How I Left AT&T for Something Better and Saved Money Doing it

Unlike most of the posts you’ll find on the Frugal Geek, this one is going to be somewhat personal, and possibly a little controversial. I try my hardest to be as objective as possible when reviewing a service, device, or program. It’s important to me that each and every subject be covered as impartially as possible and given a fair shake. If the first generation of a gadget was absolutely terrible, that’s not to say that version 2 or 3 won’t be breathtaking. There is one area in which my personal opinion really needs to be expressed and that’s AT&T.

I worked for AT&T once, and so did my wife. We worked hard for the company and did our very best during our time there to reflect good business standards and live up to what we perceived to be a steller experience for our customers. Over time, our jobs changed and our opinions remained somewhat steadfast that AT&T was a decent service provider.

More recently, however, AT&T has hit us with wave after wave of terms of service changes, bizarre and unpredictable charges, and otherwise unacceptable amounts of downtime. Between my wife and I, our mobile service and home U-verse plans cost us between $300-400 per month. This is not including a home phone or any television service at all. This is how much it costs to have smartphones and decent broadband at home. What we apparently aren’t paying for is stable uptime, consistent speeds, or a decent wireless router.

What we got was a flakey router the carrier refused to switch out after multiple visits to our apartment. Each time, they blamed us, that’s right US, for the router’s inability to maintain a solid connection. either a switch we installed down the line interrupted the connection or one of our computers were bogging it down. I may not be an expert on connectivity but after having worked tech support for an umber of years, I’d like to imagine I have at least a basic grasp of how a network works.

The next surprise we received as long-time customers was a terms of service change that put a cap on how much data we can send or receive each month. If we surpassed the cap, overage charges starting at $10 are assessed. This in the middle of a contract, not before or after. This means that unless we give up using Hulu for AT&T’s own U-verse TV service, we would face the potential of having to pay much more for our web connection.

My apartment complex has a contract with AT&T that states residents can only have AT&T U-Verse service for their home internet and no other provider can come out to the complex. This is sadly becoming a problem that most apartment dwellers are beginning to face as service providers fight to lock in territory free of competition. Finding an apartment isn’t so much about floor space and rental rates as it is determining which provider has proprietary control over the complex. My wife and I aren’t big fans of Time Warner, as they too decided to tinker with capping monthly usage, so we hunted for a place that didn’t force-feed tenants their service.

The absolute final straw in this whole debacle came when AT&T announced plans to acquire T-Mobile. If anyone out there believes the official AT&T word about this being a benefit of some kind to the consumer, you’re dreaming. Never has having no or little competition been in the best interest of the consumer. The reason Apple is loved so much by so many people is because they’re providing competition to Microsoft, Nokia, and Google. If Apple dominated every market and bought up their competition it would be better for their bottom line, but there would be no incentive to innovate beyond where they currently stand.

So with that said, I started searching for alternatives. Because we couldn’t have any wired service provided by any company other than AT&T, we looked to WiMax providers popular in the area. One such provider is Clear, which gives their customers unlimited data through the same tower network as Sprint.

I check out their plans and discovered a combo package that gives customers a 4G home modem that can be connected to a router for wireless and wired connectivity as well as a mobile hotspot that gives you access to the internet on WiFi enabled devices wherever you go within Clear’s 4G range. There are devices available through the service that aren’t picky about having a 4G connection, but I chose this one since I spend 99% of my time in a 4G zone.

This means my devices, including my iPad, iPod Touch, and notebook are connected to a pretty solid 4G network no matter where I am. As I mentioned in a previous article, a 4th generation iPod Touch and even an iPad can make a very handy mobile phone if paired with a VOIP service like Line2 or Skype. I managed to get this plan for $60/month which is an extremely steep drop from the outrageous $160 I was paying on AT&T for our limited U-verse connection and a single smartphone.

With almost $100/month saved and a portable hotspot in my pocket wherever I go, I don’t know why I bothered staying with AT&T for so long in the first place. My wife is still on AT&T wireless until her contract is up, but for now I hope AT&T will eventually understand that getting rid of your competition isn’t as big of a benefit to customers as just keeping their service up, and their terms and the rates consistent.

If you have any input on this subject, in agreement or disagreement, please comment below and let your voice be heard.

4G – Marketing Hype Or A Real Crowd Pleaser?

Are the cell phone companies playing a numbers game?

We have all seen the TV advertisement where a cell phone carrier touts that it is now offering 4G. I must admit that I am G ignorant when it comes to what they are talking about, so I read with interest a recent article that attempts to explain the differences in technology. Is there a real difference, or are the cell phone companies playing another numbers game?

