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South Dakota Public Utilities Commission
Frequently Asked Questions about Alltel and AT&T
Dec. 6, 2011
Having problems with the Alltel/AT&T Transition?
- Why isn't my coverage the same?
Prior to the transition Alltel customers were able to roam using Verizon towers. This is no longer possible after your AT&T activation date. AT&T customers will no longer have coverage in the areas where Alltel customers used to roam on Verizon towers.
- Why can't the PUC require AT&T to build more towers?
The Federal Communications Commission is the agency in charge of allocating spectrum for use by wireless companies. In addition, states are subject to certain restrictions contained in federal law regarding the regulation of wireless carriers. The PUC does not have any specific state authority that would allow the PUC to require AT&T to build more towers.
- I received a text message and/or voice mail that stated I may no longer be covered by AT&T after the transition. What does this mean?
AT&T sent notifications to Alltel customers who live in areas that had no wireless service or who were only covered by Verizon towers informing these customers they may have no service after the transition. If you received such a notification from AT&T, we suggest you test the AT&T network for less than 30 days, and if you are not satisfied and wish to try another carrier, make sure to do so within 30 days of your AT&T activation date. If you wish to change carriers after 30 days from AT&T activation date, you will be charged an early termination fee (ETF), which may be substantial.
- What should I do if I have technical problems, such as issues with placing calls, dropped calls, or emergency calling?
Contact AT&T customer support at 1-800-331-0500 to inform them of the problem and seek assistance.
If technical issues result in your desire to change wireless carriers, you must do so within 30 days of your AT&T activation date in order to avoid Early Termination Fees (ETFs).
- My Alltel invoice shows I'm being charged an Early Termination Fee. What's up with that?!
Immediately after the transition, some AT&T customers may see an Early Termination Fee (ETF) on their bills. As part of the switch, the Alltel billing system has to charge all accounts with an ETF. AT&T will promptly place an ETF credit on each customer account, but for a small number of customers, the fee and credit will show up on separate bills. If you see an ETF on your bill, contact AT&T to ensure a credit will be applied soon.
- What should I do if I want to change wireless carriers?
To avoid paying an early termination fee (ETF), make your decision and contact AT&T and your newly-chosen wireless carrier as soon as possible within 30 days of your AT&T activation date. After arranging to port your number to your new carrier from AT&T, return all of your AT&T equipment to an authorized AT&T retail location. Be sure to get a receipt to prove you returned the equipment. Keep any and all future communication from AT&T and your new carrier to refer to if necessary.
- Report AT&T coverage problems
AT&T's Mark the Spot app allows you to report the location of dropped calls, blocked calls, poor voice quality, no wireless coverage or problems with data transmission directly to AT&T on your smartphone. Pinpointing coverage issues alerts them to the lack of information provided by their metrics that track this data. After using the app, AT&T sends a text message to acknowledge your report has been received. The data provided through the app becomes part of a larger database that helps them identify and optimize network performance and prioritize improvements. BlackBerry, Android and iPhone device users can download and access the Mark the Spot application for free or it can be found at BlackBerry App World, Google Android Market or Apple iTunes AppStore.
- Who approved the sale?
The U.S. Department of Justice approved of the multi-state acquisition during April 2010. The FCC approved the transaction on June 22, 2010. AT&T began a transition to provide service in South Dakota during the second quarter of 2011.
- What happened? When and how did the sale of Alltel take place?
Verizon purchased Alltel and sold the South Dakota portion to AT&T.
Verizon Wireless announced its plan to purchase Alltel in June of 2008. Due to federal laws promoting competition in wireless markets, Verizon Wireless was required to sell certain properties as a condition of its purchase. Because of this, Verizon Wireless sought to sell all Alltel assets the company held in the entire state of South Dakota. On May 8, 2009, AT&T announced an agreement to purchase various Verizon Wireless assets across 18 states, including the Alltel assets in South Dakota. Since the FCC approved the sale on June 22, 2010, Alltel customers in South Dakota will now become AT&T customers. Verizon customers will remain Verizon customers and are unaffected by either of these transactions.
- Do Alltel and AT&T use different technologies to provide service?
Alltel typically used CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technology. AT&T uses GSM/UMTS 3G technology (Global System for Mobile communication/Universal Mobile Telecommunications System). AT&T installed its equipment in the areas it acquired.
- Can I pick a new cell phone provider?
You will have a 30-day trial period during which you may opt out of your contract with no early termination fee.
All Alltel customers will have 30 days from their AT&T activation date to opt out of AT&T service – even if you recently renewed your Alltel contract. If a customer waits more than 30 days, he or she will be subject to an Early Termination Fee (ETF) if they wish to cancel their contract.
- Will I need a different phone?
Yes. Alltel customers were sent information in the mail from AT&T regarding phone choices.
Former Alltel customers will be able to use their existing handset until AT&T completes the network conversion, which began in mid-April 2011. These customers may sign up for any AT&T special promotions in effect during that time. Once the network conversion is complete, in late May 2011, former Alltel customers will need to change to a device that is compatible with the new AT&T network.
AT&T is providing free comparable wireless devices to Alltel Wireless subscribers in South Dakota when the customer is migrated to AT&T's GSM network.
- Will the costs of my service change?
AT&T has said the majority of customers in South Dakota who choose free comparable devices will be able to keep their existing rate plan and none of these customers will be required to assume an additional contract term.
However, customers may convert to an AT&T rate plan and device as soon as AT&T's 3G network is available in their area. Alltel customers are advised to check the terms of their current contract. Switching to AT&T before the corporate transaction is complete may result in early termination fees.
- Will my coverage be affected?
AT&T is purchasing not only the Alltel subscribers, but also the Alltel network in South Dakota. The Alltel wireless towers that served you before the transition are likely to serve you after the transition. AT&T customers will no longer be able to roam using Verizon towers, as they did as Alltel customers. AT&T representatives have stated their 3G network will provide similar if not better coverage.
- Will I need to change my cell number?
Former Alltel customers will not need to change their telephone number due to the transaction.
- Can I get an iPhone?
Yes. Verizon and AT&T both currently offer the iPhone in South Dakota. You may be required to pay for the upgrade and sign a contract with AT&T for an iPhone.
- What can I do to prepare for the transition?
Customers should carefully read all instructions provided by AT&T throughout the transition. Also, become familiar with the service options and features being offered by AT&T. AT&T has provided specific instructions on their website
- Once my phone has arrived, what do I do?
Carefully read all instructions and wait for AT&T to provide additional details about activating the phone.
AT&T is including a set of instructions with your new phone. Follow those instructions carefully. If you wish, you may take the phone to an AT&T or Alltel customer service store and they can transfer your contacts between phones. This may also be done after the transition. Prior to the transition date, AT&T will inform customers by text and voice messages of when to turn on and program the new phones.
- What about business accounts?
All business accounts are being handled by your AT&T assigned business account manager.
Business accounts should be transitioned according to the same timeline as residential accounts (beginning mid-April, ending in late May), but will be handled through an account manager. Contact your business account manager if you have questions regarding your transition.
- What is the Public Utilities Commission's role in this transaction?
The PUC's role is to assist South Dakota cell phone users during this transition.
The PUC is attempting to assist customers by providing answers to frequently-asked questions regarding the transaction and its potential impact on their service. The PUC filed comments with the FCC during its review of the Alltel-Verizon transaction and will continue to communicate with AT&T throughout the process.
For additional information, consult these websites: