BREAKING: Cingular Shuts Off TDMA Service

Starting today, Cingular is shutting off TDMA cellphone service in Toledo.

TDMA is an older system of carrying cellphone signals. Most countries, except the US, use GSM. TDMA phones will not work the new GSM network Cingular is pushing.

If you live in Toledo and your service goes off today, you can call customer service and they will turn it back on temporarily.

After November 13th, however, Cingular will shut off TDMA phone service for Toledo completely.

Undoubtedly, Toledo’s shutoff will prove a testing ground for other cities.

How current customers can protect themselves, or use this to Cancel Cingular, inside…

From our tipster:

    “Customers in this situation, can get a new GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) phone, or port their phone number to another carrier if they so wish, but regardless they absolutely will not be able to have TDMA service in the city of Toledo after the 13th.

    Those getting a new GSM phone will be offered good deals on low end phones if they wish to extend their contract and slight deals on high end phones for a contract extension. Customers migrating to GSM phones will be forced to use a current Cingular plan. The chances of these plans being anywhere near as good as the old TDMA plans is pretty much nill.

    The inference I made was that they would let you cancel under these circumstances without an early termination fee, however, I have to get that confirmed. Based on my knowledge of the terms and conditions, I am very confident this is the case. Cannot think of any of the many sleazy terms that would let them charge you for this one. However, it is a very sleazy contract, so do get the status of the early termination fee confirmed.

    Please remember, the only way to take your phone number with you is to start service with another carrier before canceling with Cingular.

    I highly recommend that folks in this situation call Cingular customer care, ask for the phone to be turned back on and ask what they would be charged if they canceled service right away. Advise you will not be canceling today, but you want it notated on your account what you were told about the cost of canceling today. Have the rep read the note back to you. Then, if you so wish knowing everything, call another carrier, start service and ask them to port your number to their service. Whichever company you choose will take care of porting your number from Cingular and canceling your old service for you.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. TheUpMyAssPlayers says:

    If the new cell company you sign up with cancels the service I would Still call to confirm that you have not been slammed with the termination fee. My bet is a service rep from Cingular will try to charge you that fee if you are not on the phone telling them there is a note in your account. They can always charge you and then fight you on it when you get the bill. Always confirm changes yourself I say, the old cover yer arse method.

  2. acambras says:

    I don’t want to sound like an idiot, but what is TDMA?

  3. Citron says:

    Essentially, TDMA (Time division multiple access) is an older method of how cell phones broadcast to each other and their towers. Here’s a Wikipedia article about it, but it’s pretty jargon-packed.

  4. AndyfromIL says:

    US Cellulars TDMA sucked, when they switched to CMDA, everything worked. This was about 5 years ago in IL.

    You’ll never regret getting rid of a TDMA phone, esp in rural areas, they suck.

  5. Vinny says:

    Customers migrating to GSM phones will be forced to use a current Cingular plan. The chances of these plans being anywhere near as good as the old TDMA plans is pretty much nill.

    Your tipster is either wrong or ignorant.

    You haven’t been able to sign up for new TDMA service for at least 2 years (and in some markets longer). Since that’s the case, any promos attached to the account when a person signed up are gone (unless they worked some voodoo with customer service). In other words, unless they have the old 30 minute $19.99 plan, every single plan on the GSM network is better. If you don’t like the minimum $39.99 plan, go with the Go Phone for $29.99 and get yourself 200 minutes ($10 more than Cingular was charging for 30 minutes on TDMA)

    Secondly, there is no automatic waiving of cancellation fees for cancelling due to the network switch. Just ask anyone in New York who went through it. You’ll have to fight, kick, scream, and threaten.

  6. Law-Vol says:

    Wait….people in this century are using TDMA phones?(!) I thought rotary-dial was a thing of that past already!


  7. SexCpotatoes says:

    Hey, now, rotary-dial cell phones are the future, and don’t you forget it!

  8. mredraider says:

    Take a look at the contract, there is has been a provision in them for years that covers this instance… roughly, you signed your ability to arguy away when you got your ghetto TDMA phone.
    Congratulations on being Big Corps newest B***h.

  9. Ran Kailie says:

    Yeah we went through this a few years ago with ATTWS in the DC metro area. They wouldn’t cancel plans without a fee but they offered GAIT (?) phones for a year or more before for people to start moving over to GSM from TDMA. Those phones worked on both networks, then they provided almost free low end phones when the switch was made.

    But getting a cancellation was next to impossible. And the plans they offered for the GSM were lucratively better then the old TDMA plans. I can’t imagine Cingular being any different. Besides I remember those old TDMA plans like Vinny said, they sucked. I was more then happy to take a GSM plan. And I don’t know any carrier thats had those for the past three years or so.

  10. John Stracke says:

    As I understand it, this is just the last step. Around here, at least, when AT&T Wireless rolled out their GSM network, our TDMA phones immediately started getting poorer coverage. I’m pretty sure they reallocated bandwidth from TDMA to GSM (GSM phones in the US can run on the same frequencies used by TDMA).

  11. John Stracke says:

    Wikipedia’s article on D-AMPS (another name for TDMA) may be more useful:

  12. eliasg says:

    People are still hanging on to their TDMA handsets…why? Switch to GSM already!

    If only we had our cellular networks in order like the rest of the world, and not this mashup of GSM vs. CDMA.

