Small Mobile Carriers As An Alternative

As a general rule, the national mobile carriers all leave something to be desired. Even on their best day, it seems like there is one complaint or another, often surrounding what seems like a growing indifference to what the customer needs or wants from their services.

Well for those who believe that choice and competition are dead in this arena, consider this. Much like those old dial-up ISPs that simply refuse to die, there are a number of highly localized mobile carriers still in existence that might very well be able to provide you with the kind of alternative you’ve been looking for.

This article highlights ten of them and what each of the featured have to offer. Another interesting twist is, much like shopping at a farmer’s market, you are choosing to support freedom of choice. Rather than taking the “Walmart” approach to mobile communications, you vote via your pocketbook that you are opting out from the big national carriers and the hassles they pass on to each of us.

While there are big downsides to trying to roam (remember roaming costs?) when using a smaller carrier, there are also some significant benefits. Take my old home state of Alaska for example. As pointed out here, this state is more like another country than a state. But when facing $20 per month for tethering charges vs. the national carrier rate of  $60 or so, it’s becomes clear that sometimes shopping around pays off big time. You will also notice that it’s Android powering the phones offered by these alternative providers. No iPhone here. And depending on where you stand, this might be seen as a good thing.

Considering how little traveling I do myself, I am actually going to be looking at giving a local carrier (small carrier) a chance for my business simply because I’d rather support local jobs and local business, than some faceless national company that generally treats their customers only slightly better than gum on the bottom of a shoe. But that is going to be sometime down the road, and this is not really an option for everyone, either.

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  • Gavin Roskamp

    I am on U.S. Cellular, and I can’t complain about coverage. On my family’s 3G-capable phone, we get perfect 3G coverage — in the basement. And we live in the middle of nowhere.

    And the coverage is that good almost everywhere in the USA! Except the town a few miles south of here. You drive into there and there is NO way to get signal with ANY network. It’s weird.

    Anyway, U.S. Cellular has amazing coverage, decent pricing, and great customer support. Their phone choices might be lacking, but they do have Blackberries, HTC smartphones, random smartphones like the LG Tritan, Mystique, etc., and LOADS of crappular phones that get the job done — most of the time. My crappular phone (The U.S. Cellular version of the LG-Sprint Rumor), the LG UX260, is a pretty good texting phone, provided you have the volume set off of vibrate or silent. When it’s on either of the two, it literally locks up when you try to use the keyboard. It presses keys too many times and doesn’t press others, but it still works — when it decides to charge. The plug in the phone has become SO loose within the past nearly two years that I’ve had it that you have to literally jump through a hoop, do a flip, and stand on your head to get it to start charging. Even then, it likes to disconnect even though it’s plugged in and it will beep to no end that it’s connecting and disconnecting.

    But I guess that’s LG’s failure to make a decent phone.

    So rambling aside, U.S. Cellular *should* be one of the big ones. They have great normal coverage, their 3G coverage is WAY better than Verizon’s already amazing coverage, and the speeds for data are adequate. Adequate enough that they beat our failure of a DSL ISP, Frontier. NEVER get your Internet through Frontier. They’re the only DSL provider in our rural area. It sucks.

    So yeah, PLEASE consider switching to one of these smaller companies. They need you, and you will WANT them after you realize they DO have good coverage, and, sometimes, decent phones! I know for a fact that Symmetry has very very localized coverage in few places around here, but they carry the Nexus One if you’re into Android devices. I haven’t really taken the time to look through their selection since their localized coverage only includes the little cities around here and not so much the rural areas.

    Again. Rambling! BAH!
    Check out all these small companies, especially U.S. Cellular. We vacationed to Orlando, FL last summer and had amazing coverage. We have the nationwide plan even though we rarely travel because it is so cheap!

    So yeah. If you read this far, you’re really freaking devoted to reading the whole comment! Good for you! Have a cookie 😀

  • Jeannine

    I hope Iphone goes to more carriers… I don’t have one, but I might consider it if we had more freedom to choose.

    I use a very cheap landline for home, and have an even cheaper virgin mobile plan for my daughter and I. It’s all we need for now. We both have ipods touches, and wifi is everywhere…(pretty much), so adding a data plan to the phones seems a waste and not needed for now…