One may recall the MHz game that Intel once played, in which there was a blur as to the actual difference between CPUs. I remember when we were in the 1000 MHz arena in which one would think that this CPU would be 10 times faster than a 100 MHz CPU. Unfortunately this was not the case and AMD sought to change the game by leading us to believe that its lower speed CPUs were just as powerful as Intel’s higher numbered CPUs. Our only saving grace is when the chips no longer could obtain a higher speed so the game switched to adding cores instead.

The cell phone providers seem to have stumbled on this magical formula and are using a new numbers game to confuse the masses.  So good are they becoming at changing the game, that they are even setting their own standards as to what 4G is. In one recent article they describe the G game as:

“So where does this all leave us? In short, carriers seem to have won this battle: the ITU recently backed down, saying that the term 4G “may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMAX, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.”

Whether WiMAX 2 and LTE-Advanced will ultimately be called “4G” by the time they’re available is unclear, but our guess is that they won’t — the experience you’ll have on those networks will be vastly different from the 4G of today. And let’s be honest: the world’s marketing departments have no shortage of Gs at their disposal.”

For those of you who read this post and still use your cell phone to make phone calls, you don’t need to worry about the G. But if you are a data hound the G may become more important to you as time passes.

In the meantime, expect that we will be bombarded with more 4G commercials trying to convince us that one cell provider is better than another provider.

Let AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and others fight the battle of the 4G network. The most important part of any cell phone, smartphone, dumbphone, feature rich phone, super smart phone, or whatever is how well it works for you.

Comments welcome.

Source – Engadget

Verizon Introducing 150 Mbps Broadband

Overall, I am quite content with my own current FiOS connection speeds of 20/20. That said, I’m thrilled to hear that FiOS now has Verizon introducing 150 Mbps broadband! For a small business, this would be a wonderful thing. For most home based consumers, probably a little more than one would need. But the critical take away here is that it’s available if the user wants it! Ah, choice… that fundamental item that in my mind is more important than price. If I have a choice in providers, rather than having one single carrier available, then I am in a good place.

The only real downside to this is we are seeing more speed than availability. Seriously, if you  live in Qwest country… enjoy the wait. The facts are that, while Verizon sold its fiber interests here in my neck of the woods to Frontier, we still see lightning fast broadband speeds with no more than one outage per year. This is assuming that one is using their router wisely instead of using it for Wi-Fi as well. I use a dedicated Wi-Fi switch, so my Internet maintains great performance without overheating anything.

So what is the answer for those without the joys of fiber based broadband? Clearly, cable isn’t cutting it — just read anywhere for people complaining about weak speeds and downtime. No, I think the next step is going to be less about more speed and more about WiMax like solutions in rural areas or even in regions without cable and DSL. After all, cable-only towns have been known to see service fall flat on its face when compared to towns with competition.

Best Buy Selling Clearwire Services

There should be an image here!Do we really need a big box store reselling 4G wireless services? Regardless of whether or not we might think it’s needed, this is exactly what’s happening. The basis of the idea is that one can buy a device, then have it activated under the same roof — it makes sense with mobile products.

What makes using Clearwire/Clear’s products for mobile devices a fail as far as I am concerned is their lack of support for Linux. Seriously, an ISP choosing to support some OSes and not others? No thanks, as I can get EVO working with other providers just fine. Heck, I can use a nice little GUI program to tether to my BlackBerry instead.

So offering Clearwire products in Best Buy stores may seem like a great idea, but in the end I think we have to really consider the fact that the coverage is generally poor compared to the alternatives out there. And besides that, its a bit expensive considering what you’re getting. Shop around; there are better alternatives for your money if you ask me.

[awsbullet:circuit board clipboard]

Intel Gives Up On WiMAX Development; Still Supports WiMAX Industry

Intel is giving up on developing WiMAX, but will still support the WiMAX technology. Intel has been a major player, up until now, to try and expand WiMAX technology. The company still believes that WiMAX 4G wireless technology is still the best way to deliver 4G performance to deliver data. Taiwan, where WiMAX is huge, will continue to develop WiMAX technology without the chip maker.

DigiTimes System has stated:

Most Taiwan-based WiMAX operators and CPE makers said they were surprised at Intel’s move but declined to comment before Intel makes an official announcement. However, they agreed with said industry watchers in saying that Intel should offer an explanation to the MOEA and other partners, otherwise the government may shift its focus to cooperate with ARM, AMD and other platform solution vendors for future development of IT products and technologies.

