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Cellphones Wireless Networking Hardware

AT&T Wireless Network Is Open Too 122

narramissic writes "Following last week's much-heralded announcement that Verizon Wireless would open up its network, AT&T is making it known that its wireless network is also open to outside devices. 'By its nature, GSM technology is open,' said Michael Coe, an AT&T spokesman. 'Customers could always use GSM phones not sold by AT&T on our network. We can't guarantee the performance of the device, of course.' AT&T will start to publicize that information through salespeople at AT&T stores, Ralph de la Vega, CEO of the company's wireless business, told USA Today."
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AT&T Wireless Network Is Open Too

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  • Re:I suppose... (Score:5, Informative)

    by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@nOSpam.worf.net> on Friday December 07, 2007 @12:54PM (#21613933)

    I assume they mean those with a roaming agreement, right and even then there might only be one roaming slot open for data services in any given area. Plenty of times I've been geocaching with a friend in some Cingular/AT&T area and one of us would have GPRS data on our T-mobile Sidekick and the other would not. I'd have to disable/enable the radio in one unit at a time to gain GPRS.

    So yeah, guaranteeing the performance of the device might entail not having data at all.

    Actually, what happens is carriers "certify" phones to work on their network. YOu may wonder why you can buy Model X of a phone, and find that it doesn't have features while other Model X's do. Some of these features include things like call timers (carriers disable them since they like to charge from the moment you hit Send, rather than the moment the call is actually connected), byte timers (carriers can charge for every byte, including OTA packet headers and such), button color (the Send and End keys *MUST* be of a certain shade of green and red...), and so on.

    But what they mean is that since it isn't tested by them, if you call customer service saying your phone doesn't work, they'll say "too bad, so sad". By its nature, GSM carriers cannot test every phone that appears on its network, and in any complex spec, there's bound to be areas where things don't work. Like taking a tri-band phone into a place only serviced by 850MHz GSM.

    As for roaming - carriers are stupid if they don't allow people to roam. Roaming is a huge profit center for a carrier. (What, you think it really costs them 5 cents to transfer 1000 bytes of data?).
  • by Coopjust ( 872796 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:12PM (#21614173)
    AT&T Customer service will submit an unlock request if you meet two criteria:
    -You have been a customer for 90+ days
    -You have no outstanding issues with your account

    I met both of those criteria, said I was going to Italy, and requested "subsidy unlock" codes for 4 phones. 1 week later, four emails and voice mails, completely free and easy. All the phones worked (I couldn't test one, I didn't have a second 3G SIM to test with).

    It's not that hard, but you have to ask nicely, correctly, and meet the criteria.
  • Re:I call bullsh*t (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:20PM (#21614307)
    The "Old AT&T Wireless" was not a GSM system. When they merged with Cingular they went to an all GSM system (you probably had an TDMA phone). That old phone would be incapable of working on the current network. The old AT&T systems are completely separate - the start a new account on the GSM system. I had the same issue (although, it was explained to me much better).
  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:26PM (#21614387) Journal

    On the CDMA side of things a least, if you have the lock codes, you can activate it anywhere

    Not exactly. In order to provision a CDMA phone the carrier needs to put the ESN [wikipedia.org] of the phone on your account. They can easily refuse to complete an ESN change if the new ESN represents an unapproved phone model.

    With GSM you don't need to involve the carrier to switch phones. All you do is move your SIM card. The only provision on GSM for blocking phones that I'm aware of is the ability to use the IMEI Database [gsmworld.com] to blacklist [wikipedia.org] certain IMEIs [wikipedia.org], typically those belonging to stolen phones. In theory, if your phone is reported stolen it will be added to this blacklist and become a brick unless the IMEI is changed. In practice, not all carriers honor this database.

    I wonder if the carriers will be nice enough to let us bring our own phones (presumably paying full price for them and avoiding any carrier subsidy) and get service under the same terms as anybody else, but without a long term contract with ETF? Somehow I kind of doubt it -- wonder what the justification for contracts will be when people pay full price for the phone?

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:30PM (#21614445) Homepage
    Not sure if that is totally correct? At least with CDMA...

    If I recall correctly, Verizon and Sprint (both CDMA tech) use different megahertz frequencies. So the phone also has to be capable of operating at both frequencies.

    - Saj
  • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7@coTEArnell.edu minus caffeine> on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:34PM (#21614491) Homepage
    "On the CDMA side of things a least, if you have the lock codes, you can activate it anywhere."

