Home » MetroPCS » Recent Articles:

Hurricane Sandy’s Wrath on Telecommunications Extends Beyond the Hardest Hit Areas

Hurricane Sandy’s destructive forces of wind and water, combined with extensive electrical outages has wreaked havoc with telecommunications services from Maine to Virginia, leaving some customers potentially without service for weeks.

The storm has flooded Verizon‘s central switching offices in New York City, did extensive damage to Sprint’s wireless network and infrastructure, has left large sections of upstate and downstate New York without cable service, and clocks ticking for wireless cell customers using cell sites currently running on battery backup power.

Some of the worst problems are affecting Verizon’s landline and FiOS networks after the company lost two critical switching centers in Manhattan to extensive flooding. That has contributed to significant problems for Verizon customers across Manhattan, Queens, and Long Island. Further afield, Verizon customers without service can blame power outages and fallen trees that took out overhead wiring. Together, Verizon customers are experiencing significant problems with landline, broadband, and FiOS TV and Internet services in some areas.

Many Verizon Wireless cell sites are operating on battery backup units which maintain service for only a limited time. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut customers report increasing difficulty maintaining cell service signals as those battery backup units start to fail. Verizon engineering crews can restore undamaged cell sites with backup generators once permitted into storm-ravaged areas.

One of the hardest hit wireless carriers

Cablevision‘s business largely depends on areas that took a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy. Cablevision repair crews are encountering extensive power outages and damaged overhead wiring brought down during the storm in Connecticut and Long Island. Its service area closer to New York City has been primarily affected by power outages. Comcast said it was still starting an assessment process and was not prepared to report on the current state of its network, which operates in cities north and south of the New York City metro area.

While Time Warner Cable spokesman Alex Dudley reports little damage to Time Warner Cable’s systems, many remain offline from power interruptions, and Time Warner’s Twitter feed for upstate New York reports isolated outages in Portland, Maine and across upstate New York, primarily due to power losses or damage to infrastructure.

Sprint appears to be the hardest hit wireless carrier with widespread service outages, interruptions and call completion issues throughout the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Maryland, North Virginia and New England. Some customers far away from the worst-hit areas report trouble making and receiving calls on Sprint’s network. Many cell sites are also damaged.

AT&T is assessing damage to its landline operations in Connecticut, where it is the dominant phone company. Many AT&T cell phone sites, like Verizon, are operating on battery backup in power outage areas until AT&T can bring generators online to maintain service.

T-Mobile and MetroPCS report damage and service outages to their cellular networks as well, mostly from power outages.

Lyndhurst, NJ

Even old style communications networks were not spared from Hurricane Sandy. The Northeast Radio Watch reports a large number of broadcasters across the region off the air as of this morning:

  • Outside of WOR (710), most New York City area AM stations are off the air. WOR survived the storm with its recently built three tower site located just above the flood waters. Chief engineer Tom Ray told NERW the water is 10 feet deep at WOR’s transmitter site in the Meadowlands. Many AM stations in New York favor transmitter locations in now-ravaged Lyndhurst and the Meadowlands. The result: indefinite absence of all-news WINS (1010) (it’s now back up — thanks to an update from Scott Fybush), which is now being heard on WXRK (92.3). Also missing: WLIB (1190), WSNR (620), WMCA (570), WNYC (820), WPAT (930), WNYM (970), WADO (1280) and WWRV (1330). FM outlets favor much higher transmitter locations, usually atop large skyscrapers, that escaped flood damage.
  • WABC continues to air the audio portion of its broadcast on WEPN-AM (1050) and FM (98.7) for the benefit of those without power. WCBS studios are currently powered “by candlelight.”
  • The Jersey shore’s FM outlets are mostly silent. Atlantic City was among the hardest hit, and some stations may be off the air for some time while rebuilding.
  • Connecticut stations are also off the air. Powerhouse WICC (600) in Bridgeport has transmitters on Long Island Sound — a poor choice to withstand Sandy. It is likely underwater. Also gone: WGCH (1490 Greenwich), WAXB (850 Ridgefield) and WSHU (1260 Westport) and WALK-FM (97.5 Patchogue).

Repair crews for all concerned will likely only start assessing damage later today, but many will have to wait for power crews to complete work — they have first priority. Those lucky enough to see service restoration once power returns will be in far better shape than others who could wait weeks to get their Internet, television and phone service back.

