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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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Do they know what PR is?
By Sunbird on 8/1/2006 11:18:01 AM , Rating: 4
Why not give those legacy users free cheap GSM phones? Get good PR. I dont even have a degree and I can figure that out.




RE: Do they know what PR is?
By retrospooty on 8/1/2006 11:26:45 AM , Rating: 2
exactly. Send them a new freebie cheap phone (the type you get for free with a 2 yar contract anyhow) and let them use it. Then you can get rid of your old TDMA network right away.


RE: Do they know what PR is?
By ebakke on 8/1/06, Rating: 0
RE: Do they know what PR is?
By retrospooty on 8/1/06, Rating: 0
RE: Do they know what PR is?
By Ard on 8/1/2006 1:56:42 PM , Rating: 2
No, he's not naive at all because they HAVEN'T offered customers anything free. I should know, I'm stuck with the bastards.


RE: Do they know what PR is?
By sxr7171 on 8/1/2006 3:03:21 PM , Rating: 2
I heard they did around the time of the AT&T merger. They were also discounting GSM phones like nobody's business. They gave me a free T616 with one year contract. That was when the phone was a $250-300 phone.


RE: Do they know what PR is?
By Souka on 8/1/2006 3:35:04 PM , Rating: 2
My Nokia 8260 kicks butt for my job.

Other guys are using Verizon Q phones, Sprint LG, or similar..... but I often get signal whereas they do not.

My job takes me to more remote places....and for $40/month I get 2000 anytime min, free nights/weekends, and unlimited text.

"Upgrade to a free GSM phone..." No thanks....you'll want at least $60-75/month for equilvalent service....



RE: Do they know what PR is?
By TomZ on 8/1/06, Rating: 0
RE: Do they know what PR is?
By masher2 (blog) on 8/1/2006 3:54:50 PM , Rating: 2
> "they probably have lots of customers like you on older, lower-cost plans."

Once the original plan expires, Cingular is under no obligation to retain the rate. If they just wanted to upsell to a higher plan, they'd remove the old plan entirely.

They simply want to phase out the analog network entirely, so they can reclaim that bandwidth for additional GSM channels.


RE: Do they know what PR is?
By lemonadesoda on 8/1/2006 5:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
That might not be the full story. There was an interesting case in the early 90's of "free calls in the evenings, and free calls at the weekend" plans. The daytime rate was of course a little higher. You had to buy the phone. It wasn't like the modern contract where you get essentially a free phone and pay for it through higher monthly charges and call costs.

In practice, people bought 2 chips! One low daytime rate chip from another provider that they would use in the day. Then they would swap the chip for use in the evening and weekends for the free call rate.

A simple case of mobile company shooting itself in the foot. Of course, the company stopped selling these contracts, but they did have to honour the contracts they had already sold.


So instead of making new phones cheaper
By BigFatDuck on 8/1/2006 11:15:57 AM , Rating: 4
They make people with older phones pay money? I bet most of them won't even notice it till a few bills in




RE: So instead of making new phones cheaper
By djcameron on 8/1/2006 11:50:18 AM , Rating: 2
My parents have a killer rate plan on the old TDMA system. Every time a phone dies, cingular tells them that they have to switch to the new GSM system, but they will lose thier killer plan. So I always get them a used TDMA phone from ebay so they can stay on the old plan. The other problem is, if they switch to GSM, they lose cell service since Pt Reyes, CA only has TDMA and the environazis won't let anyone install any new towers (Verizon tried and was rejected).


RE: So instead of making new phones cheaper
By piranhaa on 8/1/2006 1:05:40 PM , Rating: 2
Curious.. what's AMPS/CDMA service like out there?


By djcameron on 8/1/2006 1:25:54 PM , Rating: 2
The only cellular out there is TDMA, nothing else works.


By mspurrrfect on 8/2/2006 3:28:15 PM , Rating: 2
No kidding! Isn't bad enough that if we want anything resembling a half decent ringtone, we have to BUY them - they sure don't come with the phone anymore. And on top of that, the only way to preview a tone with Cingular is to do it on a computer. Cingular is a bunch of greedy jerks, and should be plenty able to suck up the cost of a small percentage of old plan users!


By jskirwin on 8/1/2006 11:55:04 AM , Rating: 2
If you're going to have to switch phones, why not switch service too?




