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Using a Cell Phone as Your Only Phone

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Millions of Americans now rely on their wireless phone as their only phone. Younger people with more mobile lifestyles are leading the charge in this area. After all, if a teenager gets a cell phone and/or uses wireless exclusively while in school, they might not even consider a landline when they move out into their first apartment. But many other people are beginning to think the same way, and there is little doubt that the wireless-only population will grow.

To determine if you might be a good candidate for “cutting the cord”, consider the following questions and answers.

  • How mobile is your lifestyle?
    If you frequently travel or you find that most people are reaching you on your cell phone anyway, then you may no longer have need for a wired phone.
  • How big is your household?
    Let's say you have a spouse and two children and currently have a phone in each of four rooms. This can be handled by a single wired line. To replicate this with cell phones, you would need four separate phone lines. There are wireless family plans available to reduce the total cost, but this can still be far more expensive than a single landline number.
  • Do you talk a lot?
    Most landlines are priced at a flat “all-you-can-talk” rate. At today's prices, moderate users of wireless will find their bills competitive with landline bills. However, as the amount of talking you do increases, the cost advantage tilts toward the landline. Additionally, since airtime is counted whether you make or receive the call, you might find that talking exclusively on your cell phone results in using more minutes than you might expect.
  • Are you okay with occasional dropped calls and/or bad reception?
    Every time you pick up a landline, there is about a 100% chance that you will hear a dial tone. Wireless technology is not that reliable; signals can be influenced by network congestion, weather, and topography.
  • Are you likely to need 911 services?
    If you call 911 from your landline, emergency services can locate you even if you can't speak. The same is not yet true in all areas with wireless. If access to 911 is essential to you, we recommend maintaining some level of landline service.
  • How do you get your Internet access?
    Cable modem service comes through cable TV lines. However, DSL and dial-up modem access will usually require you to maintain a landline.

In addition, you may want to consider the impact of the following:

  • Data use
    Burglar alarm monitoring, satellite TV, faxing, and a digital video recorder may all need a landline. In some cases, work-arounds are possible, but these should be investigated before you cancel your service.
  • Number portability
    You can now take your home phone number with you when you go wireless if the wireless carrier you choose covers the same local area as your landline carrier. Note that wireline-to-wireless porting requests may take several days to complete.
  • Telemarketing
    Historically, most telemarketing calls have been to landline phones. As people go totally wireless, and start providing those phone numbers when making purchases, it is inevitable that telemarketing calls to cell phones will increase. Number portability adds to this possibility, as it will be less clear to telemarketers over time which numbers are landline and which are wireless.
  • Battery life
    Cell phones, particularly those with the newest features, often require recharging after just a few hours of use.
  • Contracts
    Unlike your home phone, wireless plans usually require a one- or two-year contract, with cancellation penalties of $150 or more.
  • White pages
    There is no centralized directory for finding a cell phone number today. As a result, people may not be able to find you if you are completely wireless. (Of course, this may not be a bad thing.)
  • All-you-can-talk plans
    If you decide to go totally wireless, but only need your phone locally, consider an all-you-can-talk plan, offered by carriers like SunCom, Cricket, and MetroPCS in certain areas. These plans offer unlimited wireless service in a small local area.