Correction: Original story included reference to studio power knocked out at WOR-TV. That should have said WOR-AM (radio). 

Deutsche Telekom Approves T-Mobile USA, MetroPCS Merger – MetroPCS Network Shutting Down

The parent company of T-Mobile USA has agreed to buy MetroPCS in a reverse stock split that leaves parent Deutsche Telekom able to eventually spin off the combined entity as an independent company and exit the U.S. market.

The merger will bolster T-Mobile’s mobile spectrum in several large cities, with up to 20MHz available for a robust LTE 4G network, better positioning the company to compete with third-place Sprint.

T-Mobile plans to decommission the smaller carrier’s CDMA network by 2015, gradually shifting  MetroPCS users to T-Mobile’s HSPA+ and LTE networks as customers purchase new equipment. MetroPCS customers will find T-Mobile phones for sale immediately after the deal closes.

“We have no plans to smash together T-Mobile’s GSM and MetroPCS’ CDMA customers together,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere, defending against any comparison with the Sprint-Nextel merger. “We will be encouraging customers to switch to T-Mobile’s network as customers upgrade their phones.”

Legere says any customers still using MetroPCS’ network during the last 8-12 months before the network is decommissioned will be offered a strong incentive, such as a deeply discounted phone, to move.

Legere

Legere adds the deal will cement T-Mobile’s position as America’s only nationwide carrier offering truly unlimited 4G HSPA+/LTE wireless data service. Sprint’s network still largely depends on 3G and an older, slower standard called WiMAX. Legere says T-Mobile will now become the nation’s largest no-contract phone carrier, and will emphasize it welcomes customers who bring their own phones to the carrier.

Legere adds T-Mobile’s new 4G network will be able to rival the quality of its larger competitors when it is fully deployed.

“The T-Mobile and MetroPCS brands are a great strategic fit – both operationally and culturally,” René Obermann, the chief executive of Deutsche Telekom, said in a statement. “The new company will be the value leader in wireless with the scale, spectrum and financial and other resources to expand its geographic coverage, broaden choice among all types of customers and continue to innovate.”

But the merger also may trigger an even larger wave of wireless consolidation in the industry, as remaining players jockey for position in response to today’s announcement. Both Sprint and Leap Wireless, which owns Cricket, are under increasing pressure from investors to respond. Leap Wireless could soon face a takeover bid itself, either from T-Mobile USA or Sprint. Some investors are even calling for Sprint and T-Mobile to merge, becoming a more effective competitor for Verizon and AT&T.

The proposed  merger still needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission. Regulators are not likely to oppose deals with either MetroPCS or Leap Wireless, as both smaller carriers operate networks that largely do not overlap and both hold only a minuscule market share.

German investors wary about T-Mobile’s new emphasis on prepaid service, considered a negative in Europe, were reassured by Legere that Americans pay higher prices for prepaid, no contract service than what is prevalent in Europe.

The combined T-Mobile/MetroPCS remains the fourth place carrier with 42.5 million customers. Sprint has 56.4 million customers.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/T-Mobile CEO Speaks About Combined Company with MetroPCS 10-3-12.flv

T-Mobile CEO John Legere talks about the benefits of combining T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS. “This isn’t a deal to survive – it’s to thrive.” (5 minutes)

Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile USA Confirms Talks to Acquire MetroPCS

Phillip Dampier October 2, 2012 Audio, Competition, Consumer News, MetroPCS, T-Mobile, Wireless Broadband Comments Off

Deutsche Telekom AG, parent company of T-Mobile USA today confirmed it was in talks with MetroPCS Communications, Inc., to merge their two wireless businesses to achieve the greater scale both need to compete with Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

Bloomberg News reports DT’s supervisory board will meet tomorrow to approve the transaction.

The sixth largest wireless company in the U.S. is about to merge with the fourth largest, according to news reports.

The combination would inject an additional 9.3 million current MetroPCS customers (the sixth largest wireless carrier) into the T-Mobile USA family. That would more than make up the 2.76 million former T-Mobile contract customers that fled the carrier during the last two years, especially after learning the company was planning to merge with AT&T.

