God forbid someone have a smart phone, do smart phone stuff over wifi, and just use it as a regular phone the rest of the time not eating into AT&T's precious bandwidth.
I have a smartphone (Galaxy S2), on AT&T. I don't have a data plan. It's called go-phone. They'll happily give you a SIM card, and the plans are reasonable. I can pay as I go, or pay $25 a month and get 250 minutes and unlimited SMS. I can choose to buy data to go along with that too. The only drawback is you have to pay for your phone upfront.
So don't let facts get in your way. If you buy your phone up front, you have plenty of options for service, and choose to buy precisely what you need, for less than being on a contract. If American consumers were smart enough to buy their phones up front and use pre-paid phone plans, we'd see more competition in the wireless market. Instead, most people see a free or heavily subsidized phone, and gladly sign up for 2 years paying much more for service to pay back the cost of the phone, and then they complain when the carrier they are locked to for two years doesn't deliver what they thought they were getting.
Save up your money, buy an unlocked phone, and then shop for pre-paid service. Thats how most other civilized countries do it.
With that said, I wonder why Sprint or Verizon wouldn't accept an unlocked phone. I wonder if it is a limitation of CDMA that makes it overly complicated. I know for a fact that both AT&T and T-Mobile are more than happy to sell me a SIM card when I walk in with an unlocked phone, and judging from the fine print on Apple's page, it seems it might be more of a technical limitation of CDMA, instead of the carriers not wanting to sell service to someone.
Currently, most GSM phones are sold as quad-band phones, meaning they support four different frequencies of GSM, and therefore, support just about every carrier that uses GSM. Even if there are a handful of different frequencies, the underlying LTE technology is the same, so let's hope that it will be like GSM, where we see "quad-band LTE" or however many bands there end up being in use across the world.
I'm dreaming of a future where the USA will be like the rest of the world, where we'll be able to buy an unlocked phone, and use it on any carrier we chose. I'm currently using an unlocked phone, but my choice in carriers is limited to just AT&T (being as T-Mobile doesn't cover here). It's still cheaper, if you buy an unlocked phone, and then get a prepaid SIM card. Life would be so much simpler if all the carriers supported one standard, and an LTE phone would work with any network.
It might be Apple that pushes us to this point. As they've repeatadly shown, they prefer to only build one model of phone. The iPhone finally got a CDMA variant last year, but this year, it's all one model again, because they found a chip that supports both CDMA and GSM, as well as all 3g frequencies. Apple wants to build an LTE phone, and all carriers want to have it, and Apple will not want to build two different LTE phones. Meaning we'll get one LTE phone, and as LTE is backwards compatible with GSM, it requires a SIM card. When they do that, and other manufactures start doing it, we'll see an era where it might just be possible to buy an unlocked phone in the USA, and be able to buy a SIM card from any network you want to use.
This is my dream, but I'm thinking there has to be a catch. Why would the carriers want this kind of arrangement? They want to be able to lock people in, because they don't want to compete based just on who has the best service / price. But maybe, this is just an inconvenient fact for them, as the rest of the world moved on and developed standards, and in our global world, it just doesn't make sense to have your own proprietary standards anymore. CDMA is dying, and now so is WiMax. Both standards were only used by a few carriers, manufacturing phones and equipment to support them was more expensive just based on economies of scale, and they were unfriendly for the consumer. GSM is vastly more consumer friendly than CDMA, in terms of convenience and customer choice.
So, does the USA finally enter the 21st century, and have mobile phone systems that don't confuse the rest of the world?
My non-American girlfriend recently arrived, and I gave her an AT&T SIM card to use in her Nokia she brought with her. I arrived home from work one day, and found my Verizon Droid that I'm no longer using completely dismantled on the table. I
Excellent article, but you ruined it with this obvious double lie... a girlfriend AND capable of dismantling (as opposed to destroying) a Droid? Pull the other one...
I guess I should have qualified that last statement by poing out that she is Russian.
