Have Phone, Will Travel
Choose a plan first.
Charges for some wireless services vary according to usage (peak/off-peak calling times) while others carry a flat rate. Companies usually charge you extra for using its phones on other companies’ networks, known as “roaming.” Some companies will combine a variety of telecommunications charges on one bill and offer benefits like a personal 800 number for calls to your home. Know your calling habits before deciding what plan is best.
Choose a phone.
Wireless marketers are pushing digital cellular and the variant called PCS (personal communications service) as the must-have technology. For now, the primary choices are digital and analog cellular. Carriers also have introduced a dual-mode unit that combines digital and analog in a single handset. Shop for the lowest price phone with the performance and features you want.
Digital phones are concentrated mainly in big metropolitan markets and along the major highways connecting them. Coverage continues to improve as most carriers focus on expanding digital networks. Approximately 97% of the U.S. population lives in counties that have some digital coverage. However, significant portions of the country’s land area do not have access to digital service. Digital phones offer features like E-mail and Caller ID, reduced call “noise,” and greater security against eavesdropping and theft of services. Their batteries yield longer standby and talk time and digital cellular service costs less. Because digital networks use three different and incompatible standards, some consumers cannot use their phones freely on other carriers’ networks. New technology and national rate plans, however, are allowing greater use of digital phones nationwide.
Analog cellular covers virtually every part of the country where people live. In addition to giving you nationwide service, with coverage in rural and outlying areas, analog handsets are typically inexpensive or free with a calling plan. They are also bulkier. Battery talk time and standby are generally half that of digital phones.
For additional information on wireless phones visit the Federal Communications Commission website at www.fcc.gov/cgb.