AT&T's impending purchase of the South Dakota chunk of Alltel from Verizon has some cell phone customers here excited. Assuming the FCC approves and AT&T gets all the necessary gear installed, South Dakotans may finally be able to use the iPhone... by the end of 2010, by which time some new device may well have relegated the iPhone to 8-track status.
But whatever whizbangs operate on the network AT&T installs in South Dakota, Alltel customers won't just have the privilege of upgrading; they'll have to buy new phones. As noted on a new fact sheet from the Public Utilities Commission, AT&T uses different network tech (GSM/UMTS 3G instead of CDMA, if you must know). Your Alltell phone won't be able to talk to the new owners' gear.
The forced switch would torque me off... if I had a cell phone. I tend to hang onto my gear longer than others (I relied on my NEC Ready 120LT for seven years—not one catastrophic crash, not one trip to the factory). But I'm at the far cranky end of the consumer bell curve. The average lifespan for cell phones is a measly 18 months, or maybe less. (Think back: how long did Grandma have the same dial phone on her end table?). By the time AT&T gets everything wired up, most South Dakota users will be ready to trade up anyway. So here's hoping the switch really is an improvement.
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