Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2 Cellular One's Become ONE

Cellular One of East Texas has merged with Cellular One/MTPCS. We normally shed a tear when a cellular network gets gobbled up, but this one makes sense for consumers. We don't yet know if the East Texas name will remain but the two have combined plans and services and they are quite attractive. Along with their reasonable price plans they also offer a few really useful add-ons including economical broadband plans.

The Cellular One/MTPCS networks across the south have very good coverage as they were mostly part of Centennial Wireless who had really good coverage but really bad marketing. I'm going to guess Cellular One might come to the table if some larger carrier (hmmmm, like AT&T?) needs to spin off some conflicting spectrum sometime in the future, as long it's in Louisiana, Oklahoma or Texas.

Since most of the southern coverage of Cellular One was created from divested AT&T areas, there is little chance of them being gobbled up by AT&T in the near future. This is ONE ball that we'd like to keep rolling.

Monday, October 17, 2011

No iPhun

We spent much time last week trying to find something different to talk about than the Apple iPhone 4S, but there wasn't much. Apple enthusiasts wanted something more, but real wireless customers stood in line to grab the 4S. Unfortunately, iPhone madness is bypassing T-Mobile. Sprint had to sell their soul to add the iPhone to their lineup while T-Mobile is still trying to sell their soul to AT&T.

As the drama for the AT&T/T-Mobile linkup drags on, well into next year, T-Mobile slips behind the competition. Their head office is still acting like the deal is a foregone conclusion, but if they continue to not compete, 'foregone conclusion' moves toward 'self-fulfilling prophecy'. Even we wish we had more to recommend about T-Mobile, other than Prepaid.

AT&T may not be too concerned as their objective appears to be more of eliminating T-Mobile as a competitor than actually taking over their spectrum, but now they should be concerned about taking over fewer customers as well. T-Mobile users with expiring contracts now have no reason not to switch, maybe to Sprint. T-Mobile needs to help keep them home...they just may need those customers.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Celllular South Gets In-Spired

Last week Cellular South re-branded themselves as "C Spire Wireless." Behind the scenes, Cellular South has been working hard to keep the larger carriers in check, even going as far as joining The Department of Justice and Sprint in suing AT&T to block the T-Mobile acquisition. They even appeared at the first Senate hearing on the transaction to express their disapproval. Cellular South has also made numerous complaints to the FCC on handset and roaming issues which has somewhat helped other small carriers.

C Spire is one of the Top 10 wireless carriers with almost a million customers but is limited to Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee with no significant plans to expand beyond that. It's unfortunate because we need a spunky carrier like this making noise in a larger swath across America.

C Spire is 'talking the talk', and we hope they follow through with their consumer-centric behavior which has kept companies like US Cellular moving forward. C Spire's plans and deals are better than average and it's comforting to know that management told employees that the customer is king, and the king could leave tomorrow, so let's keep him happy. It's a move that should make us happy even if we don't live in the south.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The End-Around

There's more than one way to get what you want from wireless. Great phones? Low Prices? If we can't get it from the carriers themselves, there are other ways. We've been maintaining a list of "alternative networks" which gives you a way to dump your carrier but stay on their network. If you wanted to use the Verizon network, you could sign up for Page Plus instead, and pay quite a bit less. You could enjoy the AT&T network by grabbing a GSM Tracfone or just a Stargate SIM. While your phone selections would be smaller, you could be saving some bucks and still be on the same network.

This process recently moved to the next level. First, the carriers themselves started offering cheaper prepaid services such as Verizon's Prepaid as low as $50 per month for Unlimited Talk & Text. Then there's Straight Talk that now offers a phone model for each of the Top 4 cellular networks including an Android phone that uses Sprint's 3G network. This past week, Cricket announced they will offer their phones at all Best Buy stores whether or not they're in Cricket markets. In non-Cricket locations, the phone will access the Sprint 3G network just as if you were on Cricket's own network, so you access the Sprint network at Cricket's lower prices.

The 3rd end-around is a little farther over the horizon. Sign up today for one of T-Mobile's value-priced plans and you could end up as an AT&T customer at less than AT&T rates. If AT&T should lose out on their quest to buy T-Mobile, you will still be left on a stronger and broader T-mobile network that could end up in the hands of a different and more enlightened buyer. Now that the transaction is headed to court, don't expect this end-around to produce fruit for maybe a year.

Confusing for the casual wireless shopper? Yes. For the rest of us...opportunity!

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Prepaid Skirmishes

This past week saw several moves that made Prepaid wireless even more desirable. AT&T was first by making their AT&T GoPhone more competitive with a $25 monthly plan. The new plan includes 250 Voice minutes and Unlimited Text (SMS) for 30 days. Their $50 plan, which comes with Unlimited Talk and Text, will still be available. In addition, AT&T will offer an international calling package for Prepaid and has expanded GoPhone roaming to Canada. GoPhone is already one of our preferred choices for roaming calls in Mexico. AT&T's new plan will be available this Sunday (9/18).

