Going Totally Wireless
Thinking of cutting the cord on your home phone? You are not alone. About 7.5 million Americans now rely on their wireless phone as their only phone. Although we have no hard numbers on demographics, it seems that 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 at college, we have to wonder if some of them even consider a landline when they move out into their first apartment. That in mind, there is little doubt that the wireless-only population will grow as a new group of adults comes of age each year.
What about the rest of us?
Obviously, the decision to cut the cord is an individual one. However, you might be a good candidate if you can answer yes to some or all of these questions:
Do I have a Mobile Lifestyle?
If you frequently travel or are out and about a great deal, and you find that most people are reaching you on your cell phone anyway, then you may no longer have need for a wired phone.
Is My Household Small?
The issue here is cost. Let's say you have a spouse and two children, and currently have a phone in each of four rooms. You can do this with a single wired line. However, to replicate this with cell phones, you would need four separate phone lines. The wireless companies have developed family plans to reduce the total cost of multiple cell phones in a household, but this can still be far more expensive than a single landline number.
Am I (or my Family) Light to Moderate Users of Telecom? **
Another cost issue. Most landlines are priced at a flat "all-you-can-talk" rate. At today's prices, a moderate user of wireless will find their bill competitive with a landline bill. However, as your talking increases, the cost advantage tilts toward the landline. Additionally, wireless is a "mobile party pays" service in the US. Since you are paying whether you make or receive the call, you might find that talking exclusively on your cell phone results in more minutes than you might expect.
Am I Okay With the Occasional Dropped Call or Bad Reception?
We put these two questions together to highlight the issue of reliability. When you pick up a landline, there is just about a 100% chance that you will have a dial tone. Additionally, if you call 911 from your landline, emergency services can locate you even if you can't speak. The same is not yet true with wireless. At the very least, you should ensure that your cell phone can provide you a strong signal from all parts of your home.
Do I Get Internet Access Wirelessly or from a Cable Modem?
Cable modem service comes through cable TV lines. DSL, the other common form of broadband as well as modem access, require a landline.
Any Other Issues I Need to Consider?
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. Click here for more information on number portability.
Most telemarketing calls up to now have been to landline phones. This is a good thing, since calls to a cell phone potentially cost the recipient, and thus can be even more annoying than normal. As people go wireless, and start using their wireless phone numbers on forms and applications, it is inevitable that telemarketing calls to cell phones will increase. This trend will also be helped along by number portability, as it will not be as clear cut what numbers are landline and what numbers are wireless in the future. Note that wireless numbers are eligible to sign up for the Federal Do Not Call Registry.
Cell phones, particularly those with the newest features, can be battery hogs, often requiring recharging after a couple hours of use.
Unlike your home phone, wireless plans usually require a one or two year contract, with cancellation penalites of $150 or more. Generally, you can cancel service within the first 14 days of a wireless contract and not pay that termination fee. That in mind, if you go wireless, you'll want to decide quickly if the service you've picked isn't working out for you. Test the phone and service well that first week.
There is no centralized directory for finding a cell phone number today. This may change over the next couple of years as there are some efforts underway to develop one. However, keep in mind that someone who doesn't have your number may not be able to find you if you are completely wireless. Of course, this may be a good thing…
* Source: Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA)
** Impact of Long Distance: Many cell phone plans have "free" long distance, so it might seem logical to go wireless if you make lots of long distance calls. However, wireless long distance is not truly free, in that the calls still count against your monthly minutes. In certain cases, you may find that landline long distance is less expensive, particularly if you have one of the more current rate plans, which are about 3.5 cents per minute with no monthly fee. This is less of an issue if you make most of your long distance calls during free night and weekend periods.
*** Top 100 markets; remainder portable on 5/24/04. Click here to check your location.