Let's paint a picture

December 02, 2004 11:46AM - Let's paint a picture

So within the last couple of months Cingular acquired AT&T Wireless with millions of former (semi-current) customers just hanging around out there. I'd like to paint a picture for you of what each one of these customersí means to Cingular and what each one of them should expect.

First though, let me metion the discussion I had with Cingular Customer Service. I called yesterday to pick a fight about this ridiculous $18 'upgrade/migration' fee I was charged, per line. Needless to say I am so far unsuccessful at getting this fee backed off. I will however, make another attempt.

Okay, so letís now get to this picture I mentioned. Every customer as stated by the Cingular rep I spoke with, will have to eventually move to Cingularís network. So first each customer that moves will be paying this migration fee, per line, which "is actually a discounted rate, when you consider our normal activation fee is $36 for all customers" this person told me. If your thinking to yourself its not that much, you should multiply it times 20 million and see what happens. Now consider that cellular networks are 99.8% computer-based and no matter how much they say they have to process your account, there is very little work that has to be done move your account. Honestly, most of the work is already done. Figure its like copying a file from one folder to another.

To sum up this first part of the picture, Cingular is simply wanting the AT&T customers to pay for the expenses incurred for merging/acquiring AT&T Wireless. Now don't get me wrong, this makes business sense companies have done this kind of thing for years. However, for AT&T Wireless customers they are paying this fee just so they can keep their service? This, once again, is just simply the corporation being the bully.

Next up, your cell phone, actually youíre probably just going to throw it away because Cingular is going to tell you that you can't use the AT&T phone on their network. Now if youíre like me and have a GSM phone you enjoy using, you really won't want to give it up to pay for a new phone. You'll going to at least have to shell out $100 to match your current GSM phone's features if you want a camera. But why, WHY can't I use my current phone, you ask. To help keep customers in check cell phone companies 'lock' the phones they sell to their network. So when you try to put in a SIM card for another network, it just won't work.

(To pause for a second, a SIM card is what your phone number and your account it bound to. When your phone connects to the network, or makes a call, it sends the ID and information to the provider to identify you. The SIM card is a standard that most all cell phones now operate on.)

There has been some work by consumer groups to try and get the FCC to stop allowing this 'locking' that cell phone companies do. You can buy unlocked cell phones at a number of places and plenty of people are even selling them on eBay, but back to the point. This cell phone locking thing really helps Cingular out, by having to eventually move everyone over to their network they are forcing these 20 million some customers to purchase a new phone at their own expense. No, don't think you can get a new/upgrade phone for free like AT&T would do, Cingular runs a tight ship! Now Cingular just sits back and watches the revenue roll in from the millions of cell phone sales. If you want to multiply the average cell phone cost times the number of AT&T Wireless customers, you'll come out with a really hefty number. Low estimates give me $1.1 billion.

Now if you've already upgrade and bought a new phone, your out anywhere from $40 to $180+, plus the migration fee, like I was. But why not turn the tables and save yourself some money for Christmas? Cingular has a 30 day return policy on cell phones, so you might still be in luck. Unlocking your cell phone isn't illegal, and there are hundreds of websites and even companies that will do it for you. However, I would certainly exercise some caution when doing this, and pay close attention to the directions given for your phone. For myself, after about 10 minutes on Google, I found the instructions for my phone and the software to generate the necessary codes. If your not sure of the keywords to use here is a good example, say if you had Nokia 6820 you would use 'unlock nokia 6820'.

So get out there, go take a bite out of the corporations for once and don't let them push you around!

(I will go into further detail about what is involved in unlocking a phone, so check back and check the Archive.)

For your reference:
Legality of Unlocking GSM Cell Phones
Problems dividing AT&T-Cingular merger?

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