Cellular Service Plans
Deciding on the plan that's right for you
If you've come this far you've already plotted out your needs in a cellular network. You should have already decided if you'll use it in rural areas, the city or both. You've already decided if you'll need to take your cell phone abroad. You've wisely decided to start looking around at local cellular network carriers and try to find a service before deciding on a specific phone.
The first thing you'll notice is that there are a couple of different ways to shop for a plan. Try and avoid a third party. Usually you can get a Cellular Service contract directly from the provider instead of using a store or third party website. If the store that is selling you a cell phone and service contract isn't owned by the cellular provider, be extra suspicious and shop around to compare. Some third party cell phone resellers have hidden charges for their services such as exorbitant fees for early cancellation of service - on top of the cellular provider's fee.
When looking at service plans you'll be bombarded with options for various numbers of minutes. Exceed your allotted number of minutes and you could pay 10 - 50 cents per minute for each extra minute you use the network. It's not always easy to tell how many minutes you'll use the cell phone. A trial period should help narrow down your needs. Find out where unused minutes go as some plans will let them roll over to the next month.
National and Regional Calling Plans
Both of these types of plans refer to roaming fees. These are the fees you must pay when using your cell phone outside your subscription area. You should decide whether your cell phone service plan needs to be national and shop accordingly. A national plan will let you use the phone all over the country without extra roaming fees. Regional plans might be cheaper, but they will cost you if you're using your cell phone outside the network.
Consider the extras like email and text messaging for basic phones but if you're using one of the newer high end phones you'll want a high speed mobile network. 3G refers to different types of high speed mobile networks that will save you on minutes when downloading media to your phone or browsing the web. Verizon uses an advanced CDMA network called EV-DO (Evolution Data Only) and Cingular uses an extra speedy type of GSM called EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution).
When subscribed to a 3G network, chances are you'll have access to a lot of cool features like: online music stores, video content which could include episodes of your favorite TV show, games and video messaging from your cell phone. These are some of the new features becoming available with high speed mobile networks. If these are features you're interested in, remember the phones that competently playback video are few at this time. Most of the video phones today are choppy, but more powerful video phones are on the horizon.
Europe has had many very high end phones for a long time. Look around online for "unlocked" European phones that are compatible with your local networks. Unlocked means the phone doesn't have a chip installed to prevent it from being used by other cellular network providers. You can assume that any phone you buy from a cellular service will be locked into that provider. So, switch providers and you'll end up having to switch phones too. You can order unlocked phones over the internet. Just remember, when shopping for exotic Euro-phones you'll need compatibility with specific frequencies to ensure your phone will work.
Let's take a closer look at the Cell Phone Service Providers themselves and how they stack up.