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[ NNSquad ] ATT Policies and other stuff from the whacky world of the cellularity

Summary (so you don’t have to read the details below if you aren’t curious)

·         Without the option of buying a prepaid SIM card ATT is, in my opinion, abusing their stewardship of their licensed allocation. I have to pay for a SIM card sitting in a drawer as an option!

·         ATT, Sprint and Verizon are charging me a finance fee even if I haven’t borrowed money from them.

·         4G is a marketing scam. Just tell me the speeds and coverage and which gear works. Also tell me what gear is capable of software upgrades to take advantage of new technologies.

·         ATT and Verizon should be upfront about what they disable in “their” phones that we think we’ve bought.

·         Telecom charges are creations of account and not consuming resources – a $7K charge doesn’t mean $7K of consumption. So why do we tolerate policies that put 100% of the risk and burden on the user?

·         The Vibrant (and I’m assuming many other phones) now work with 3G on both ATT and T-Mobile.

I unlocked my Vibrant today (finally!). So I decided to see about getting ATT SIM card as an option. Just like I would do in Europe by getting a prepaid SIM card with 3G support. The Vibrant indeed supports both T-Mobile and ATT 3G.


But you can’t buy such a plan in the US! At best you can get a month-to-month plan. Perhaps we should tell more people that everywhere else in the world you can buy SIM cards without having to pay month after month for a card sitting in a drawer just in case you might want to use ATT towers. It is bad public policy to force me to pay a monthly fee for SIM card – I can’t buy an option to use the network. Why is ATT, a licensee of the FCC, permitted to hold back resources in this way?


If you’re not a citizen you have to post a $500 bond to get on a plan. To add further injury to insult the plans are no longer unlimited and not even 5GB, they are 2GB which isn’t all that much. Apparently ATT found out that they had a lot of users and like any irrational company they decrease services in the face of demand. The ATT monthly fee is high because I need to buy a voice plan to get data. T-Mobile will now allow some visa holders to establish credit. There seems to be a lot of concern about the ability to pay for what is a virtual resource – use of fixed assets with the charges defined by accounting rather than direct expenses.


Carriers (especially the whiner, ATT) could add capacity with microcells (AKA femtocells) and they do sell them discounted to $50 (or full price at $150 though the cost is low). Perhaps if I were an ATT subscriber I’d buy one – but they lock it down and I have to authorize each user. T-Mobiles approach of using Wi-Fi makes more sense but requires a change to the innards of the phone to VPN the cellular protocol (UMA). That said where can I buy a generic femtocell?

You can also read about how ATT locks down version of the Samsung Galaxy S phones in http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=6055&tag=nl.e101. I bought mine full price from T-Mobile which means I don’t have those restrictions.

The other public policy question is ATT forces me to pay the same monthly fee whether I buy my phone or get them to finance it. I am forced to pay a finance charge even if I am not borrowing any money. How is that justified. T-Mobile is unique in charging me less if I pay for my own phone.

T-Mobile is an increasingly effective spoiler here. They have been upping their speed here and my measures were twice ATT speeds locally. Which bring up another nit – why is Sprint making such a big deal of 4G when they never mention the actual speeds. Who care whether it’s 4G or G-Whiz – I just want to know what the specs are. Of course though Verizon and Sprint are both CDMA the user doesn’t benefit.