Intel said “[it] is integrating its WPO into various platform, product and sales organizations as part of a normal course of business today. The progress of WiMAX leads to this organizational transition as a normal process that takes place as new technologies mature and become a standard part of existing computing platforms.

Even though Intel says it will still support WiMAX, it would seem that after five years of development, the chip maker is pulling back their investment dollars. This could indicate that Intel doesn’t really believe that the costs of WiMAX may not be a financially sound investment.

I think some of us had hoped that Wi-MAX would one day provide a better cell phone experience, but I seriously doubt that this will happen.

Comments welcome.

Source – DigiTimes Systems

Why 100Mbps Doesn’t Matter Just Yet – We’re Still Fighting With Dial-Up

It’s a real problem, the lack of broadband in this country. But rather than pointing to the ISPs as villains in this, there are other factors people need to realize. We’re not talking about population dense areas. So this means that laying down cable/fiber is but a pipe-dream not likely to happen without a change in approach. This article goes into this issue of why many of the States still don’t have the kind of access we’d like to see for folks.

Now truth be told, there is costly satellite Internet and in some limited instances, WiMax or even line of site wireless options. They do exist. Despite this, they are still far off and far between for many affected by the lack of DSL and cable connections. Worse, there is no way any of these folks will see 100Mbps. The best option for less latency in rural areas is discussed here.

So what does this really leave us with then? We know that satellite, even with improved latency, it almost worse than dial-up! Honestly, the fact that we have not seen more line of sight or even omni-directional solutions blows my mind. In large, flat areas, this would make total sense and likely prove to provide something better than dial-up, be it nothing close to what we see in more metropolitan areas. For myself, my location of the house we own actually was partially based on the fact that Verizon FiOS was just being laid out and now offered to residents. What is comical is that larger surrounding towns who are in Qwest territory are STILL out of luck with fiber options. Clearly Verizon is more serious than Qwest, at least in this part of the state.

So all of this considered, I can come to this conclusion only. If you work from home, be darn sure you have multiple choices for broadband available. In a town of  26,232… even though I live on the outskirts, we have options of DSL, fiber, and cable. Clearly, if it’s something significant in your life as does in mine, broadband availability should be a consideration when buying/renting a new home. At the very least, you should have DSL and cable available. Otherwise, I hope you have great 3G coverage then! I hear folks tell me all the time how it doesn’t matter that much. For myself, it most definitely does. Not for time wasting stuff like YouTube videos — rather for just having a remotely usable Internet experience.

[awsbullet:syd barrett]

Rumor – Will Walmart And Sprint Join Forces For A WiMAX Rollout?

I must say that I had to chuckle when I read a rumor about Walmart and Sprint joining forces for a WiMAX roll out. The rumor states that Walmart would be setting up towers on its property at every Walmart in the entire US. The rumors even get wilder when one claim states that 90% of the U.S. population lives within 20 miles of a Wally-World. Interesting statement.

Just out of curiosity I went to a Walmart site to find out how many Walmarts were with in 20 miles from where I live. WOW! I must live in Walmart country since there are eight stores within 20 miles of my home. There are a total of 16 stores within 40 miles from where I live. I didn’t know that! I’ve got to get out more.

But it gets even better. I mentioned this fact to my wife and she comes up with this humdinger. She volunteers for a local charity in our town that takes in donations. One of the donations was an actual Walmart store, with gardening department and all, plus tiny people, which represent you and me. LOL

On a serious note, this could happen. Walmart teamed up with Straight Talk to offer its cell phones online and in the stores. Walmart has expanded its electronic department and will begin offering setup services for home entertainment systems and HDTVs.

Could it happen? What do you think?

Comments welcome as always.


It’s Almost 2010 And Broadband In the US Remains A Joke

How long must people in rural areas wait for broadband? Honestly, it is anyone’s guess at this time. We remain a laughing stock in comparison to other industrialized nations in this area. And while it is true that we have more land mass than some of those nations, it does not change the fact that, overall, most people in the US have very poor connections even if they do have broadband.

But here is where it becomes truly sad: we are lagging in broadband quality with countries like Iceland and Lithuania. Seriously? This is unbelievable! While I am not a big fan of “let’s give it all away” in place of a business model, I do think it is about time that the choice to participate in this spending becomes available to more individuals.

Maybe the government should just nationalize it? I don’t fully believe this is the answer either. Rather, I would love to see some huge incentives for existing ISPs to get off their butts and provide WiMAX type solutions in areas where laying down fiber is just too costly. But that is but a dream I suppose. Thankfully for me, I actually chose to move into a housing development that was laying down FiOS as my house was built. Lucky me, I guess.