Then Verizon Wireless announced a new Prepaid plan at $50 that includes Unlimited Talk, Text and Web. Unlimited Web is confined to "feature" phones, Unlimited data for Smart phones is an additional $30. You can add Email for $7 and Verizon offers 4 phones for this new plan. Verizon offers this plan now.

Boost Mobile reacted by saying their $50 Unlimited plan is better because it includes Smart phones, but their new Android phones will incur an additional $5 charge for these plans starting in October. But their 'reducing your price every 6 months' feature still applies.

MetroPCS claims their plans are better because they're cheaper. But one financial blogger claims Verizon's move puts MetroPCS into a better position to be acquired by Verizon, whether that was Verizon's intent or not. Metro's pricing power may be reduced when Verizon's price is similar. If AT&T can have T-Mobile, why can't Verizon have Metro PCS?

Additionally, a sharp-eyed reader alerted us to the fact that Straight Talk Unlimited now offers coverage from your choice of one of the Top 4 carriers, based on phone model, with their new Android phones operating on the Sprint network.

Now it's even more acceptable to Switch to Prepaid. However, look at all the other trends we're facing:

  • We're Switching from Postpaid to Prepaid

  • We're Going Totally Wireless

  • We may be losing 2 of the Top 5 carriers

  • Smart phone plan prices are increasing.

  • Unlimited data is going and data throttling is coming.
We have provided the best online deals for all of these carriers on our Moose Wireless shopping page, and don't forget when you switch to Prepaid, check out one of the only sources of Discount Prepaid Refills. It's a trend, don'tcha know.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What of T-Mobile?

I have been reading everything I can about the AT&T/T-Mobile deal to find a unique view of the future of this transaction. Even the "experts" can't determine what is most likely to happen. We tried to follow the money and found: AT&T stock dropped only 5% when the DOJ opposition was announced and T-Mobile's stock dropped 10%. That tells us the consensus is that the outcome will negatively affect T-Mobile more than AT&T.

The biggest hurdle is that the Department of Justice does not want to lose a 4th national carrier and most of AT&T's potential alternatives call for doing just that. So, as of now, the Feds say T-Mobile must survive. Many have speculated who could come to the rescue. I even listed some possibilities in our comments of May 16, 2011. Any suitor would need to bring 10's of Billions to the table. If T-Mobile actually receives the penalty payment of cash, spectrum and roaming concessions from AT&T, it will be a stronger and more valuable company. This makes the idea of spinning off T-Mobile into its own company a viable option. That means you and I can own it (as stockholders). Wouldn't that be fun?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quote of the Year

The US Department of Justice said today:

"AT&T could obtain substantially the same network enhancements that it claims will come from the transaction if it simply invested in its own network without eliminating a close competitor..."

Just like we said.

Monday, August 22, 2011

AT&T Spins the Facts in Montana

AT&T made statements published today in the Independent Record newspaper in Helena, MT that makes us wonder if they're ignorant or hope that we are. Montana is one of the most-researched states among the Mountain Wireless Cellular Networks, and there is much concern about wireless service in such a rural state. The Independent Record reported that "(AT&T Regional President Adam Grzybicki) said that now they look to increase the coverage and expand its power from 3G to 4G LTE. That build-out, however, is contingent on a merger with T-Mobile." That means that in order to add 4G service in Montana, AT&T needs T-Mobile's spectrum.

The reality is AT&T has held 1900 MHz PCS licenses in Montana for years. AT&T also possesses a large amount of AWS (1700/2100 MHz) spectrum in Montana and many other states that also remains undeveloped. They do not need T-Mobile's spectrum in these areas to offer new service just as they did not need Alltel's spectrum to offer cellular service in Montana. It was just easier, and probably cheaper, to take over all of Alltel's cell sites and customers than build their own. AT&T wants to expand through acquisition of existing networks instead of using their already-owned spectrum. The elimination of T-Mobile as a competitor is just icing on the cake. Is expansion by acquisition necessary, especially in places like Montana where there is no T-Mobile network?

Dangling the carrot of 4G wireless broadband service to the isolated rural residents would certainly encourage locals to support the AT&T/T-Mobile combination. This has happened in several rural states where politicians have added their support to the deal. The question remains, though, why hasn't AT&T used their existing unused spectrum to offer service in these areas long ago? If you live in a rural area like Montana, are you watching the carrot or are you wondering why hasn't this been done already?

Friday, August 19, 2011

This is the Other Bargain Season

Aside from the 2 months before Christmas, it appears this is another one of the biggest bargain seasons of the year. Most carriers are offering 'Back to School' specials that are geared toward the college student using a phone away from home, but can easily apply to your own wireless usage.

We don't have a list of these individual deals, but the best way to find them is to choose your favorite carrier or prepaid service and see what their offer is like today from a site that lists offers from ALL the cellular services. Other Back to School deals can be found at the top wireless retailers, Lets Talk and Wirefly.

These deals should disappear by September 1st, then you'll need to wait for Black Friday.