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Cell Phone Plans. 2008 CBCJ Class Item By: Kasey Bozeman. Importance of Cell Phones. Cellular phones have become a part of life. Professionals use them for communicating for work, parents use them to keep in touch with their children, and young adults use them to talk to friends and family.

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Cell Phone Plans

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Cell phone plans l.jpg

Cell Phone Plans

2008 CBCJ Class Item

By: Kasey Bozeman


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Importance of Cell Phones

  • Cellular phones have become a part of life.

  • Professionals use them for communicating for work, parents use them to keep in touch with their children, and young adults use them to talk to friends and family.

  • They can also be used in emergency situations.

  • Cell phones are also convenient.


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What Do They Do?

  • Cell phones give us many functions and new, improved functions are being added daily.

  • Depending on your cellular phone model, you can:

    • communicate with others

    • store contact information

    • make task or to-do lists

    • keep track of appointments, set reminders, create a calendar, and set an alarm clock

    • use the built-in calculator for simple math and for tipping

    • send or receive e-mail

    • get information (news, entertainment, stock quotes) from the Internet

    • GPS locator


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Service Provider

  • First, you must decide on a cellular service provider and a service plan that will meet your needs.

  • Service plans provide you with minutes for talking time. Other features include caller ID, call forwarding, voice mail, text messaging, and more.

  • Some of the most popular cellular service providers are

    • ATT (formerly Cingular Wireless)

    • Sprint PCS

    • T-Mobile

    • Verizon Wireless

    • Nextel

    • Alltel


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Deciding on a Plan

  • First, consider what your phone needs are.

  • Estimate how often you will be using your cellular phone.

  • Think about the where you will be using your cellular phone … do you travel much? How much long distance calling will you need? If you are a high school student and will graduate soon, you may want to consider where you might go to college.

  • Consider a service plan that will offer free long distance and roaming, even if you stay in the same state.

  • How much you really want to spend monthly on a cellular phone?


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Roaming & Long Distance

  • It’s popular for companies to not charge for long distance and roaming. Nevertheless, you still need to pay attention to the individual plans.

  • If you plan to use the phone when you are traveling around the country, you might want to get a plan that allows you to make free long distance phone calls from anywhere in the country. Some cellular service providers have labeled this service as a "nationwide" plan.

  • Roaming is consists of calling outside your home calling area. Cell phone companies trick you by giving you free long distance and charge you for roaming. Most of the national plans do not charge for roaming, but some of the regional and local plans have roaming charges.


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Size of Service Area

  • It’s really important to look at the size of the service area.

  • The service area is the area that is covered by your plan without causing you to roam in another carrier's territory.

  • Look for the plan with the largest area, yet still meet your needs and budget.

  • Ask if local calls are limited to the metropolitan area.

  • Some plans charge you for calls made to and from suburban areas.

  • The most important step in deciding if you need to worry about long distance and roaming charges is to first assess your needs.


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Billing Process

  • "When you sign up for a cellular service, you enter something of a time warp. That's because no matter which provider's plan you choose, a 'minute' of cellular calling time can be as short as a few seconds, and your monthly allotment of free minutes can quickly disappear into a costly black hole." (Consumerreports.org, April 19, 2001)

  • The billing process can be very confusing.

  • “The balance forward” is a summary of current charges, by type of charge and may include monthly service charges, air time charges, long distance charges, roaming charges, miscellaneous charges and credits, and taxes."

  • One of the easiest ways to avoid all of the billing confusion is to use a prepaid cellular plan. You may have to pay more for the minutes, but there is no monthly bill.

  • When selecting a service plan, check how the plan will bill the minutes used. There are plans that bill by rounding up to the next minute, some bill in fifteen-second increments and some bill by the second. There are also plans that do not charge for the first minute of incoming calls. This can be a way to protect you from losing air time to wrong numbers.


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Peak and Off-Peak Minutes

  • A plan may boast of having huge amounts of minutes, but you have to check if they are peak or off peak minutes.

  • Some plans have anytime minutes, which allow you to make calls any time during the day.

  • Peak minutes are normally between the hours of 7:00 AM to 9:59 PM on Monday through Friday. The times of peak hours vary from plan to plan.

  • Off peak is normally from 10:00 PM to 6:59 AM Monday through Friday.

  • Some plans only allow you a certain number of minutes for peak sessions and off-peak sessions.

  • Many plans offer free night and weekend minutes. These are helpful for families with teenagers.


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Service

  • Another part of the billing process is the service.

  • Some service plans give call waiting, voice mail, 3-way calling and caller ID for free. Others do not.

  • It is important to assess all your needs before you enter into a cellular service contract. If you do not, you may be stuck with a plan that does not meet your needs and there are normally high fees associated with canceling a contract.


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Pre-Paid Plans

  • A prepaid plan is the most basic service offered.

  • The consumer purchases calling minutes for a certain amount of time.

  • These minutes can be renewed after the time is up for those minutes.

  • Consumers who usually use this plan are consumers who use their cell phone only for emergencies or very little.

  • Using this plan can also allow you to test a service before committing to the cellular phone through a contract.