[awsbullet:broadband isp internet connection]

Silicon Valley Finally Gets WiMAX

With Google, Intel and Cisco being big investors in the WiMAX game, one would think that Silicon Valley would of been setup for WiMAX long ago. But Clearwire has just completed construction of more than 20 square miles in Santa Clara, Mountain View and parts of Palo Alto. But when is WiMAX finally going to go mainstream? According to a recent article, it states that:

Developers can expect to see peak download speeds of up to 10 Mbps, with average download speeds of 3 to 6 Mbps. In contrast, some of today’s 3G wireless networks typically deliver download speeds of between 600 kbps – 1.4 Mbps.

The experience is similar to that provided by Wi-Fi, but without the short-range limitations of a traditional hot spot. CLEAR uses a 4G technology that differs from Wi-Fi called WiMAX, which provides service areas measured in miles, not feet. In addition, WiMAX technology is truly mobile and enables seamless handovers from tower to tower, similar to cellular.

Service will be provided free to a limited number of qualified developers leading up to the commercial service launch in this area.

To access the network, developers can purchase a Clearwire WiMAX USB modem for $49.99. Developer-owned, CLEAR network-ready WiMAX devices, such as the Samsung Mondi and WiMAX-embedded Intel-based PC’s, are also eligible for the program.

To qualify, developers must register for Clearwire’s developer program and describe the WiMAX development ideas they wish to pursue. Interested developers can sign-up at The developers’ website will also include coverage maps and suggested drive routes for mobile application testing. (From the Clearwire press release.)

The remainder of the Bay Area is expected to get WiMAX from Clearwire sometime in 2010. But what about the remainder of the US of A ? Your guess is as good as mine. I believe some in the US would be happy just to get broadband.

Comments welcome.


Clearwire WiMAX To Launch In San Francisco In 2010

One would think that, being so close to Silicon Valley, San Francisco and its surrounding cities would have the latest and greatest in technology. But this has not been the case. You may recall the failed attempt by Google and Verizon to bring free broadband to San Francisco went down in flames. It seemed the city and the folks putting up the money and equipment could not agree upon the terms.

But now another attempt is in the works to bring WiMAX to San Francisco:

Clearwire has so far launched its service in four cities: Portland, Ore., Las Vegas, Baltimore and Atlanta. The company will deploy its wireless broadband service in another 10 cities sometime in September 2009. It hopes to bring its service to the top one-third of cities that make up the U.S. market, giving it access to about 120 million potential customers.

After that, the company will be surgical about its network rollouts, Morrow said. The company hopes this will allow it to remain ahead of its competitors — primarily Verizon Wireless, which is launching its LTE-based 4G wireless networks sometime in 2010. Clearwire’s network deployment has made investors optimistic about the company’s future. Over the past six months, the company’s stock has tripled to $9 per share from around $3 a share, though it has been inching lower since early August.

It should be interesting to see if this project actually takes place and that WiMAX finally arrives in San Francisco.

Comments welcome.


Clearwire Finally Supporting OS X

I should disclose early on that I have never been that impressed with Clearwire. Everyone I have ever known that tried it really hated it for a variety of reasons. This aside, it is also amazing to me that it took the company all this time to finally get an OS X driver out the door.

Assuming you don’t mind the contract, you could always use Clearwire as a backup to your regular broadband connection, I guess. But considering how restrictive it is with its data usage, you might as well just use one of the many EVDO solutions from local mobile carriers instead. You’ll find the coverage is a LOT better than this Wimax solution.

As Clearwire opens up its latest market, in Las Vegas, I wonder if the complaints will have an opportunity to roll in from a whole new region? If you are not a subscriber, I would warn you to read the contract and the TOS VERY closely before agreeing to anything. The service is buggy — spotty, at best — and its cancellation policy provides a three ring circus most people are not going to want to buy tickets to.


Intel WiMax Goes Live In Baltimore

On October 8, 2008 Intel and Sprint Nextel will roll out WiMax live starting in Baltimore, MD. Though some of the major computer builders have stated that upcoming models will support WiMax, it will take some time to see exactly how WiMax will be accepted in the market place. Intel will be introducing chipsets that will be WiMax and WiFi compatible. These new chipsets will be available in new models bein introduced soon.

In a statement from C/Net news, it also states:

U.S.-based mobile WiMax differs from Wi-Fi in that it is intended as a truly mobile technology that can be used, for example, while traveling in a car, just as cell phones are used. The target market–at least initially–is not cell phones, however. “We’re thinking beyond the cell phone,” said a Sprint spokesperson.