But some challenges are likely to remain after the merger gets government approval:

  • T-Mobile remains largely a postpaid, 2-year contract-oriented company while MetroPCS operates a no-contract, prepaid offering. T-Mobile could transition its prepaid division to MetroPCS’ branding, or fold MetroPCS into T-Mobile and eventually discontinue the MetroPCS brand;
  • MetroPCS operates a CDMA network incompatible with T-Mobile’s GSM network. Both carriers are moving towards adopting 4G LTE service, but legacy customers will not be able to use existing phones on each other’s networks.

MetroPCS currently offers home coverage in 19 metropolitan markets and surrounding areas including New York City/Northern New Jersey, Atlanta, Bakersfield, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, Providence, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Bernardino, San Jose, Shreveport, and Tampa.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC T-Mobile Deal For PCS in the Works 10-2-12.flv

CNBC reports on the planned merger of MetroPCS and T-Mobile USA, the first major wireless merger deal since the rejected merger of T-Mobile USA and AT&T.  (3 minutes)

What Bandwidth Crisis: Unlimited Data War Erupts Between T-Mobile, Sprint, MetroPCS

T-Mobile is proving once again that as an independent cell phone provider, it is prepared to be a scrappy competitor for your wireless dollar. America’s fourth largest cell phone company today announced it was getting into an emerging “unlimited data” war with its larger competitor Sprint and smaller contender MetroPCS, announcing it will bring back a truly unlimited data plan for its customers.

“We want to double-down on worry-free (marketing),” said Harry Thomas, T-Mobile’s director of marketing. “We want to eliminate the situation of ‘Do I want to stream Netflix for kids or worry about data overage?’ ”

Starting Sept. 5, T-Mobile’s Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan will be available for $20 per month when added to a Value voice and text plan or $30 per month when added to a Classic voice and text plan. For example, a single line Value plan with unlimited talk and text combined with unlimited nationwide 4G data will cost $69.99 or a single line Classic plan with unlimited talk, unlimited text and unlimited nationwide 4G data will cost $89.99.  The plan cannot be combined with Smartphone Mobile Hotspot/tethering. Customers who want to share their phone’s data service with other devices will have to choose between a 5GB or 10GB add-on option instead.

TmoNews obtained this screen shot courtesy of an anonymous employee at T-Mobile USA.

T-Mobile says their new unlimited 4G data plan comes without tricks or traps, promising no data caps, speed limits/throttles or bill shock from overlimit fees. But like every provider, T-Mobile will have a provision in its terms of use that allows it to cut the data usage party short in cases of exceptionally extraordinary usage, but the company says it will enforce that only in the most extreme cases.

“We’re big believers in customer-driven innovation, and our Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan is the answer to customers who are frustrated by the cost, complexity and congested networks of our competitors,” said Kevin McLaughlin, vice president, marketing, T-Mobile USA.  “Consumers want the freedom of unlimited 4G data. Our bold move to be the only wireless carrier to offer an Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plan reinforces our value leadership and capitalizes on the strength of our nationwide 4G network.”

T-Mobile doesn’t consider Sprint’s “truly unlimited” plan in the same class, because it currently operates on a much slower “4G” standard called WiMAX, which Sprint is moving rapidly away from. Many T-Mobile customers use the company’s 4G-like HSPA+ network for data, which offers respectable speeds if your phone supports the standard (the Apple iPhone, for example, does not.) T-Mobile is moving forward on its own upgrade to 4G LTE starting in 2013.

T-Mobile’s announcement comes one day after MetroPCS, a regional carrier, announced its own limited-time promotion offering unlimited talk, text, and data for $55 a month (up to three additional lines can be added for $50 a month each). Once a customer signs up for the unlimited service promotion, they can keep it as long as they remain a customer.

The two attention to unlimited data plans from the three carriers are in marked contrast to AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which have both moved to curb unlimited use plans — switching customers to usage allowances and overlimit fees. Both companies, considerably larger than any of their competitors, claim unlimited data is impossible to offer because of wireless spectrum shortages and the expense of continually upgrading networks to meet demand.

But this does not seem to pose any problem for Sprint, T-Mobile, or MetroPCS.

Wall Street believes the new interest in unlimited data is a marketing move to differentiate the smaller companies from the two dominant providers.

Wells Fargo analyst Jennifer Fritzsche wrote in a research note to her investor clients that T-Mobile is strategically re-positioning itself in the market to attract new customers.

