This document is meant only as a general guideline for choosing a cell-phone provider and a cellular phone. Since this is a rapidly-evolving area, this info may not be up-to-date.
Recently, many affordable nation-wide no-roaming fee/no-toll plans have become available. Some of them are as inexpensive as $25/month which includes 75 minutes of use per month with no roaming and no long distance charges. With prices like this, cell phones are now within economic reach of most of us.
When choosing a cell phone provider, make absolutely certain that you will NOT incur any roaming or long distance charges ANYWHERE in the US on ANY SYSTEM. The last time I looked, some providers - such as US Sprint - had free long distance and no roaming fees ONLY WHEN ON THEIR SYSTEM. Avoid these wireless providers!
Some of the major players are ATT, Verizon and Cellular One. Almost all providers will require that you "live" or have a billing address in their local coverage area. This is not a problem if your mailing address is within their coverage area of if you have a relative's address that you can use. You will probably want to select a provider that has a number that will be a local number to call for you relatives so they can call you toll free. Note that you can purchase your cellular service and phone with a Portland phone number even though you are physically in Miami -- assuming that your chosen cellular provider operates in both Portland and Miami.
After you choose your wireless provider, now you must choose your phone. If you want to use your cell phone to connect to internet and/or send e-mail, be sure that any necessary cables and modems for your phone are readily available. I have several friends that were led astray by an over-eager, non-informed salesperson about what was required to connect a particular cell phone to a computer. I highly recommend that you call one of the following places to determine what you need BEFORE you decide on a phone:
Note - once you have determined exactly what you need, you can usually find some good buys by using one of the free internet shopping comparison service.
Most cellular phones require a special cellular-capable modem, although some newer models do not.
In the (hopefully near) future, we will have much faster, affordable mobile internet access via satellite that doesn't require a land line for the uplink and CDPD.
There are several things to be aware of as you use your cell phone:
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