Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Apparent Demise of Millenicom

Boy, wasn't that a shocker about Millenicom? Something very unsettling there. I used the word "apparent" in the title of this article because no one knows what really is going on and if Millenicom might move in a new direction.

I don't know if they were doing something that violated their agreement with Verizon or if Verizon, being the typical greedy fire breathing behemoth dragon they are, with their new promotions, decided to confiscate Millenicom's business - which wouldn't surprise me in the least. Personally, I've never been a big fan of Verizon - wireless or otherwise. I also wonder if Verizon "bought" the accounts from Millenicom or is just pirating them.

Since Millenicom is a no contract wireless data reseller, there is no guarantee that any or all of Millenicom's customers will stay with Verizon and for those who do, will they be bullied by Verizon? I guess we'll find out the answers in due time. Millenicom is pretty silent on the whole thing though I've heard (hearsay) they've let their staff go. So, I guess they don't have enough business left to sustain full-scale operations.

Still With AT&T

I am still with AT&T, so I'm not personally impacted by this change, though I could have been had I followed through on my plan to set up a Millenicom data account. Here's the story and the rationale I used for staying with AT&T.

I've been with the AT&T service since about 1999 when they were under the Cingular brand. A few years later they dropped Cingular and went back to using the AT&T brand, supposedly for better name recognition and credibility. Cellular One was also part of this mess. It's a very confusing and incestuous series of mergers and takeovers. Suffice it to say that it's all now AT&T Mobility and I've heard rumors they may go back to using the Cingular brand again. I think they're just playing head games with us customers.

At any rate, Early this year, February, I believe, AT&T offered me a chance to early terminate my last two year contract about 5 months early with no penalty and switch to their no contract Family Share Plan. So, checking my usage and overage charges with the 5 GB of data I had on my contract plan, moving to the no contract share plan doubled my bandwidth to 10 GB per month.

Additionally, it gave me unlimited calling to replace the 450 minutes (with roll-over minutes) cell phone service and added unlimited texting to my plan. This was nice since I had no texting on the contract plan and paid $.20/text - sent or received. My monthly cost actually went down a little. So, double data, unlimited phone, unlimited text and lower cost - it was a no brainer. 

Until then I was seriously considering going with Millenicom for their 20 GB data plan and just moving to a $45/mth Straight Talk plan for unlimited phone, text and data. I only considered the Straight Talk data as standby since after the first 3 GB, they the data speed is throttled back to 2G or slower and I couldn't tether or create a personal wifi hotspot.

When I ran a spreadsheet on it, even though I had half the data on the Share Plan - it was more cost effective to stay with AT&T - and I guess, now, under the current circumstances, I'm glad I did. 

I'm taking advantage of the special promotion this month of adding 20 GB of data for an additional $30/mth. I end up with 30 GB of data (3X as much as I currently have and I've already run over the 10 GB several months paying $15/extra GB or fraction their of). My total bill will cost me $160 (or maybe a little less) for unlimited phone, text and 30 GB of data compared to $126 for the unlimited phone, text and 10 GB of data. These costs include the taxes and little extra fees that are added on.

So, in reality - that cost will only be about $20/mth more than the $90 Millenicom 20 GB plan and the $45 Straight Talk plan for phone and texting. I have 10 GB more data AND only have to use one device, my smart phone, for phone and tethered modem (or wifi hotspot). I think I'm coming out ahead on this deal. Advantage, Ed!

AT&T Service And Coverage

Despite all the naysayers and AT&T haters (they actually aren't loved or hated anymore than Verizon - they're just another behemoth bully corporation), I'm generally pleased with their service overall. That's why I've stayed with them all these years. Are there cell hell holes in their coverage? Yep! But, if you come to Keyser, WV, where I am right now as I write this article, with your Millenicom (or any Verizon phone or) jetpack you'd have no service here since Verizon, Sprint and T Mobile have zero coverage in this region.

When you look at the coverage maps of AT&T and Verizon, they really aren't all that different. Both companies claim services, 4G and LTE and coverage areas that don't meet their advertising (always read the small fine print). It's all marketing hype. Additionally, I like AT&T because they use the GSM service and not the CDMA service that Verizon uses. GSM is pretty much the worldwide standard. It allows you to be on the Internet AND make phone calls and text at the same time. CDMA you can only do one or the other.

When everyone finally goes LTE (which is still mainly in the future) both providers should be pretty compatible, finally. Also, with GSM you can take your phone overseas and simply buy a local SIM card in most places and you have local service in that country. That's a nice plus for anyone who travels outside the U.S. very much. My son has done this all over the world during his global trekking.

There is one other aspect of my telecommunication plan. I plan to buy a very inexpensive prepaid phone service (they call them "burner phones" in the spy and cops & robbers movies and TV shows). I only require minimal minutes that can be used during a 12 month, 6 month or 3 month period before the minutes expire and the account has to be refilled.  The longer the period, the better. The service must be on the Verizon network.

I'll use this phone as a standby and for emergencies in situations where I have no AT&T service, but need to make a call or receive a call. The formula is simple - cheap phone - least calling cost - most minutes - over the longest duration. Lots of compromising to be made. But, since this phone will mainly be for standby and emergency use, lowest cost is the most important element. I'll be sure to use up whatever minutes I have on it before I "recharge" it.