“We believe T-Mobile felt the need to make some change in order to attract attention,” wrote Fritzsche.

Other analysts believe T-Mobile needed a “game-changing” marketing move to help it recover from its ongoing losses of contract customers. The company has been losing just over 500,000 “branded” contract customers every quarter for the last year.

The pricing and service changes may require Sprint to revisit its current rates.

Sprint’s $109.99 Simply Everything plan offers unlimited data, text, and voice — and runs $20 higher per month than T-Mobile’s forthcoming offer, $55 more than MetroPCS.

PC Magazine Hands Out Fastest Wireless Data Awards, But Does It Matter?

Won first place nationally for the best 4G LTE network with the fastest overall speeds and best performance.

PC Magazine went to a lot of effort to test the data speeds of America’s wireless providers, traveling to 30 U.S. cities sampling both 3G and 4G wireless networks to see which carrier delivers the most consistent and fastest results.

After 240,000 lines of test data, the magazine declared the results a bit “muddy.”

They have a point.

Depending on which carrier’s flavor of “4G” is being utilized, where reception was strongest, how much spectrum was available in each tested city, and how many people were sharing the cell tower at the time of each test, PC Magazine was able to deliver the definitive results. And it was effectively a draw.

Verizon Wireless achieved victory in 19 cities, AT&T won in ten others, and T-Mobile came in pretty close behind, and that carrier does not even operate an LTE 4G network. But taking all factors into account, including upload and download speeds, whether or not test downloads actually completed, and whether streamed media was tolerable, Verizon Wireless won first prize nationwide.

But by how much?

Not enough to matter, if you are using Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile.

But the results do offer some things to think about.

  1. MetroPCS is a mess. Despite the fact this smaller carrier is building its own 4G LTE network, results were simply terrible. Either its backhaul network from cell towers offers lower capacity or its backbone network is screaming for an upgrade.
  2. Cricket was not willing to participate in the test. Their network, still 3G, delivers dependably “meh” results in the places where they actually provide coverage. The company has been reducing data allowances on their mobile broadband plans and raising prices on others. In one conference call with investors, company executives admitted they have been losing mobile broadband customers and expect that to continue at the prices they are charging.
  3. Sprint needs their forthcoming 4G LTE network more than ever. Their 3G data service turned in mediocre results and their 4G WiMAX network was yesterday’s news a year ago. Sprint’s 3G network is also notorious for dead-end downloads, a situation I have witnessed on friends’ phones for several months.
  4. Verizon Wireless remains far ahead of AT&T in covering more cities with their 4G LTE network. But more customers are also starting to use Verizon’s newer network, and the more customers piling on, the slower the speeds get for everyone. AT&T turned in some superior speed results in several cities, but those networks are often used less than the competition, for now.
  5. No network is good if you cannot afford to use it. As America’s wireless carriers keep raising prices and reducing usage allowances to keep data usage under control, there will be a breaking point where customers decide the money they spend for wireless data just is not worth it, especially if they live in a place where Wi-Fi is free and easy to find.
  6. What you test today will probably be different tomorrow. Wireless networks are constantly evolving and changing, with a wide range of factors contributing to their overall performance. Perhaps a more useful test would have been measuring how wireless carriers respond when their networks need upgrading and how long it takes them to respond to changing usage patterns. Verizon seems particularly aggressive, AT&T less so based on these results. The real surprise seems to be how well T-Mobile’s older technology is performing, and how quickly Sprint is now falling behind. On Cricket and MetroPCS, “you get what you pay for” seems to apply.

Breaking News: T-Mobile in Talks to Acquire MetroPCS

Phillip Dampier May 9, 2012 Competition, Consumer News, MetroPCS, T-Mobile, Wireless Broadband Comments Off

Deutsche Telekom AG is in talks to acquire MetroPCS in a stock-swap transaction that would give T-Mobile USA control over the upstart regional carrier.

MetroPCS shares jumped nearly 30 percent on the news, reported by Bloomberg.

MetroPCS operates a CDMA and LTE 4G network incompatible with T-Mobile USA’s GSM service, but would be an asset to T-Mobile’s prepaid phone unit, which could co-exist with T-Mobile’s existing network. MetroPCS primarily operates in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, Southern California, Florida, southern Michigan, northern Georgia, and northeastern Texas. It is best known for delivering aggressive pricing on no-contract service plans, much like Leap Wireless’ Cricket.

