Speed Or Coverage?

I have recently switched my family’s mobile service provider from T-Mobile to AT&T. It was not a decision I took lightly as I’ve been an “original” customer of T-Mobile since it’s U.S. founding in 2002, and I actually signed up to one of it’s predecessors, OmniPoint back in 1998. Back then OmniPoint was one of a handful of regional wireless providers using the GSM standard that I found attractive because GSM SIMS can be easily swapped from one phone to another, while the phones from other providers were locked and you had to buy new phones directly from them.

In 2000 OmniPoint was acquired by Voicestream, who you might remember more for their TV commercials featuring Jamie Lee Curtis than their service. Deutsche Telekom then acquired Voicestream in 2001 and renamed the company T-Mobile USA in 2002.

OmniPoint, Voicestream and later T-Mobile have never had the number of customers or the coverage of the other U.S. mobile providers. What I have always liked about T-Mobile is their positive relationship with customers and great customer service. For example, T-Mobile is still the only provider that does not have a big issue with tethering mobile phones to other computers. T-Mobile has continually earned recognition for their excellent customer service, and every time I called technical support my problems were handled professionally and efficiently.

T-Mobile was the first mobile provider to embrace the Pocket PC Phone Edition, of which I wrote about in three editions of my book about Microsoft’s mobile operating system. For a while they seemed to have the leg up on their competition by bringing some of the newest phones, most of which were initially developed for the European market that is standardized on GSM, to the US market.

The problem with T-Mobile has always been their lack of coverage, particularly in rural areas. Personally, T-Mobile has never provided good coverage of my home, which is in a Detroit suburb. We’ve had to confine ourselves to specific locations in our house to maintain a reliable connection. I had hoped that over time T-Mobile would improve coverage and it would no longer be an issue, but after a decade that has not happened for my home.

Over the years I have tried what I could personally do to improve coverage, such as buying a cell phone signal amplifier and using WiFi calling. The amplifier never really worked as well as I hoped and while Android’s built-in WiFi calling works I never found the quality to be as good as regular cellular and the whole set up was a tad complicated. I did have a conversation with a T-Mobile representative about getting a microcell, but was denied when they learned I lived in a condo, apparently they were only willing to provide microcells to stand alone houses.

The coverage issue came to a head recently when my wife started working from home and needs to use her cell phone more frequently to talk with family. Consequently I decided to drop T-Mobile for either AT&T or Verizon. I settled on AT&T, despite my misgivings about this company, because I knew it had the best coverage at my house thanks to the fact that my employer provided phone is on AT&T. Verizon is appealing simply because they have the fastest mobile data, but I dislike the lock-in of CDMA, and when I compared prices AT&T is the lower cost provider.

AT&T definitely does not provide the fastest mobile data service in metro Detroit, in my experience that award goes to T-Mobile and Verizon. However fast the service is, it is useless if I cannot make a reliable connection. AT&T’s service is good enough to use with my Galaxy Nexus, and I have my iPad on Verizon so that I can take advantage of that service should I want to. I also have a SIM from Simple Mobile that works on T-Mobile that works with my unlocked GSM phones.

After being on AT&T Wireless for a week I can report that I am happy with the service so far. An additional benefit for making the switch is that my wife got a new phone, she had been using the HTC T-Mobile myTouch that I handed down to her a couple years ago and now she has the LG Nitro HD, which is a significant upgrade from the myTouch. As long as the service keeps working and AT&T doesn’t screw up my bill, I’ll be happy; the first test may come when I get my first bill to see whether the corporate discount available through my employer has been applied.

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About Frank

Mobile enthusiast and author
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