By tk109 on 8/1/2006 12:15:35 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. I would feel slighted by any company that has this type of conduct. In the end I bet they lose a lot of customers and millions of dollars. Cingular should provide them with a free phone if they expect people to change.


By axemanxt40 on 8/2/2006 10:53:02 AM , Rating: 2
TomZ, I wouldn't say Verizon doesn't treat its customers like crap. I used to have Verizon had some serious service issues when I went to Purdue University on their network. Which basically made the phone useless! After calling and much fighting with them they still refused to do anything or waive my early termination fee so I could sign up with a provider who had good service in the area.

Ultimately I said f*** Verizon and just paid the fee and left them, switched to Cingular. The network is much better with Cingular and their plans are more to my liking with roll over and such.

So yes while Cingular's customer service is not ideal, Verizon is certainly not any better. I actually would argue they are worst than Cingular because Cingular at least does something to help me when I have a problem. When I had my one issue with Verizon they basically said tough s**t.


By Goty on 8/1/2006 12:27:22 PM , Rating: 2
That would be my suggestion. If you don't like the service or the terms, don't stick around! There's no faster way to send a message to a company than to leave.


By johnsonx on 8/1/2006 12:59:11 PM , Rating: 2
Cingular isn't stupid. They know charging such a fee may cost them some subscribers. They have concluded that its worth it for them to shed Analog and TDMA customers one way or another. Some will upgrade to a GSM phone. Some will just pay the $5, but that serves as fair notice that old service is going away in 2008. Some will leave. In any case, Cingular accomplishes what it needs to.



By geeg on 8/1/2006 2:49:06 PM , Rating: 2
Switching the service needs newer contracts which are more expensive. You cannot sublet in this cellphone business.
I have a cheap family plan and they do not offer that plan anymore. If I change the carrier or the service I have to pay $150/year more.


Here is some math
By othercents on 8/1/2006 11:47:00 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
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.


So 23.5m / $5 is 4.7m subscribers. Most of those are probably in rural areas and I'm guessing that the majority of the subscribers in the Metro areas are using GSM. 4.7m is 8%, so the other 92% is around 54.05m subscribers that use GSM. This means that if everyone uses $40 a month plan Cingular is getting $2.35t per month from their subscribers.

Do you really think Cingular needs money to keep their older networks running? I think the real problem is bandwidth, but if they are having problems with 4.7m suscribers in rural areas, then they will still have that problem even if they convert to GSM.

Other




RE: Here is some math
By rushfan2006 on 8/1/2006 2:30:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So 23.5m / $5 is 4.7m subscribers. Most of those are probably in rural areas and I'm guessing that the majority of the subscribers in the Metro areas are using GSM. 4.7m is 8%, so the other 92% is around 54.05m subscribers that use GSM. This means that if everyone uses $40 a month plan Cingular is getting $2.35t per month from their subscribers.


$2.35t ...TRILLION? are you kidding me....where did you learn math. First thing is there is no single company on this planet that earns TRILLIONS, much less trillions PER MONTH as you suggest...if they made that much money there would be nothing to say about cingular except "World's ONLY Communications Company".

Using your figures (which I don't vouch for accuracy but anyway...)...

54,000,000 x $40 = 2,160,000,000 ($2.16 billion)
$2.16 billion x 12 months = 25,920,000,000 ($25.9 billion)

So there you go per month with 54million users @ $40 a month = $2 billion

Annual collections would be $25 billion.

Still very serious money, but a far far FAR cry from 2 trillon a month.





RE: Here is some math
By sxr7171 on 8/1/2006 3:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
Ha Ha! The vast majority of nations in the world don't have a GDP approaching $1 trillion.


RE: Here is some math
By Razor Crusade on 8/1/2006 4:31:54 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe we can petition Cingular to pay down the national debt for us.


I'm a cingular customer..
By Dfere on 8/1/2006 12:33:25 PM , Rating: 2
And after a year or so, I noticed degradation of my service. In fact I noticed it when I got the phone updated. I stopped "updating" my phone with the last one I purchased and I have not had a dropped call with this one, at all.

I believe all companies were primarily degrading/not giving resources necessary/whatever you want to call it to not only legacy systems, but legacy customers, in other words, older phones get less priority on busy networks. Can I prove this,? not scientifically. But my friend and neighbor has the same phone and service, and he gets dropped during business hours and has a few places he gets no reception, I only have one little area I get dropped (all the time).

Even without the news article, I was thinking of ditching Cingular when my 2 year is up. I have a GSM phone but, if they start making money by charging for "older equipment", my suspicion is that soon anything not brand new will be "older".

Anyone wanna get on a family plan with me?




RE: I'm a cingular customer..
By johnsonx on 8/1/2006 1:05:47 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But my friend and neighbor has the same phone and service, and he gets dropped during business hours and has a few places he gets no reception, I only have one little area I get dropped (all the time).


That would appear to disprove your theory. If he has the same phone and service, but gets dropped where and when you don't, how does this prove that "older phones get less priority on busy networks"?

Neverminding your theory, I'd suggest your friend's phone is either internally different, or not operating quite correctly; perhaps his antenna connections are loose.


RE: I'm a cingular customer..
By masher2 (blog) on 8/1/2006 3:56:54 PM , Rating: 2
> " I have a GSM phone but, if they start making money by charging for "older equipment""

Not for "older" equipment, but for analog equipment. It chews up much more bandwidth, per call, than GSM does, and it requires maintenance of a whole different set of equipment. Once everyone is off the old network, they can shut it down entirely, and reclaim the bandwidth for more GSM service.


Unwelcome thoughts...
By segagenesis on 8/1/2006 11:20:07 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think this will get much approval when I say this, but there isn't much leeway you can do here considering its TDMA service. I'm going to guess maintaining the old network is no longer cost effective if the majority of the customers are GSM.

Now they could have thought up a better idea to force people to upgrade... perhaps paying people back as an incentive rather than straight out piss them off with what amounts to an "obsolete fee".

The $5 mandatory fee will generate approximately $23.5 million every month for Cingular.

That $23.5m figure is probably what they saw when coming up with this strange idea... its like telling people who have an old cable box or such device they have to pay extra because its old.




RE: Unwelcome thoughts...
By kleinwl on 8/1/2006 12:29:44 PM , Rating: 2
There is another reason that you guys haven't thought of for forcing upgrades. An excellent revenue stream for the cell phone companies is the "extra" services such as txt messages, internet browsing, ring tones, wall paper, games, etc. Cingular probably figures it's losing at least $5/mo in "extra" fees due to the fact that the old phones don't support these features. By forcing people to upgrade, Cingular will improve it's revenue.

However, I agree with many posters... If you don't like it, walk. Unfortunitly, that isn't much of an option if you live in the sticks.


nub user
By sunz on 8/1/2006 11:25:07 AM , Rating: 2
This is ridiculous .. i'm one of those nub users .. but i pay $59 / month and i have over 1200 minutes on my inferior plan .. why would i switch... i dont need a camera phone or any of that stuff .. just a phone to talk to .. tell cingular to up the gsm plans and i'll switch. .. i've in fact communicated that fact with them countless times when they send their little upgrade promotions that are less minutes and require one and two year contracts to get very much less than new phones .. i'll keep my small motorola v60 .. well until september when i go elsewhere with my money.





RE: nub user
By sxr7171 on 8/1/2006 3:25:46 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. If they really want you to move to GSM, they should just let you keep your grandfathered plan except on GSM. They seem to want to migrate as many people as they can sucker into doing it before having to offer the sweet deals to the people who held out under duress.


By miniMUNCH on 8/1/2006 6:34:44 PM , Rating: 2
I haven't read all the posts but...

Has anyone considered hat Cingular is phasing out TDMA so that they can convert the TDMA towers to GSM towers...thereby improving the coverage of the GSM network for their customers.

Environmentalists and NIMBY's probably can't do squat to prohibit conversion/modification of an existing tower.

I actually am a verizon customer but this good be a good thing in the end for Cingular customers...just a thought.




By lucyfek on 8/1/2006 8:26:51 PM , Rating: 2
the funny thing is that TDMA is at the core of GSM - it's just the way of sharing the badwidth/frequency between multiple users. so basicaly GSM is more like a protocol that the cell system uses to control data transmitted within time slots... if i recall it correctly the AMPS (or its predecessor) used separate freqency channel for every active user and was more of the analog system while CDMA uses spread spectrum to share the available frequency rage. the differences between systems were/are more of the way of restricting the access to the market to other equipment manufacturers (after the initial period when it's known what works better). the switch between any system based on TDMA (e.g. to GSM) should not be that hard (unless they operate in completely different frequency range), and the biggest problem is the transition time when provider has to support users usig two systems, but the allocated frequencies are set (paid for and limited). anyway, towers can be reused unless the frequencies of old and new systems are so different that there is no way to fill the propagation patterns of old cell towers with patterns resulting from use of the new frequencies. if the frequencies were to stay uchanged one could (most likely) even keep old antenas and amplifiers.


Cingular is a rip off
By Soviet Robot on 8/2/2006 12:36:50 AM , Rating: 1
Makes me happy that I don't use those POS's.




RE: Cingular is a rip off
By rushfan2006 on 8/2/2006 10:59:57 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Makes me happy that I don't use those POS's.


POS's...that implies you mean the phones....um....pssst...Cingular doesn't make the phones.

TMobile, Sprint, Verizon, Cingular they all buy phones that are made by vendors like LG and Motorola then they are branded with their logo.

In short its the service that matters. And personally I feel the opposite as you I think they have the best service.


wow people are arrogant
By sunz on 8/1/2006 11:28:21 AM , Rating: 2
oh and "impoor" .. chances are my phone is smaller than yours .. it is at least smaller than most of these new phones .. maybe not skinner but definately not a vcr .. get over yourself..




lame
By Tiamat on 8/1/2006 12:50:55 PM , Rating: 2
Lame. Let's penalize longtime customers? :rollseyes;

As far as I know (asked several friends who have cing/att service) they are being forced to buy a new phone with $100-$150 discount depending on how long they had been a customer. My friends like their current phones and dont see why they should be forced to pay to replace it... They are looking elsewhere for cell service.




tring to force new contracts
By Lonearchon on 8/1/2006 4:32:51 PM , Rating: 2
I see this as cingulars way of doing alot things at once. Since most people using tdma have no contracts cingular has no way of truly keeping them but for these people to go to gsm and get the new phone at a decent price they have to sign a new 2 year contract. Basicly telling cingular that these people are almost guaranteed customers for the next 2 years




By rushfan2006 on 8/1/2006 4:38:23 PM , Rating: 2
A buddy of mine has been a Cingular customer for years...just the end of last year around thanksgiving he swapped out his old phone for a GSM - said he didn't pay a penny.

Second situation - my sister's husband did pretty much the same thing earlier this year and his cingular account rep got him a replacment GSM phone for nada.

The only thing I can think of is both these people use their phones a lot and they have expensive plans....(because their companies re-imburse them each month) for example my bro-in-law pays like $70/month for whatever package he has.

And neither of them have "fancy phones" -- just modest, but new GSM ones.

So there you go..this article and the comments in this thread are making Cingular out to be much more anal than they really are.





By arfisalf on 8/2/2006 9:26:40 PM , Rating: 2
There is nothing to say abotu Cingular other than they are absolute criminals.

I used to me an At&t subcricber since 1995, never had one issue with them, until Cingular bought At&t. Cingular began degrading the the network, in addition to handicapping or terminating certain features (ie. International Text Messaging).

I was so frustrated after years of being able to text message over seas, and suddenly I did not know why I couldn't anylonger on AT&T. I findout that I need to switch to Cingular. I signed a 2yr contract (900min) and guess what with Cingular the messaging worked again. Fine I was happy and all, but then I find out now I am also charged for incomming messages. Fine, after paying $23 (.10/sms) I signed up for 200SMS/ $4.99.

Wait this only gets better. So the first months bill I get is $248.24......... why you so high.

Well you see this shitty company updates their minutes usages like 2 and a half days late. So your actual minutes are not upto date as was with At&t and other services like Sprint. So I went over thinking I had minutes left.

Not only this in the past few weeks, their services has been horrible. Constant losing of signal (I know its not my phone, as I tried my SIM on various phones) and static.

Now it basically with take me $175 to cancel this fucking service, ............BUT I THINK ITS WORTH IT.

I ALSO HOPE THIS COMPANY IS PUT INTO A FINANCIAL HOLE.... I do feel bad if they do go Bankrupt and lay off people....

