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Customers up in arms

In an effort to get customers upgrading to newer and snazzier phones, Cingular announced that it will impose a $5 fee every month, to those customers with older phones. Cingular says that this move will help the company transition to one type of network signal technology. According to reports, the new charge will begin appearing on customer bills starting this September. No other major mobile carrier has announced such a plan.

The $5 mandatory fee will generate approximately $23.5 million every month for Cingular. The company claims that the majority of its customers (92 percent) use phones based on Global System for Mobile (GSM) technology, while the rest use TDMA phones or even older analog phones. Despite the small minority of older phone users, Cingular is required by the FCC to support analog users until early 2008.

Earlier last month, DailyTech reported that Cingular along with Verizon ended up being sued over service degradation. The lawsuit claimed that Cingular degraded phone reception to older users in an effort to get them to upgrade to newer phones despite the company promising uninterrupted phone service. Customers were also upset that they had to pay an $18 transfer fee to switch from AT&T Wireless' network over to Cingular’s plans. They were also required to purchase new phones from Cingular or face more charges.

In a statement, Cingular said "customers can avoid the charge by switching to our GSM network and equipment. The combination of coverage, service quality, devices, and advanced features on GSM is superior to TDMA." Cingular plans to cut off TDMA service at the same time as its analog service. The company indicated that it is trying to change its reputation for poor service and by having everyone on the same network with newer GSM phones, service reliability will improve.





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