    Not true. Even if you have the MSL code to unlock programming, Sprint always had an ESN whitelist. If a phone was not in that list, they would activate it. Sprint also MSL-locked all their phones with random codes (stored in a database so only they could activate them, of course.)

    Verizon, on the other hand, used an MSL lock code of 0000 on ALL phones. Didn't matter since Sprint would refuse to activate them. If you could get the MSL unlock code for a Sprint device and change it to 0000, you could activate Sprint phones on VZW though - for the 6-9 month gap between Sprint releasing the Treo 650 and Verizon releasing it, this is how VZW customers got Treo 650s. (Although I hear VZW may have started ESN whitelisting policies too sometime since 2005.)

    A general thing with CDMA devices is that your account is tied to your phone's ESN. To change devices, you must activate the new device with your provider, deactivating the old one. (There is a standard for SIMs for cdmaOne/CDMA2000 devices, but I have yet to see a phone that used this, at least not in the U.S.)

    You are correct in that all account/billing/identification info for GSM phones is stored in the SIM. It is indeed standardized. If a phone supports the GSM bands used in the U.S. (they differ from Europe, but quad-band GSM phones are the norm and not the exception nowadays, especially for higher-end devices.), you can just pop in a U.S. SIM and go. The one exception is that phones can be locked to only accept SIMs from one carrier, so you need an unlocked phone if you want to use a device not sold by the carrier. Examples of phones not sold by any U.S. GSM provider but usable on the U.S. GSM networks include the HTC Advantage, HTC S710, HTC S730, and some of the GSM HTC Touch variants. (Although older Touches were only triband GSM, same for the 710 I think.)

    Note here that while the phones sold may not be open (may be locked), the network NEVER locks out particular devices (at least I have never heard of such a thing happening.)
  • Re:Except for GPRS (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:51PM (#21614725)
    I call BS. First of all, you don't enable access for the phone. There is no filtering based on your IMEI or any such nonsense. It is enabled in the HLR, and guess what? EVERYONE has access to the wap.cingular APN regardless of their plan unless they specifically ask for it to be disabled. You say you got locked in or 'he' got locked in or something to an agreement. If you got a 2 year agreement on an AT&T Wireless/Cingular Wireless/ATT Mobility phone, you can damned well be sure that the apn/wapgw/homepage/mmsc settings were preconfigured. Data drives revenue (kb usage, ringtones, downloadables etc).

    A simple google search would have told you all you need to know about setting up your phone for data usage. Since you're obviously too lazy, let me tell you how now:

    Configure the data connection:
    APN: wap.cingular
    Pass: CINGULAR1

    Wap Gateway:
    IP Address:
    Home Page Url: http://device.home/ [device.home]
  • Re:Except for GPRS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tintivilus ( 88810 ) <tintivilus@ti n t i v ilus.org> on Friday December 07, 2007 @04:13PM (#21616753)

    Indeed, this works for any phone or even a tethered laptop. The biggest implication of this announcement is that the data plan tiers are likely to fall away -- the only real difference between the $20 "MEdia Max", the $30 "Smartphone Max", the $40 "PDA Personal Max", and the $60 "DataConnect Unlimited" data plans are the device you tell them you have when you activate the service -- featurephone, smartphone, PDA, or data card.

    Any EDGE or HSDPA data device functions quite happily at full rate with the $20 plan. Currently, you can save tons of money by signing up for MEdia Max, taking the free phone, then buying the smartphone or PDA you want independently.

  • Re:I suppose... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 07, 2007 @06:02PM (#21618313)

    Verizon is the carrier with the most restrictions in their devices, which are due to the closed nature of CDMA networks...
    Yeah, the phones that Verizon tries to sell you have the most restrictions, but that has pretty much nothing to do with the network technology. A provider with a GSM network could just as easily sell a locked-down device if they wanted to (e.g. iPhone).
  • Re:I suppose... (Score:3, Informative)

    by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) * <scott@alfter.us> on Friday December 07, 2007 @08:47PM (#21619979) Homepage Journal

    Verizon is the carrier with the most restrictions in their devices, which are due to the closed nature of CDMA networks...

    I don't think you can blame CDMA for Verizon crippling features on its phones. Sprint uses CDMA too, and it doesn't pull any of the crap that we hear about Verizon.

BLISS is ignorance.