In Conclusion

So, thar she blows. My plan won't be right for everyone, but it's the most cost effective plan for my specific needs. And, with the 30 GB of data, I'll be able to download (and upload) plenty of YouTubes as well as movies and TV shows when I'm in an area where there is no wifi available.
I just set up my friend, where I have my base camp in Keyser, WV, with a new, economical (is there any such thing with cable TV companies?) Comcast basic cable TV service with cable Internet. She is also on an AT&T Share Plan, but decided she finally wanted cable TV and high-speed Internet now that she's in the process of retiring. I bought and installed a cable modem and wireless router for her.

This Comcast service offers a pretty neat on-line streaming service. It provides a reasonable selection of movies and most current, plus vintage TV shows and series as part of the service package. So, I can stream them wherever I am off my AT&T data or local wifi. Of course, I can also reinstate my Netflix subscription and stream from them as well. So, I'll pretty much have plenty of entertainment choices on the road almost anywhere I might be without having an off the air TV capability or resorting to Red Box at the Walmarts I may overnight park at. 

Apparently, no one knows what Verizon is going to do or offer the former Millenicom customers. It's my guess they are holding everyone in the air until after the 10/31 promotions end - thus, taking away one major option. 

This is MY plan. Hopefully, it gives you a significant amount of information if you are considering the AT&T option or need to create a comprehensive wireless telecommunication and Internet plan. BUT, remember, the AT&T 30 GB promotion ends on 10/31 - so, you'll have to do some quick homework.

I also suggest you keep up with Chris and Cheri, the Technomadia couple who continually research and update everyone on this kind of information. Also you can check with the folks at the 3G Store who were Millenicom resellers and are doing their best to keep up with the transition.


  1. I always feel funny when I see the word "hater" used. I was called a 'hater' because reading typed words takes a lot less bandwidth and I said that.

    Ok, let's see, $160 a month for phone, text & 30gb of data on ATT. Are photos included with that? Is the data limited to your phone? How do you get internet?

    We had one phone with Virgin Mobile (Sprint) and the other with Verizon (Straightalk) until we got to Texas and neither phone worked well where we were saying. Down there ATT seemed to be the choice so we picked up a Straightalk ATT phone and that did work well until it was lost a year later. We reactivated the Verizon phone and it works fine here... Having 2 different phone services as been a good thing from time to time

    I'm with Millenicom because the price was right. I'm guessing by this time next week I'll have be finding out just how happy I am.

    1. Hi Rob,
      Good to hear from you.

      Yes, texting includes photos and video - but only phone to phone. It also includes text messaging to 190 countries (only 120 for photos and video, though). The data is not limited to just the smart phone - I can and have been and will continue to be able to tether to a tablet or computer or I can use the phone as a wireless hotspot router. And, as I mentioned, since it's a GSM service, I can be on line (tethered or using my own hotspot) and make and receive phone calls simultaneously - the services do not interfere or impact the other. I guess I can text while on a phone call and on the Internet, too. One device, a smart phone, handles all functions. I've also had the GPS on at the same time as using the other functions. There are a few restrictions, but none that have affected my uses and I doubt would hamper yours either.

      I agree on the dual services. Personally, I wouldn't choose Sprint for a second service only because their coverage isn't close to as comprehensive as Verizon and AT&T - but, again, that's based on my needs and travel. I've spoken with folks who are quite content with their Sprint service. As I noted in my article, I am looking to add the least expensive prepaid service using the Verizon network that I can find with the longest expiration duration of the included minutes - strictly as a back-up and for emergency communications when there is no AT&T coverage. I'm sure I'll find some places where neither service works, but I expect Sprint and T-Mobile to be less likely to work in those areas.


  2. Thank you for the straightforward thinking. My husband checked into Millenicom a few weeks ago with an eye toward changing. I guess we know why the modem that we needed was unavailable. We're with Straight Talk on Verizon towers now. Verizon is virtually the only coverage that works where we live. However, things change with moves and so forth. It's important to be on the lookout for the best plan (which led me here). I appreciate your thoughtful and helpful post.

    1. Thanks, Gayle --
      I'm glad you found some of the information useful. Glad you are getting the service you expect and need from Verizon. As I mentioned, there are places where Verizon is dominant and there is no AT&T coverage. Where I am right now, AT&T is dominant with a second smaller company, U.S. Cellular, but no Verizon. I have an old friend who lives in the mountains of NC at 3,500 fee above sea level with views that go forever - he's four minutes off the Blue Ridge Parkway - there is no AT&T and no Verizon coverage there. They are served by a small local cell company. So, until something changes dramatically, like all personal wireless services are provided through geostationary satellites, it will remain this way.


  3. For those, like me, who don't need much in the way of mobile, here are the very low cost phone services we use. For our land line, it's at less than $4/month; can't beat that!

    For mobile, I use PlatinumTel, five cents per minute.

    1. Thanks for the input, Richard. I personally don't need a landline phone, as you know, but I'll look into PlatinumTel. If they are a Verizon reseller,I may be interested in using them for my "back-up/emergency service.