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Basic Cell Phone Features

  • Call forwarding is a network feature that lets you forward incoming calls to another phone number

  • Call waiting is a feature that uses a tone to indicate that another call is coming in; the second call can be answered without disruption of the first.

  • Caller ID is a call-screening device on some phones that allows the customer to see the name and number of the incoming call.

  • Basic 911 allows the customer to dial a toll-free number in case of emergency.

  • Voice mail is the feature that connects incoming calls to an automatic system to answer phone calls and record messages.


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Enhanced Cell Phone Features

  • Text messaging is a feature that allows for an e-mail type message to appear on the screen of your phone without distracting anyone else.

  • Roadside assistance allows the customer to call, usually with a certain number, for help if they were to break down or need some other type of assistance.

  • Three-way calling allows the customer to talk simultaneously with two people at the same time on the same fine.

  • Directory assistance allows the customer to request phone numbers with the assistance of an operator. You can always call 1-800-FREE-411 without a charge. However, it will use your minutes.

  • Paging services is a feature that allows the customer to receive pages as well as incoming phone calls.

  • Wireless-to-wireless plans is a feature that allows for you to talk at no charge or use of your monthly minutes to someone that is a customer of the same cellular company as your are.


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More on Features

  • Some features have a per-month or per-use fee may be charged for these services. For instance, you may be charged $0.20 per text message or you can buy 250 for $2.95 a month. You can also purchase the unlimited plan for $5.95 per month.

  • Using some of these extra features can consume your minutes at “double time”.It my not be worth the extra cost to have some of these services. An example of this is when someone leaves you a voice mail, it takes away from your monthly allotment of minutes and it takes away again when you check the voice mail.

  • You have to consider your options carefully and decide where and how you want to spend your money in a service plan.


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Contracts

  • In the past, contracts were inevitable for all who sought cell phone service plans. This is not the case anymore.

  • Most carriers have adopted the no-contract necessary attitude. In such cases, the customer would decide month to month whether to stay with a particular cell phone service. Many customers enjoy that freedom of control.

  • Many carriers offer special deals to customers who sign a contract. Often they will receive a credit on their bill or extra minutes for signing a one to two year contract. They also reward those signing contracts with lower monthly rates, cheaper cell phone prices and lower activation fees. The only drawback to signing is that pricing and plans change so quickly that you are stuck in that contract.

  • However, if a contract is signed and the customer decides to change carriers before the contract is completed, there can be huge cancellation fees. Some cancellation fees can be as great as two hundred dollars.

  • When deciding to sign a contract with a carrier, be sure to took at the cancellation fee that would be charged to avoid losing money. One could also look for the shortest contract available or, to be safe, stick to the month-to-month plan, but do not be surprised by higher monthly charges.


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Things to Consider

  • Contact

  • Usage Time & Minutes

  • Long Distance Charges

  • Roaming Charges

  • Basic Features

  • Additional Features

  • Acquisition of Phone

  • Billing Features


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Cell Phone Glossary

  • Access Fee - A monthly charge for the ability to connect to a wireless network. Fee is paid monthly whether the phone is actually used or not.

  • Activation Fee - A fee charged by service providers to configure a phone to work on a carrier's network.

  • Airtime - The amount of time customers spend talking over their wireless networks, for which they are billed.

  • Antenna - A device for transmitting and receiving radio signals.


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  • Cellular - The type of wireless communication that is moist familiar to mobile phone users. Called cellular because the system uses many base stations to divide a service area into multiple cells. Calls are transferred from base station to base station as a user travels from cell to cell.

  • Coverage Area - The area in which you can use your wireless service as determined by your service provider. It usually includes your service area around your home as well as some extended service areas where you can use service, but where you may be charged long distance and/or roaming charges. Same as Service Area.

  • FCC - Federal Communications Commission- A US government agency responsible for regulating communications industries.

  • Handset - Any handhold device used to transmit and receive calls from a wireless system.

  • Hands-Free - A feature for mobile phones that allows drivers to use their car phone without lifting or holding their handset to their ears. An important safety feature.

  • Hands-Free Speakerphone - A feature of some wireless phones that allows users to talk and listen to calls without holding the phone against their heads.


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  • Local Calling Area - The region across which the call is truly local, involving no toll charges.

  • Mobile Identification Number - The 10-digit number assigned to your cellular phone.

  • Monthly Access Charge - The monthly fee you pay to have service from a wireless carrier

  • Service Charge - The amount you pay each month to receive wireless service. This amount is fixed and paid monthly regardless of how much or how little you use your wireless phone.

  • Service Plan - Rate or calling plan provided by a wireless carrier. Calling rates, allotted minutes per month and monthly fees vary by the service plan.

  • Service Provider - A company that supplies telecommunication services, e. g., AT&T, Cingular, Sprint, etc.

  • Subscriber - A cellular phone user.

  • Wireless - Using the radio-frequency spectrum for transmitting and receiving voice, data and video signals for communications.


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Worksheet for Comparing Annual Costs for Cell Phone Service Choices


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Worksheet for Comparing Annual Costs for Cell Phone Service Choices Continued


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