  13. Tristan Smith says:

    I currently have cingular (before that it was att wireless) as my phone provider and I agree. Cingular holds on to contracts with an iron grip. when att wireless and cingular merged attwireless’ service began to degrade. When you called about it they called it an upgrade. when i finally got so fed up with it that i just wanted to switch to cingular, they told me that they would have to charge me an early termination fee! just to get a cingular sim card.

  14. kerry says:

    Vinny –
    Not entirely true. My mom had a TDMA ATT Mobile (formerly CellularOne, currently Cingular) phone and account up until about a week ago. She opened the account probably 12 years ago, and had a pay-per-minute plan with prices around 20 cents per minute. She uses her phone less than 100 minutes a month. When she finally gave in and went to Cingular to get a new phone they forced her into the $40/month plan, which is their cheapest offering. They do not do pay-per-minute, they will not try to replicate her old plan. She pays double what she used to for minutes she doesn’t want or need.

  15. kerry says:

    Oh, one more thing — TDMA service is still better in some areas than GSM. Part of the reason my mom held onto her phone for as long as she did was to get service in parts of northern Wisconsin where my dad’s GSM phone gets nothing.

  16. drewheyman says:

    that’s because you can’t add GSM/UMTS spectrum without turning down TDMA. most of the spectrum in the US is owned by the military, and each carrier gets a limited band. sorry about your mom, but this is good for everyone else.

  17. GoPadge says:

    Kerry wrote:
    They do not do pay-per-minute, they will not try to replicate her old plan. She pays double what she used to for minutes she doesn’t want or need.

    Cingular’s Pay As You Go Unlimited Mobile to Mobile is a $0.10 per minute plan. It’s more likely that her “agent” either didn’t know about, didn’t get as big a commission, or she may have had to pay a termination fee to switch to the no contract plan.

  18. goaway147 says:


    >> …you can’t add GSM/UMTS spectrum without turning down TDMA.

    Uh, unless you’re a company that actually wants to invest in the future of your business and add more capacity via new or expanded cell sites. Oh wait, we’re talking about Cingular here.


  19. FLConsumer says:

    The US always seems to insist upon having its own standards, the world be damned. Cellular (mobile) phones, digital radio, HDTV, electricity, and can’t forget the “English” units of measure which the Brits don’t even use anymore. I guess it originated with Webster and his bastardization of the language.

  20. jeblis says:

    Would anyone who has a TDMA phone still be under contract? I don’t think they’ve sold TDMA phones for 2+ years.

  21. Christopher says:

    As a Cingular sales person in Toledo, OH, I’m wondering if I should dread going to work today or not.

    As far as our Cingular rep has informed us, every TDMA user should be out of contract, but if someone does happen to still be in contract,their ETF will be waived, as long as the migrate to a GSM or UMTS plan.

    This still isn’t the optimal situation, in my opinion, because if someone wanted to get rid of Cingular, yet was still in a TDMA contract, they would need to wait out their contract with NO service, and then cancel when it’s over to avoid the ETF.

  22. kerry says:

    Pay-as-you-go isn’t really an attractive option for someone who wants a non-crap phone (most companies don’t offer pay-as-you-go on all their phones, just a select few clunkers) and has become accustomed to paying a monthly bill for service, not checking minutes all the time to figure out when they have to top up and/or worrying about minutes expiring. I’m quite sure she wasn’t under contract anymore, so early termination fees would not have been an issue. I left Cingular because they dropped that $30/month plan, I think they’re nuts for essentially requiring all customers to pay at least $40 a month, regardless of their needs.

  23. non-meat-stick says:

    yup, every farmer and old person still pissed that they had to let go of their bag phones will be griping about this. But those people don’t understand technology, let alone technology advancement. And Cingualr doens’t really care about those customers anyway (obviously). They are not the market that will use data, which is what they want to push. But they will sign 2 year contracts to get an 80$ phone for free and then bitch when it doesn’t work.

  24. Ran Kailie says:


    I’ve used the pay as you go phones and my mom used then as well for awhile and I loved the candybar they had. And if your mother is using the phone less then 100 minutes a month who cares what bells and whistles it has as long as it works?

    I know my mother didn’t care, she was happy to have a phone to call me with.

  25. brokenboy says:

    I’d just like to point out that technically, GSM is TDMA. They both use transmission timeslots to get the data across instead of coding it and letting everyone transmit at once (CDMA).

    Not that this matters to anyone with a “TDMA” phone.

    –Ex ATTWS network enginner

  26. Beckie says:

    Cingular sucks. Stay as far away from them as you can. Cingular does NOT care about its customers only about the bottom line, THEIRS.
    I had their wireless plan, which was first SunCom, then AT&T, then Cingular. After many of years of service they cancelled my contract for hitting off of other carriers towers over 50% of the time. They happened to pick up the worst two months possible to compare my usage to. But you thing they bothered to look at my service as whole? NO.

  27. i-love-tdma says:

    Vinny’s comment above is incorrect. I have the best plan possible on my AT&T TDMA plan: 1050 minutes (350 minutes plus 450 bonus plus 250 bonus from two renewals, non-expiring), plus evenings starting at 7pm free and weekend free and in-network calls and I can’t remember what else… all for $39.99 a month. Prior to the merger, AT&T was giving away lots to keep their numbers up.

    Also, I still get great TDMA coverage on the west coast.

    So, there are probably lots of people like me that will be sad to let go of their TDMA contract, even if I won’t be sad to let go of AT&T/Cingular.