Analysts predict T-Mobile would have little trouble winning approval for a merger between the two carriers. MetroPCS maintains an inconsequential 2.7% market share in the wireless industry. Speculation immediately increased that Leap Wireless’ Cricket unit could be the next target for a merger, potentially with Sprint or T-Mobile.

If T-Mobile sought to assume control of MetroPCS’ spectrum for its own operations, it would have to supply existing MetroPCS customers with new phones that operate on T-Mobile’s network standard.

 

Sprint Attempts, Pulls Back from Buyout of MetroPCS; Wall Street Questions Management

Phillip Dampier February 27, 2012 Competition, Consumer News, MetroPCS, Sprint, Video, Wireless Broadband Comments Off

An aborted takeover attempt of MetroPCS by America’s third largest cell phone company — Sprint Nextel has some on Wall Street calling for the hide of Sprint CEO Dan Hesse.

The proposed multibillion dollar takeover of prepaid provider MetroPCS, which offers mostly urban service in select cities, was vetoed late last week by Sprint’s own board of directors.

The deal would have delivered a 30 percent premium to MetroPCS shareholders, and further consolidate America’s wireless marketplace. It would have also further complicated Sprint’s financial position — already heavily indebted as it commits to a major 4G wireless service upgrade and deals with an even more expensive commitment to Apple to pitch the iPhone on Sprint’s network.

Reuters reports some investors considered the deal a mistake and are glad it was aborted.

A 30 percent premium seemed “irrational” and would have hurt Sprint shareholders, Roe Equity Research Kevin Roe told the news service.

“He’s on a short leash,” Roe said. “The board did the right thing, thank God. It’s remarkable this deal got this far.”

MetroPCS competes with Sprint’s prepaid services in several regions including metropolitan New York City, northeastern Texas, southern California, southern Michigan and central/southern Florida.  MetroPCS operates its own 4G LTE network.

Now that MetroPCS is considered “in play,” it is likely other suitors may consider buying the company out.  Among the most likely — Leap Wireless, which owns Cricket and operates a comparable service.

Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research has told investors the wireless industry continues to be “crying out for consolidation.”  The most important players in that consolidation story are T-Mobile and Sprint, which remain potential partners if the two companies can overcome their technology differences.  T-Mobile operates a GSM network incompatible with Sprint-Nextel.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC Sprint Walks Away from MetroPCS Deal 2-24-12.flv

CNBC reports Sprint walked away from a takeover attempt of MetroPCS on Friday.  (3 minutes)

Wireless Telecom Roundup: The Big Get Bigger; Smaller Providers Feeling the Heat

Phillip Dampier February 21, 2012 AT&T, Consumer News, Cricket, MetroPCS, Sprint, Verizon, Wireless Broadband Comments Off

A summary of recent quarterly earnings reports from America’s wireless companies:

Verizon Wireless: Verizon has been uncompetitive in the prepaid market for the last several years, as it focused on its postpaid/contract customers.  No more.  Recent price cutting and the introduction of new contract-free plans that offer unlimited calling or packages of features comparable to contract plans are starting to win Verizon a bigger share of the prepaid market.  But Verizon also successfully picked up 1.2 million new contract customers as well, many switching from AT&T or smaller providers.  That’s the second best result the company has had in the last two years.  Verizon has a whopping 87.4 million people on two-year contracts and 21.3 million prepaid customers — 108.7 million total.  Verizon’s iPhone remains popular with 4.3 million activations last quarter.

AT&T: Growth at AT&T achieved its best results in the last quarter of the year, but the company continues to trail Verizon Wireless.  AT&T added 717,000 contract customers last quarter, and has been behind Verizon adding new customers for more than a year.  The company’s reputation for lousy service and policies that antagonize their customers have driven people to look elsewhere — mostly to Verizon.  But iPhone devotees are remaining loyal to AT&T, with one of every five new iPhone activations happening on AT&T’s network.  The company picked up 7.6 million new iPhone activations last quarter.

