seemed to fall over to TDMA. When I called and asked if the update shut off my TDMA, they said no, they cannot do that. (Well, *I* can do that in debug mode, so I can only conclude that the same functionality is available to them.) I finally proved this point when I was in an area in which my phone displayed "No Network." Normally the phone's network stack is set for "Use SIM," but I changed it to "GSM Pref" which prefers a GSM network, but will fall back to TDMA and AMPS when necessary. Lo and behold, I get a FULL STRENGTH TDMA signal! WTF?! Draw your own conclusions.
5: THIS TIME I call and a fella tells me that the TDMA network functionality has been being shut off slowly, kind-of tower-by-tower in anticipation for the big combined GSM network push, which should happen in November. He confirms what I already know, NO, I DO NOT need to buy a GSM-only phone since the T62u obviously handles GSM. So now I am forced to change plans and accept less than mediocre usage.
I was really pissed. It took my almost a month to get the straight dope on the situation. I was also really put off by the fact that such a change in service was never announced. I wonder how many TDMA-only customers were burned by this, and then had to BUY new phones. This move was really not customer friendly, and I hope Cingular does not have the gall to put the screws to its customers like this again.
There is an upshot to this. From what I understand, while we could access both "Blue" and "Orange" towers, the networks were not completely integrated, which meant that calls were not handed off between towers of differing "color." THAT was a pain in the ass. I will say that I have noticed within the past week that areas in which this used to happen no longer suffer from the problem. So, I would move to conclude that the planned integration has finally been realized.
Signal strength in my house has also improved dramatically. Apparently my closest tower is/was "Blue," but my phone prefered the "Orange" tower from which I barely had signal.
The Cingular store upgraded the SIMs in my two T62u's to 64k units for free to help the situation.
I managed to find a new phone which I adore, and will probably usher towards even newer models: the Sony Ericsson T637. It is slick, gets excellent reception, and has all the features and functions that I find very useful in my day-to-day business.
But alas, GSM coverage is still lacking in many areas which I service, so there are many times that I miss calls. I am also not a fan of the new voice mail system, which does not allow me to interrupt a message with the "Delete" command.
Overall, I am still not convinced that I need to move from Cingular. I am a little pissed about how I was snubbed from the TDMA aspect, but from what I hear from others, I am not likely to expect any more or less from another carrier.
I do not like that customer service tried to push new phones on me when I did not need one. They actually tried that on me last year when it was decided that the GAIT phones were evil. I do like that every problem I have ever had was taken care of quickly and to my satisfaction.
So now, I have another phone I really like. I can use the Bluetooth function to get on the Internet with my laptop and my Palm LifeDrive. I also keep my calendar and contacts in synch on all three.
I pay $180/mo for two phones, 2100 minutes, roll-over, free mobile-to-mobile, 1000 SMS and some hundred MMS per phone per month, and unlimited data for both phones (this plan is no longer available, apparently.) It compares well with other services.
So, for now I will not be a churn statistic