There’s no place like roam

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In today’s wireless world, the competition is tighter and the enhancements of digital mean better technology and service – and more confusion because the choices are no longer so simple.
Ask Oz
Get some real answers to your questions about wireless options. Here are some questions to help you assess your needs:
1. What is your primary reason for wanting a wireless phone?
The type and style of use will be a large factor in determining which carrier and plan is appropriate for your needs.
2. Will the majority of use be local or out-of-town?
This question addresses the biggest change in the wireless industry: the improvement from cellular to digital. The basic differences between digital and cellular lie in the technology each uses. Digital technology provides a clearer, sharper voice transmission that is as dramatic as the difference in sound quality between cassette tapes (analog) and compact discs (digital). Digital also has enhancements in power requirements, reliability, accessories and features, as well as in privacy and security.
Simply put, analog services have only one remaining advantage over digital: availability. For the moment, however, digital penetration is more concentrated in metropolitan areas. Users also wanting service in rural areas will need dual-mode phones capable of functioning on both digital and cellular networks. The time frame for the increased penetration of the digital networks into rural settings is estimated between 18 and 24 months.
3. How many minutes will you use each month?
Users who spend a great deal of time on their phones may want to consider requesting a contract. Several companies offer business plans that have reduced charges for high-volume use. Some users have found advantages in pre-purchasing their minutes each month.
4. What will your peak use time be?
Many companies charge a higher per-minute rate during high-usage times of day and lower rates during evening and weekend hours. Don’t let the house drop on you here. If you have a high-usage rate plan, your discounted or free minutes may only count during off-peak times.
5. Find out which features you want and what the costs will be.
Take a look at available features. Many companies offer plans that include various accessories with the initial cost of your phone. Or you may want to indulge yourself. PrimeCo has a phone that can play a tune, give stock quotes or even a joke of the day. Nextel has Direct Connect, allowing you to instantly connect with one or all of your co-workers with the push of a button. Sprint’s Touch Point phone – a day, address and phone book in one – lets you point, click and connect.
Pay attention to the men behind the curtains
Don’t get carried away in the maelstrom of fancy offers for free phones and great-sounding prices that will get you and your little dog, too. Somewhere over the rainbow there may be a place where there really are such things as “free phones”; here it’s not going to happen. Even ruby slippers can’t get you out of the contracts that may accompany such deals.
Other things to watch out for are activation fees, network surcharges, monthly administration fees, and with cellular or dual-mode phones, the costs of roaming.

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