AT&T Wireless

A few months ago, I had to get a cell phone for work. I wasn't really happy about this. I never wanted to have a cell phone. I thought, sure, it would be nice to be able to call from anywhere, but I don't want people calling me anywhere. It was just another expense that I didn't want, and it was a convenience I felt like I could live without. My work, however, felt otherwise. A new policy was issued which required that all employees get cell phones. The company was going to pay $20 a month towards whatever plan we opted for. They encouraged us to get Verizon service, but did not limit us to them.

I looked around at the different service offerings. Jenn had a Verizon phone and was paying $20 a month for the service, and the phone was free with the contract. She only received 100 minutes a month though, and I knew that if I were going to use this both for work and home, I would likely need more than 100 minutes. I looked at Verizon's other offerings. I also looked at other companies, including T-Mobile, Cingular, AT&T Wireless, and Sprint. We were warned not to use Cingular and Sprint due to coverage issues. After looking at the coverage maps, I could see why. T-Mobile was just a little bit more expensive, and didn't quite have the coverage I would need. Verizon had the best coverage by far. AT&T wireless couldn't match Verizon's coverage, but they had coverage in all of the places I thought I might travel for my job. In addition, they had a $30 plan that had 300 minutes per month nationally, which beat the Verizon plan. So I chose to get an AT&T Wireless plan on the national GSM service. I chose a Sony Ericsson t68i phone. Jenn was getting kind of short tempered with me because I was taking so long to make a decision, and she was thrilled that I finally settled on a plan and phone.

After receiving my phone, I played with all of the features. I payed an extra $3 a month to have access to the web on the phone, so I played with getting maps, weather, and traffic. There was a 6 cent per kilobyte charge for that, but I knew that up front. I also played with the text messaging. It was free to receive text messages, 10 cents to send, and $1 or more for the multimedia messages. I played with ring tones, pictures, hands free dialing, and all of the other features that this cool gadget had.

During the second month of service, I was taking a closer look at my billing when I noticed that I was receiving only 200 minutes per month as part of my plan. When I signed up on the web, I was told 300 minutes. So I contacted AT&T support to find otu what happened. After some checking, the operator agreed that I should be getting 300 minutes, so she applied the change to my account, and then granted an additional 60 minutes for the trouble. Two cheers for good customer service!

During that time, I received in the mail a notice that AT&T had not yet received my signed two year agreement. I signed the enclosed agreement and sent it back. Today, I opened the invoice for my phone and find a $26 activation fee has been applied. I contact customer service and they say that they never received the two year agreement. They cut my agreement to one year, and applied the $26 activation fee. The operator said that if I make a copy of my existing agreement and send it in, my account will be credited for the $26.

This leaves me with an interesting dilemma. The reception on my phone is terrible. The sound quality is outstanding, I can hear calls perfectly, and for the most part the person I call can hear me with crystal clarity. Unfortunately, the reception of signal is very spotty, and terrible while traveling. I receive no signal for the entire drive between Noblesville and Warsaw, which is where I travel quite a bit. Driving to Kokomo to visit my parents, I occassionally see one bar of reception. And when I am on a call, if I drive through a strong gust of wind, the call drops. I can't seem to find any reason for it, but there are just dead spots on major interstates, highways, and roads where I lose my call. I look at the phone, and it still reports four bars of reception, but the call drops. It is very frustrating. I'm half tempted to just chuck the phone out the window when this happens. It really frustrates Jenn too when our conversation drops.

So now I am debating whether I should sign the agreement or not. This may be a blessing in disguise. If I pay the $26, and my contract is shortened to one year, this will give me the opportunity to switch providers in a few months. I am very tempted to do this. I know that Verizon is the king of coverage, however, they do not offer GSM service. I really like the clarity of the calls on the GSM network, but the coverage is abysmal. I have recently begun to pick up Cingular GSM service when I am traveling. I'm not sure if I will be charged roaming while on this networks, but it is nice to see that GSM coverage is expanding. Another nice feature is that my battery does not get drained nearly as badly as my friends on the Verizon network experience. Whenever their phones are unable to find a digital signal, they switch to analog service and drain very quickly. SInce GSM is all digital, my battery lasts a week regardless of where I am.

I'm going to do some research again today into what the cell phone companies are offering. If it looks like a good move to ditch AT&T, maybe I'll just let the contract sit and pay the money. $26 isn't much in the long run, if I can get better service soon. I'll miss my t68i phone though. This thing is really cool! Although, this may provide the opportunity to get a newer, even cooler phone! I can almost hear Jenn moaning and rolling her eyes at me right now.....

[Listening to: Pearl Jam - Get Out Of L.A. - Oceans]


Jade Mason