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Assuming the AT&T takeover of T-Mobile's customers and assets will go through ("takeover of T-Mobile"  or "merger" is dubious, they've pretty much already announced they'll be shutting it down) I'll be forced to switch carrier. AT&T has announced they'll be ending 3G/4G for T-Mobile handsets, and obviously the T-Mobile plans will be grandfathered, becoming awkward to make changes to as time goes on.

So, who will I switch to?
  • AT&T is the most obvious but they're pretty much out of the question. They've already signaled they hate me as a T-Mobile customer, and frankly the feeling now is mutual. Have you looked at their Android phone selection? Look harder: they cripple them! They must be the only operator around that locks Android phones to apps bought from the Android market. Unbelievable. Even Verizon isn't as controlfreakish.
  • Which brings us to Verizon. "It's the network", say Verizon fans. "Sorry?" says me, "all I heard was "Vtzzanhhtwk". What's the point of getting reception everywhere if nobody understands what you're saying? Now, in fairness, Verizon has the following going for it. (1) It's rolling out LTE, which means 4G users should at least get GSM/UMTS voice quality, but more importantly means their network will be at least as open as AT&T's (AT&T couldn't make their's more closed except, maybe, by switching to cdma2000/cdmaOne), and (2) they've at least accepted that Android phones shouldn't be completely locked down. Downside? Verizon has a history of control freakery, and this openness thing is new to them. Plus LTE is still being rolled out.
  • Sprint PCS? Out of the question. They run three separate networks, an old-school crappy locked down (more than Verizon's) cdmaOne/cdma2000 network, a weird-ass GSM-derived thing called iDEN - infamous for poor call quality and loud ass phones, and a WiMAX network everyone is convinced they're going to shut down within the year. While iDEN theoretically allows you to choose your own, non Sprint, equipment, in practice Motorola only makes devices for Sprint anyway. The other two networks are locked down, you can't even buy a phone unlocked and ask Sprint to activate it. You can't even if it was built for Sprint's network, but was bought from, say, Virgin Mobile (Virgin Mobile uses Sprint's network.) On the other hand, a lot can happen in twelve months - like Sprint could switch to LTE. If they do, and they eschew stupid "Only Sprint branded handset" rules for it, I'll certainly consider them.
  • MetroPCS? Poor network, but they are at least rolling out LTE. I don't have any experience of them, I don't know anyone else who does either. They're cheap though. They have an Android phone out, which is LTE compatible, but there's no version of CyanogenMod that runs on it - yet.
There are also the MVNOs, like Virgin, whose phones run on the above networks, but none of them thus far support LTE, and the GSM-based ones are generally locked down.

Hopefully things will improve in the next year, or else the FCC and DoJ will either reject the merger, or approve it only with conditions that prove to be extremely good to the industry. On the other hand, TmoNews was suggesting the other day that it might be approved if AT&T promises to give a few million of T-Mobile's customers to Sprint. I can't think of anything worse...


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