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Calling Area

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It is important to keep in mind that “calling area” refers to where you are physically located when you are making or receiving a wireless call, not where the other party is (see page 23).

The simplest way to look at coverage area vis-à-vis price is to recognize that the rate-per-minute tends to increase as you buy a larger coverage area. Therefore, while you can find local and national plans that have the same price, the local plan will likely have more minutes.

Local The smallest coverage, generally centered around a single metropolitan area, although it might include an entire state or more. When you are outside the local area, you will pay roaming charges to make/receive calls.
Regional The regional calling area covers a larger geographic part of the country, from two or three adjacent states to an entire region, such as the Midwest. When you are outside the regional area, you will pay roaming charges to make/receive calls.
The most commonly sold plan, these generally cover your carrier's entire nationwide network, and may include some off-network coverage on a similar technology. If your phone supports analog service where no digital signal is available, you would pay roaming charges while utilizing those analog signals.
National A true 50-state plan, with generally no roaming charges anywhere your phone can get a signal.
North America An extension of the national plans, these include airtime for calls made or received in parts of Canada or Mexico.

The vast majority of rate plans currently sold are “national network” plans. Local and regional plans remain available in some areas, and while these still offer more anytime minutes per dollar, they often don't come with benefits such as free long distance or mobile-mobile, and so have become progressively less attractive for most people.