Cingular dropping the bar. How new technology can take your signal away.

Cingular – best known for their “Raising the bar” motto – advised me I had to upgrade my trusted Panasonic cellphone to something newer or else find myself unable to make calls in another 2 or 3 months. Part of the ATT – Cingular merger and switching everybody to better Cingular technology. The closest Cingular store is 45 min out of my way, but, considering I would get the phone
free after rebate when I loaded it with more minutes, so it wasn’t all that
bad.The sales representative was very nice, in fact one of the nicer ones I’ve dealt with, and pointed out that coverage in my area is spotty. Basically along the highway etc. Which is true. Maine is far from ideal to get a cell connection given its forested diverse terrain with low population density.
But, I wanted to keep our number active and this is a backup / emergency phone with a prepaid plan, so, I didn’t worry. A half hour later I walked out with the new phone.

My happiness was shortlived. Along the road I could see the signal reception wasn’t as I expected. Back home I’m lucky to get a 1-2 bar signal outside, where the old phone gets 3-4. You literally hold a phone in each hand and the old one will get a usable signal and the new one doesn’t. This could be a matter of life or death at some point and really worried me, so, I called to Cingular. Past customer service level 1 (pffff) I got to someone understanding the situation and with computer access to the right data. I was
advised that I really should get good coverage in my area and should switch to a different phone within 30 days at the point of sale. Nothing else they could do. Sigh.

I called the guys at the ‘local’ Cingular outlet. One of his colleagues explained what the friendly guy last night failed to explain: this switch locked me into Cingular towers ONLY! And that’s why my left hand gets 3-4 bars (connecting via US Cellular/Verizon/Unicell/… tower) and my right hand gets 0-1-2 because Cingular is on the other side of town, over the hill near the highway / shopping center. And, most likely getting a different phone will not help, but I’m welcome to try it.

With this ‘mandatory Cingular upgrade’ I lost connectivity with every other company’s tower in Maine. Merry Christmas to you too, Cingular.

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