Sprint: The iPhone is killing Sprint’s balance sheet, but is bringing the company new contract customers.  Historically, Sprint’s most predictable growth has come from its resale agreements with third party providers and its various prepaid service divisions (Boost/Virgin Mobile).  But with the introduction of the Sprint iPhone (1.8 million new activations last quarter), customers looking for unlimited data or a cheaper plan are finding both at Sprint.  Unfortunately for the company, the wholesale cost of the iPhone is eating heavily into the company’s cash on hand.

Leap Wireless/Cricket and MetroPCS: Both companies are facing increasing challenges sustaining their prepaid service business models because of growing competition from larger providers.  Just about everyone who wants a two year contract-cell phone plan already has one, limiting new growth opportunities.  That is forcing AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile to turn their attention to the still-growing prepaid market, which is attractive for the credit-challenged, occasional users, travelers, and those with lower incomes.  Both Cricket and MetroPCS have traditionally targeted urban markets, where their networks are focused, to sell customers inexpensive service plans with convenient payment options.  But their networks don’t extend outside of suburban and urban areas, so roaming expenses can be higher for customers on the go.  Customers of both companies are increasingly looking to larger providers with more robust network coverage and increasingly aggressive pricing.

That has left Cricket with anemic, but acceptable growth, picking up 179,000 new customers in the fourth quarter.  MetroPCS, however, failed to meet expectations with just 197,410 new customers in the fourth quarter.  Existing MetroPCS subscribers are also leaving at a higher rate.

Verizon Buying Portion of Plateau Wireless’ New Mexico Operations

Plateau Wireless serves eastern New Mexico and portions of western Texas.

The consolidation of America’s wireless market continues with this week’s announcement Verizon Wireless intends to acquire a portion of Plateau Wireless’ network operations in southwest New Mexico.

Verizon will take over Plateau’s 259,000 mostly rural customers in portions of Roswell, Carlsbad, Artesia, Hobbs, and Ruidoso, N.M.

The acquisition covers a service territory of 26,100 square miles.

Plateau says the decision came down to money.  The wireless company needs the infusion of cash a Verizon purchase would bring to help finance high speed wireless upgrades.

The FCC will have to review the transaction before it can be approved.

Plateau will continue to service customers in Clovis, Portales, Tucumcari and parts of western Texas.

Moody’s Declares AT&T and Verizon the Winners — Sprint and T-Mobile Can “Never Catch Up”

Phillip Dampier February 15, 2012 AT&T, Competition, Cricket, MetroPCS, Public Policy & Gov't, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, Wireless Broadband Comments Off

Game over. In the championship of cell phone competition, Verizon Wireless and AT&T have won, and it is now too late for Sprint-Nextel or T-Mobile USA to catch up.

That is the conclusion of Moody’s Investors Service, who has determined competition in waning in the U.S. wireless marketplace.

“AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless have better network coverage, wider capabilities and wider profit margins which gives them a competitive advantage that smaller rivals just can’t match,” said Mark Stodden, a Moody’s analyst and author of the report. “It is too late for competitors to invest and catch up; Sprint has the willingness but not the ability, while T-Mobile’s parent Deutsche Telekom, is the opposite.”

Sprint’s ambitious plans for a new 4G LTE network have been suppressed by a lack of enthusiasm by Wall Street investors and bankers, who seem to prefer the much-larger AT&T and Verizon who can sustain increased pricing and are better credit risks.  T-Mobile USA has practically been abandoned by its parent owner Deutsche Telekom, which wants to focus its investments in larger markets in Europe.

Moody’s estimates AT&T and Verizon will account for 81 percent of industry earnings in 2011.  Wall Street has pressured Sprint and T-Mobile to seek consolidation to better withstand their larger competitors.  Before AT&T bid for T-Mobile, rumors of an acquisition of the German-owned company by Sprint-Nextel were common, although the two companies operate with different network technology.  Moody’s predicts troubled waters for Sprint if it should actually seek to acquire T-Mobile, because the FCC seems comfortable with a minimum of four national carriers.

Instead, Moody’s predicts Sprint will seek to acquire smaller regional carriers and prepaid providers like Leap Wireless’ Cricket and MetroPCS.  Neither acquisition would significantly improve Sprint’s service footprint, however, as both prepaid providers operate only in larger markets where they already co-exist with Sprint.

AT&T Scores Last (Again) in Consumer Reports’ Ratings; Oddly AT&T Reseller Scores Highest

AT&T has once again scored dead last in a nationwide survey (subscription required) of wireless providers commissioned by consumer magazine Consumer Reports.

Among national coverage carriers, Verizon Wireless again scored the highest, but not highest overall when including smaller independent and regional carriers.  Top honors were won by Consumer Cellular, a relatively small company in Portland, Ore. that ironically depends on bottom-rated AT&T’s network to deliver service.  What sets Consumer Cellular apart from other carriers is its near-exclusive focus on selling phone service to America’s senior population.  Working with groups like the AARP to market simple cell phones to older, less technologically-comfortable customers, over 85% of Consumer Cellular customers are over the age of 50.  The vast majority are occasional cell phone users, primarily using cell phones to make and receive calls.

Regional carrier U.S. Cellular, which used to top Consumer Reports‘ surveys, scored second.  Most U.S. Cellular customers are in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, and parts of the East including New England.  CREDO, better known under its former name Working Assets Wireless, scored third.  It provides service over the Sprint network.

Among major-sized providers, only Sprint managed to escape the poor ratings for value received by AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.  Also ironic, T-Mobile continued to score better than AT&T, which is still working feverishly to acquire the German-owned carrier.

AT&T also did poorly in delivering reliable voice and data services, according to respondents.  Customer service was also deemed lacking.

Consumer Reports

“Our survey indicates that subscribers to prepaid and smaller standard-service providers are happiest overall with their cell-phone service,” said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports. “However, these carriers aren’t for everyone. Some are only regional, and prepaid carriers tend to offer few or no smart phones.”

Consumer Cellular being a prime example. 

Consumer Reports surveyed 66,000 Americans for its 2011 Wireless Satisfaction Survey and found little had changed from last year.  The consumer magazine recommends consumers who don’t make or receive a lot of calls or are not addicted to wireless data services consider a prepaid plan instead of a two-year contract.  Competition in the prepaid arena continues to force prices down, and most providers offer month-to-month service plans that can be automatically renewed through a checking account or credit card, eliminating any hassle purchasing “top up” cards.

Most of the prepaid providers resell service provided by AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon Wireless.  Two that don’t: MetroPCS and Leap Wireless’ Cricket, received little regard from those surveyed.  MetroPCS scored second from the bottom and Cricket didn’t make the ratings at all.  Two prepaid plans to consider first: TracFone, excellent for occasional calling, and Straight Talk, sold by Wal-Mart — better for those who like to talk a lot on their phones.  If you don’t need the sexiest handset around, Stop the Cap! also recommends Page Plus, which relies on the Verizon Wireless network, especially if you don’t need a lot of data services.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Kate: My 2 year contract expired in September and the bill jumped $50.00 for a bundle of voice, internet, and tv. I compared packages with competitors f...
  • AC: I have this distinct feeling that nothing will change since they pretty much never lift a finger and the revolving door bureaucracy will keep milking ...
  • Jim Livermore: I don't watch enough on YouTube to really notice, but the option to pay for an ad-free experience would be nice. I have noticed Hulu+ is lowering the ...
  • Rob: Interesting that big cable's response has absolutely nothing to do with the internet speed C Spire's Fiber to the Home is bringing to Mississippians. ...
  • C: It's about time they do something about this problem. I've been an AT&T customer for 10yrs and this month was the first time I went over the 5gb a...
  • d0764: I would actually be ok with paying $5 a month to get rid of the ads. As long as the only thing that goes are the ads with the subscription. The rest b...
  • Herb Finn: Weigel also licences the bulk of the key and evergreen classic TV shows in the CBS owned CBS/Viacom/Desilu/Paramount/Speling TV library, so they HAD t...
  • Erik: I am military moving to a semi-rural area in upstate NY where Verizon controls the copper lines. Unfortunately the house I selected (before I realized...
  • Ron: Agreed. They should be sticking with the same price or dropping their prices for rural area use. Who goes and deals with wire cables when your getting...
  • Clayton: I was paying $98 a month with taxes and fees for U200 (DVR, HD, 2 boxes) + Elite (6mpbs) for the last year. Contract was up and renegotiated for a...
  • Lee Kraus: I completely agree and I am in the exact same situation. I hope that we can find a way to get competition in the state....
  • JayS: From above: "Since wireless carriers discovered reports of a spectrum crisis were vastly exaggerated,...[]" Sure looks like the carrier pricing str...

Your Account: