So the ATT and T-Mobile merger may or may not happen, which would leave most of the country with a very few meager carrier choices. Or would it??
There are around 90 small carriers in the US that generally get over looked because of their lack of a national presence. But are they are a viable alternative to the Big 4? (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile) So lets see how the local carriers stack up against the Big 4. We will use Immix Wireless to compare since they are my “local carrier”.
One of the first things that people should look at even before price, is coverage. I mean the cheapest plan in the world will not do you any good if your phone does not work where you live and play. In general local carriers by nature have some of the best local coverage, they tend to put towers in areas that other companies don’t because they want to make sure their target area has coverage. But what about when you leave your local area, what than?
Most (not all but most) have contracts with your major carriers to use their towers and therefore you have coverage anywhere in the country that there is towers. If you plan to travel around the country or plan on spending a lot of time out of “your local area” you will want to make sure you choose a plan that includes national roaming at no extra charge.
When I went to Las Vegas for NokiaUnfenced, I never had a signal issue anywhere the entire trip….I was automatically switched from T-Mobile towers to AT&T towers depending on who’s signal was stronger. In fact, there were times when we were at the dude ranch, a few people had no signal but I had 3 or 4 bars because of this ability to switch providers whenever necessary.
Also your local carrier still tends to carry the “all you can eat” data plans that all the national carriers dropped years ago. You will probably not get 4G speed from these data packages, most of the time you will see 3G and even Edge when you are way out in the middle of nowhere. It is a trade off in that regard, a slightly slower speed internet for unlimited access.
So coverage wise the in general, the local carriers vs the national carriers it is a push…Because by default the local carriers and the national carriers use the exact same towers. As far as internet goes it depends on what you are looking for. For me the local carriers win because of the unlimited usage, for you speed may be the key so the national carriers would win this one.
So after you figure out if you will get coverage in your area, next thing to look at is price of plans. This is where the local carrier generally (again, not all but generally) beat the national carriers by a pretty good margin. I could break it down plan by plan but Immix has done a nice job doing it for me so we are just going to use theirs.
To be fair these prices do not include picture messaging, this would be an extra ten dollars a month per line.
This gets even cheaper if you bring your own phone to the party. Immix has two plans to pre-pay plans to offer. The first one is $30 bucks a month any includes unlimited talk/text and unlimited directory assistance. The second one is $50 a month and includes EVERYTHING talk/text, picture messaging, unlimited directory assistance, and unlimited data. This would a great option for NokiaInnovation readers since, in general Nokia customers tend to by their phones unlocked rather than from the carrier.
The clear winner here is the local carriers, they tend to give more services for a lower price.
Lastly lets look at the phone selection. Most people in the US still get their phones from their carrier.
Here is a one case where the national carrier normally beat out the local carriers. AT&T will always make a big push for exclusive phones, and get them because of the volume of sales they do. However, the phones you normally get from small carriers tend to be unlocked and unbranded. This means not only can you use any sim card in them you want, but also you don’t have to put up with bloatware that the Big Three put on your phone to advertise their services every time you look at your phone.
Local carriers tend to carry a good variety of phones just less of a selection. For example Immix has good selection of Android phones, Symbian phones, S40 phones, and some Alcatel phones for non smartphone users.
So the national carriers truly do have a better selection, but for the most part unless you want a specific phone the local carriers will have a phone that will suit your needs.
While I’m not saying that a local carrier is right for everyone, and there is same advantages and disadvantages with both a local carrier and a national carriers. What I am saying is there is more choice out there and people think and with over 90 local carrier in the continental US there is bound to be an “Immix” near you to check out.