Having come back to the USA, I've decided to adopt this practice for myself, buying unlocked phones online, and using them with either AT&T or T-Mobile. ATT has gotten much better about their pre-paid plans lately. I love their $50 unlimited pre-paid plan. They didn't hassle me at all the last time I went in, I just told them I wanted a SIM card, and they didn't even ask to see the phone. They just pulled out a SIM card, sold it to me, and told me that if I wanted to use it in a smartphone, I'd need to buy a data package for it. So for $50 plus data, you're still beating their price for what a similar unlimited plan would be on contract. T-Mobile was always good about selling me a SIM card, but I found on their prepaid plans, there are a lot of places where data won't work. I live in a fairly rural area, and it seems that ATT has much better coverage. T-Mobile will roam on ATT for voice, and if you are on contract, I believe they will let you roam data too (but only on Edge), but on prepaid, if there isn't a T-Mobile tower in range, you won't get any data.
So this merger is not good for me. I wish that America was more like the rest of the world, where I would have at least three robust GSM networks to choose from for my unlocked phone. Right now, I only have two choices, and where I live one of the choices isn't really an option if I want data. I think the presence of T-Mobile, and their easy pre-paid and no-contract plans has at least caused ATT to offer a similar service, I'm afraid that if there's only one network, we'll lose that competitiveness. I would say there's probably only a small amount of people in the USA who do what I do, and buy unlocked phones and then shop for service. If theres only one GSM carrier, then whatever small incentive there was for ATT to offer a decent no-contract plan for users like me, will disappear.
And I'm not convinced we can blame it all on the carriers, much of it has to do with the uneducated American consumers, who don't even know that in most of the world, you can buy the phone you want, and use it on any network. If consumers realized that this was possible, more people would start buying phones this way, and carriers would respond by offering more options for people who want to buy SIM cards and go no-contract.
I have my fingers crossed that LTE can maybe improve the situation a little bit. If both Verizon and AT&T start using LTE, then I'm hoping that we'll be able to unlock LTE phones, and be able to get an LTE SIM card from either Verizon, or AT&T. If you've seen a new Verizon phone that supports LTE, and open it up, you'll see a surprise - a Verizon SIM card. In the future, I'm hoping that all carriers will start selling LTE SIM cards, and we'll be able to buy unlocked LTE phones and shop around for a carrier. I think that's how it should be - pick the phone you want, and then shop for the carrier that meets your needs best.
Just a funny anecdote to finish up my point. My non-American girlfriend recently arrived, and I gave her an AT&T SIM card to use in her Nokia she brought with her. I arrived home from work one day, and found my Verizon Droid that I'm no longer using completely dismantled on the table. I asked her why she tore apart my Droid, and she said, "I wanted to try this phone, and I can't figure out where the SIM card goes in here, they hid it really good!" I then explained that not all American phones take SIM cards, and that phones are usually bought from the carrier on contract and can't be moved to another network, and some networks don't use SIM cards and don't all support the same standards. She muttered something about "dumb Americans..."
I am sitting a floor above ~400 call center agents, this is in the USA. 100% of them use English as their primary language. 10% of them also speak another language.
I'm sitting two floors above a call center, with several hundred agents, who are all Americans and speak English as their first language, in addition to a couple who speak Spanish. We're a major internet and catalog retailer, and we haven't outsourced our call centers on purpose, because we find in our business we need to have good customer service, or we lose our customers. I used to work in that call center that I'm sitting above, when I couldn't find a job in IT immediately after I graduated. Through my hard work, my education, and expertise in computers, I was promoted to a better job. This is how things should be in all companies. At least it still happens some places.
It makes sense. Think about all the business that T-Mobile lost while this thing was pending. People did not renew, some people did not switch to T-Mobile due to the uncertainty, etc. If it DOESN'T go through, T-Mobile needs to be compensated for that loss.
Copying a post of mine from earlier, yes, T-Mobile actually will be compensated quite well for this.
If this deal is blocked, it would not be bad news for T-Mobile as some here have claimed. According to Bloomberg,
"Should regulators reject the deal, which would create the biggest U.S. wireless carrier, AT&T would have to pay Deutsche Telekom $3 billion in cash. It would also provide T-Mobile USA with wireless spectrum in some regions and reduced charges for calls into AT&T’s network, for a total package valued at as much as $7 billion, Deutsche Telekom said this month."
So T-Mobile would get $3 billion in cash, more spectrum, and reduced fees for calls going through AT&T's network. This would seem to be good news for T-Mobile, as all of these things would make them more competitive.
To iterate is human, to recurse, divine. -- Robert Heller