But its not fair to us paying so much monthly, and its like using a tin can attached to a string!

Right now any other carrier is better then Cingular!




Most cell users are nubs in the US
By DLeRium on 8/1/06, Rating: -1
By WizzBall on 8/1/2006 12:20:33 PM , Rating: 3
Imagine I'm still using a Socket A Athlon and I'm happy with it. If you can fanthom such a thing of course.


By sxr7171 on 8/1/2006 3:18:40 PM , Rating: 2
RAZR is the V600 basically in a thin form factor. The RAZR is just a crappy phone (I didn't like the V600 myself although it was a cool phone), and it has nothing on a good modern phone. You can buy a brand new unlocked unbranded RAZR for $170 now. Boy I feel sorry for those who paid a grand for theirs.


ha
By inthell on 8/1/06, Rating: -1
RE: ha
By geeg on 8/1/2006 11:34:05 AM , Rating: 2
Yes. We should increase our consumption of about everything in order to finish up resources of this small planet. 1 billion cellphones a year? Not enough. Produce 2 billion...


RE: ha
By Kilim on 8/1/2006 12:27:04 PM , Rating: 2
Oh yeah, NIMBY's are really rational people that have the world's best interest at heart. But I live in a fantasy world where the 210 and 710 freeways meet up in L.A.


Thats funny
By IMPoor on 8/1/06, Rating: -1
RE: Thats funny
By Shadowself on 8/1/2006 11:31:00 AM , Rating: 2
Clearly you don't live in a rural area where TDMA can often give a much, much better signal. Also a TDMA based Moto StarTac was not "size of a VCR". It still is comparable in size to some of the more modern phones.

Finally, one of the conditions of the take over of AT&T Wireless was support of the phones used by the AT&T system (such as those TDMA Moto StarTacs).

Cingular charges people an extra fee to go from their old AT&T based phones to a new, native Cingular based phone. People have protested this (and some sales people will even get it waved for you if you scream loudly enough and long enough), but Cingular wants extra money for the transition.

Now Cingular wants extra money if you don't transition.

Seems like Cingular wants to make extra money on the people who came with the AT&T takeover no matter whether they transition or not!


RE: Thats funny
By WeaselITB on 8/1/2006 12:13:40 PM , Rating: 2
I'm wondering if this new charge could be used as "evidence" in the class-action suit that was filed earlier -- does this move suggest that Cingular did not really care for the customers but just wanted a larger market and a larger installed userbase?

Aside from this, does Cingular have a right to charge an extra fee like this? I'd presume that somewhere in their 2-year agreement (or whatever plan they're on) has a pricing specification in it, but I could be mistaken. Thoughts?


RE: Thats funny
By IMPoor on 8/1/06, Rating: -1
RE: Thats funny
By Sunbird on 8/1/2006 1:36:43 PM , Rating: 3
Figure out the threshold, its between the end of the article and the start of the comments. People voted you down to -1 (the limit) cause they think you comment sucks, while the first commentor has been voted up to 4 (as I type this, 5 is limit) cause he said something interesting/useful/true/really funny...


RE: Thats funny
By DigitalFreak on 8/1/2006 2:18:10 PM , Rating: 2
Not a 4 anymore!


RE: Thats funny
By WeaselITB on 8/1/2006 1:38:36 PM , Rating: 2
How about learning to use the rating system and set yourself to view at -1? I don't see anything wrong with your previous post (aside from it being slightly asinine), though your response to mine did not address any of the comments that I brought forward, so thanks for that.


RE: Thats funny
By masher2 (blog) on 8/1/2006 2:42:21 PM , Rating: 2
> "Aside from this, does Cingular have a right to charge an extra fee like this? I'd presume that somewhere in their 2-year agreement "

If you have a TDMA phone, then you're already well over your original service agreement, and into month-to-month charges. Meaning either side can legally cancel the agreement at any time....or, in this case, offer new terms.


RE: Thats funny
By WeaselITB on 8/1/2006 4:24:13 PM , Rating: 2
OK, thanks Masher ... wasn't sure when they phased over from TDMA


RE: Thats funny
By sxr7171 on 8/1/2006 3:15:29 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah true. I still miss my 8260 sometimes despite carrying an N90. Some of those phones were great. Although I do like international roaming that GSM gives me.


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