Tri-band phones are not good enough anymore

by Volker Weber

Ed Brill was recently offered a T226 phone as a replacement for his T68i. Ed immediately noticed that the new phone was less capable than his own one: No BT and only 850/1900 instead of 900/1800/1900 bands. What can be easily overlooked is the fact that the new phones supports the 850 band which the old one does not. It now turns out that this is the reason, AT&T customers are offered a replacement for their existing phones. Engadget explains that GSM providers in the US start using this band. Customers who have phones without this capability will suffer from the poor coverage that Ed had noticed during Lotusphere.

While AT&T customers are up in arms because they are being offered replacements well below the standards of their current phones this has also consequences for international traveller. If you are using a standard tri-band phone you are also missing half of the US network. While the world is using 900 and 1800 MHz GSM networks the US carriers are now expanding from one incompatible band (1900) to two (850 and 1900). Your tri-band phone is no longer good enough. You now need a quad-band phone.

Well done. Sheesh.


I deliberately didn't call AT&T this weekend, figuring that the only people I'd reach at their customer service on a weekend would be relatively useless.

I was hoping that there'd be some flexibility demonstrated -- like, instead of having to sign a contract, there'd just be a straight offer for a better phone -- but that article doesn't exactly get my hopes up.

Peter found out that you can keep the T68, but the problem is, now I have to keep track of two phones -- one domestic, and one international. Precisely why I switched to this AT&T phone in the first place was to AVOID two phones. You might think that just keeping the T68i and ignoring the "upgrade" would be an option, but I assume, from reading the article you linked to, that 1900 MHz will eventually be shut off or further diminished. Sigh.

More tomorrow...

Ed Brill, 2004-03-08

If you are looking for a quad band phone take a look at the Treo 600 it has all bands you may need and is a Palm OS PDA as well:

or the german version:

I have mine for about 3 month now and it is the best PDA / Phone I ever had.


Detlev Buschkamp, 2004-03-08

While this is depressing, I don't think it's technology that's the biggest barrier to use of GSM (and GPRS) internationally. I have been using separate US and non-US phones for quite some time because the roaming charges for GSM in the US were entirely outrageous. For one month of roaming in the US, my UK provider charged me over $2000 - I was able to buy a great US phone with a year of unlimited calling and still have plenty of change from $2000. Sun provides me with an AcessLine number so the multiple numbers don't become a problem.

Simon Phipps, 2004-03-08

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