Cell Phone Service Providers
What's clipped to your hip is only as good as its network
Cell phones have become indispensable to business and a fashion statement for connected hep cats of all ages. They're also a safety precaution to have in the family car as part of an emergency kit.
Whether you plan to use the cell phone in only special circumstances or as a substitute for a conventional home telephone, you'll need to decide on a cellular phone service that's right for you. With the variety of services and providers available, deciding on one can be a complicated decision. The newest mobile phones have so many functions besides only voice that you'll also need to decide if you need to add data services, an ISP, and an email account with a POP3 inbox.
There are an abundance of service plans offered by the major carriers across North America. Before you consider which plan is right for you you'll need to ask yourself where, when, how and how much you plan on using your cellular service. Most plans are based on the quantity, time and bandwidth you plan to use. Rates are usually a monthly subscription paid either in advance or month by month.
The area in which you wish to connect to your cellular network is critical - go outside your area and you may have no service or get charged extra fees called roaming fees for using outside networks.
Deciding how you'll use your cell phone is the first step in creating your own usage profile. Having a profile can conveniently slot you into a saleable market.
Who's the best service provider?
Cellular services are as personal as the type of handset chosen by the individual. The most reliable way to gauge which services might be best overall is to look at customer satisfaction statistics.
J.D. Power and Associates' 2004 customer satisfaction study found that overall satisfaction with wireless service providers increased 5 percent over 2003 studies. T-Mobile was the winner overall and ranked highest in all six regions of the U.S.
- Northeast: (tie) T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless
- Mid-Atlantic: (tie) T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless
- Southeast: T-Mobile
- Southwest: T-Mobile
- North Central: (tie) Nextel, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless
- West: (tie) T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless
If you plan on keeping the cell phone in the car as a safety device only, ask your cellular carrier about a "security plan." Usually you can get no monthly fees at all, as charges are applied only if and when you use the phone.
Conversely, there are plans for those who will use the phone every day and travel across multiple regions or even globally. You'll need to consider how much travel you intend to do and how much time you'll spend on the network each month.
Digital vs Analogue
Cellular phone networksavailable across North America can be broken down into either digital or analogue. Digital are newer lines, more secure and better sounding, but since they're newer they may not be as well established in your region as analogue and service may be spotty as you travel within a given area. Digital services encompass CDMA, TDMA and GSM/GPRS platforms. The digital standards are critical for data as well as voice service for Smartphone, Blackberry or any cell phone today capable of email or instant messaging. Since there is no one unified platform there can be incompatibility issues associated with using digital services. Make sure you look for a handset that's compatible with the service providers in your area.
Analogue wireless networks are broadcast in radio waves and have the advantage in coverage over digital. Generally the cellular option of choice in the country is the wide coverage of an analogue service. There are combination service plans out there to further complicate thing or add a greater convenience, depending on your perspective. Combinations may allow you to roam out of range of your digital service and then use the analogue service. This combination provides the best overall coverage.