And laptop suppliers have indicated in the past that they will bring out WiMax-capable machines. Dell, Sony, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Panasonic, and Toshiba have all indicated in the past that WiMax products will be forthcoming.

“There are several notebook vendors that are going through a certification process to get the notebooks certified on the network. Information about that will be made public on October 8,” the Sprint spokesperson said.

“Probably in October there will be several (manufacturers) that have laptops with (Intel’s) Centrino Wi-Fi/WiMax card in them,” said a source familiar with the companies’ plans.

Analysts–the skeptics that they are–have their doubts about the momentum behind WiMax. “It was supposed to be a crossover device market. Devices with 4- or 5-inch screen sizes. The number of (those) devices we were supposed to see by now simply hasn’t materialized,” said Tero Kuittinen, wireless analyst at Global Crown Capital.

So it would appear that WiMax may be coming to a city near you soon. Would you be interested in a WiMax device once it became available? Let us know.

Comments welcome.


Clearwire – New WiMAX Coming Our Way

Sprint has announced that a new company is being formed called Clearwire which will be bringing out WiMAX services nationwide. Supported by companies such as Google, Intel, Comcast and others, the new service will be Sprints first attempt to bring WiMAX across the US. WiMAX differs from Wi-Fi in that the broadband signal can be sent up to a distance of about 50 miles.

In their press release Sprint states:

Sprint and Clearwire to Combine WiMAX Businesses, Creating a New Mobile Broadband Company

Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks to Invest $3.2 Billion in Combined Company, at Target Price of $20.00 per Share

Formation of New Company Brings Together the Nation’s Leaders in Communications, Technology Innovation and Entertainment

New Company to Speed Deployment of First Nationwide Next-Generation Mobile WiMAX Network

Transaction Designed to Unlock the Potential of Clearwire’s and Sprint’s 4G Assets

New Company to be Led by Seasoned Management Team from Clearwire and Sprint’s XOHM Business Unit; Board of Directors to Include Leading Wireless and Cable Executives

The new company, which will be named Clearwire, will be focused on expediting the deployment of the first nationwide mobile WiMAX network to provide a true mobile broadband experience for consumers, small businesses, medium and large enterprises, public safety organizations and educational institutions. The new Clearwire expects to dramatically enhance the speed and manner in which customers access all that the Internet has to offer at home, in the office and on the road.

This project had originally been scrapped by Sprint towards the end of 2007, only to now be revived. It should be interesting to see how the WiMAX technology develops.

Comments welcome.

Full press release is here.

[tags]wimax, technology, sprint, intel, google, comcast, clearwire, press, release, [/tags]

WiMax Is Great But When Will We Get It?

On their web site Intel describes WiMax as:

Intel® WiMAX will deliver extended broadband Internet beyond Wi-Fi. With wireless high-speed broadband connectivity for your PC, WiMAX-enabled laptops and mobile devices will provide you the freedom to connect to the Internet just as you do with your cell phone service. With speeds similar to DSL or cable and faster than using your cell phone service to connect, WiMAX will allow you to access all the data-intensive applications you love, including streaming media on the Internet, live video conferencing, mobile TV and more while on the move.

In some articles I have read about WiMax it has been best described as Wi-Fi on steroids. Some are claiming that WiMax can reach up to 60 miles through the airwaves. This alone would be intriguing especially for those who live in areas where high speed Internet still is unavailable.

Over at Sprint-Nextel they have setup a website dubbed XOHM which is dedicated to WiMax and provides some additional information about what WiMax should hold in store for us. Sprint-Nextel states:

The Internet Released

A change is coming, be a part of it. Join us as we begin breaking down the barriers between the limits of today’s Internet and the way it should be: fast, easy and open

Advantages: Cut Loose

Xohm’s wireless broadband will let you enjoy the Internet your way — anytime, anywhere in your Xohm coverage area, on any WiMAX enabled device at a great price.

Technology: the Power of WiMAX

The advanced, next generation technology making Xohm’s wireless broadband one of the most open and spontaneous internet experiences available.

 Xohm Tomorrow:

Open Possibilities Expanding Xohm coverage and access for cameras, phones, navigation systems and other WiMAX-enabled devices will create exciting new connectivity opportunities.

So the biggest question I have is when is this going to happen? It seems that Intel has been plugging this technology for some 5 years. I even read an article which stated that W-Max should be hitting the street by mid 2008.

So what do you think? Is WiMax coming or is this just hype?

Comments welcome.

Sprint-Nextel site is here.

Intel website on WiMax is here.

[tags]intel,wimax, when, arrive, sprint-nextel,  [/tags]