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Thursday, June 18, 2009

AT&T Buying Alltel-SD: Users Not Only Get to Buy iPhones, They Have To...

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.


  1. When we first got married (1978), we had a landline in our home for about $27 a month. Then we added cable TV when that became available for a total of around $50 a month.

    Now, we have two cell phones, we still have our landline, cable TV and high-speed internet. The cell phones run around $200 a month and the landline, cable and internet runs another $125. That's just at home. Add another $200 a month for the work phones and business internet connection.

    How did we go from $50 a month to over $325 a month for home communication and entertainment? That could fund a tremendous IRA!

    I asked about saving some money by dropping the landline or cutting cable TV at home, but with their packages, it really doesn't save you much money.

    How many people have recently signed up for two-year agreements with Alltel and purchased Alltel phones? It might make more sense to simply switch over to Verizon late this fall, since they have the towers and coverage already in place.

  2. Just curious Cory--why don't you have a cell phone? I know you're no Luddite, and, as I presume you are aware, they are extraordinarily convenient. My parents just got cell phones about a year ago and I thought they were the last people I knew under age 65 that had been going without :)

    Brett Hoffman

  3. I stopped having a land line years ago. I pay about 45-dollars a month for the basic part of my cell plan, which includes free long distance. If you were to take the minutes I get on my plan and divide it by what I pay, it comes out to about a penny a minue, which is not too shabby.

    Of course, I also have unlimited texting as well, which costs a bit more, but it's perfect for me to get score updates during the middle of a game broadcast.

  4. Brett, the reason is the thinking Rod laid out above. I ditched my cell phone a few years ago when I decided the extra $40-$50/mo wasn't providing value. I'm on the computer enough that I can get most of the instant communication I want online. I'm also trying to remind myself that I don't need to be constantly and instantly connectible to everyone in the world. Sometimes silence (and isolation) are golden!

  5. I hope that AT&T doesn't lock down their phones as much as Verizon does. It really sucks when they take the features away or make you pay more for the extra services. I also can't justify my $60 cell phone because I never use the full 450 minutes. I may use 30 minutes but its nice to have for emergencies.

  6. I'm on Alltel, and I just re-signed my two year contract in March. I'm not particularly jazzed about ATT's service (even in markets they've been in for a while, it's pretty bad), but I am excited for the iPhone. Even if I have to be. :)

    I heard yesterday from a friend in the biz that Alltel is only offering 1 year contracts now. Maybe they want to give people a chance to jump ship?

  7. My cell phone is a pre-paid little thing called a "TracPhone" (or is it "TracFone"?). I buy 600 minutes every September. I always have minutes left at the end.

    Although I bought the gizmo to get me out of trouble if I get stranded on the road, I've used in on occasion to make motel reservations, call home to parents, call my soul mate in Arizona, etc. -- just to use up those minutes!

    It's a DCMICY (Don't Call Me, I'll Call You) device. I don't even know how to take incoming calls on it. I had to call my home phone with the cell and then use star-69 to figure out what its number was. One time it lit up all by itself and started vibrating. I put it in a kitchen drawer and slammed the drawer shut.

    As a confirmed techie, I know better than to let any little gadget make me into its slave.

    Speaking of useful lives for hardware, my parents have a "Kenmore Automatic" electric heater that they bought just after the second world war. The doggone thing still works perfectly. It existed before I was born, and likely will still be grinding out heat for some chilled soul long after I'm dead.

  8. Kenmore Automatic: now that's my kind of appliance!

    I much prefer the Tracfone pay-as-you-go model to the locked-in contracts. Or maybe I'll just get ambitious and hook up Skype....


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