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  #1  
Old 02-20-2007, 02:42 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Paying for incoming cell phone calls in the U.S.

How did we, as a country, allow this to happen? How is this OK? If someone calls your cell phone on their cellphone, you're both paying, am I right?

I own a TracFone, and I buy minutes. So I'm not entirely sure how a "real" cellphone works. All I know is when my brother calls my TracFone on his cellphone, he is paying for the call and I am using up minutes! Why is this allowed?

This doesn't happen in other countries, right? Honestly I would be a little more comfortable with cellphones if I didn't feel they were ripping us off in this manner just as blatant as you can be.

Please explain this weird thing to me, Dopers!
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  #2  
Old 02-20-2007, 02:51 PM
Noone Special Noone Special is offline
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I've got zero idea why this abomination exists in the US, but you are right, it is pretty much peculiar to you guys... I know for a fact that the receiver of a call does not pay for the call in any of the Israeli networks, and in none of the European networks I have ever used.

This is true of course only as long as you are your home network! A German in Italy will be paying for their incoming calls (and through the nose) -- this is what is known as "roaming", and exists in the US as well, IIRC, above and beyond the base charge you pay for incoming calls.

BTW, this difference is often cited by Telecom experts as one of the primary reasons that Europe is ahead of the US in almost any parameter relating to cellphone usage and adoption.

Last edited by Noone Special; 02-20-2007 at 02:52 PM..
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  #3  
Old 02-20-2007, 03:07 PM
dynamitedave dynamitedave is offline
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Sorry, but you're getting ripped off

Same as Noone Special says. Here in New Zealand we don't pay for incoming calls or texts (SMS). In regard to overseas visitors here, roaming charges apply except for texts, so most of them text or buy local prepay cards. Though I'm not sure what the story is with CDMA networks, but if you've got a GSM phone everything's sweet.

What's the story with texts? You pay to receive them too?
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  #4  
Old 02-20-2007, 03:17 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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I dunno, I don't text.

But here's a question.

You live in New Zealand, right?

Let's say I live in NZ too.

You fly to the States.

I call you in the States on your New Zealand number cell phone.

Who pays for the call? Whomever pays, are they paying long distance?
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  #5  
Old 02-20-2007, 03:30 PM
crazyjoe crazyjoe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dynamitedave
Sorry, but you're getting ripped off

Same as Noone Special says. Here in New Zealand we don't pay for incoming calls or texts (SMS). In regard to overseas visitors here, roaming charges apply except for texts, so most of them text or buy local prepay cards. Though I'm not sure what the story is with CDMA networks, but if you've got a GSM phone everything's sweet.

What's the story with texts? You pay to receive them too?
Yes, typically 10 cents to send or 2 cents to receive, or you can pay a monthly fee for unlimited text messaging.

Let me ask you something...in Europe or wherever, can you get a cell phone for under 50 dollars, pay no monthly fees or anything, and just receive calls? Cuz that would be interesting.

In the USA, you're paying for the price of your phone being usable on the network., and each person is paying for their own bandwidth usage. It's a bit different than normal, and is why all cell phones have caller id, so you can choose whether or not to accept the incoming call. At one point, it used to be that the first incoming minute was free, but that is no longer the case.
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  #6  
Old 02-20-2007, 03:34 PM
Montgomery0 Montgomery0 is offline
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I was and still am looking for a cell phone and I wondered this very thing. I did a google search for "do you pay for incoming cell phone calls" and noticed some people saying you do not pay for incoming calls on Nextel. I went to their website, looking for a pay as you go deal and my brain promptly froze. So I really can't tell you if it's true or not. I'm still looking for a cell phone that costs no where near $30/month because I hardly ever use the phone.

As to why this happens, 1) because U.S. companies don't want to pay for infrastructure and they are greedy. 2) we let them do this to us.
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  #7  
Old 02-20-2007, 03:36 PM
Driver8 Driver8 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika
I dunno, I don't text.

But here's a question.

You live in New Zealand, right?

Let's say I live in NZ too.

You fly to the States.

I call you in the States on your New Zealand number cell phone.

Who pays for the call? Whomever pays, are they paying long distance?
If the NZ networks are anything like the South African networks (and I believe they are), the caller in this case would pay as if it were a local NZ to NZ call. The reciever would pay the international portion of the call. This makes sense since from the callers perspective they are dialing a local number with potentially the expectation that it would be a local call. The reciever knows he is overseas, so he can just not take the call
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  #8  
Old 02-20-2007, 03:39 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Ok, I would still recommend a TracFone, [B]Montgomery0[/B[. Here is the website: www.tracfone.com.

I simply add minutes when I need them. I don't generally receive calls on my phone, unless I'm expecting them. I use it mainly for long distance, though quick calls are useful, and it's good to have for emergencies.

I paid right around $50 for the model - they have several - and I pay no monthly fees. I think it can text message but I haven't bothered playing with it too much.

My only "requisite" is that I add more minutes by a certain date, which is usually about 18 months away.

Rates - the more minutes you buy in a lump sum, the cheaper it gets. Right now I see 400 minutes on sale for $80. I have to confess, though, the SO fills it up so I never pay attention. 1 to 2x a year I just dump a whole load of minutes in there, usually around 400. I only use so many because my aunt is in Colorado, and I call her weekly.
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  #9  
Old 02-20-2007, 03:44 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Driver8
If the NZ networks are anything like the South African networks (and I believe they are), the caller in this case would pay as if it were a local NZ to NZ call. The reciever would pay the international portion of the call. This makes sense since from the callers perspective they are dialing a local number with potentially the expectation that it would be a local call. The reciever knows he is overseas, so he can just not take the call
So how about the US networks?

Same deal, barring that we are both paying for the call? So he is paying long-distance and I am paying for a call to his Colorado number?

(See why I hate cellphones?)
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  #10  
Old 02-20-2007, 03:44 PM
Baron Greenback Baron Greenback is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyjoe
Let me ask you something...in Europe or wherever, can you get a cell phone for under 50 dollars, pay no monthly fees or anything, and just receive calls? Cuz that would be interesting.
If you said 60 dollars (about 30 pounds), then yes. I got my mum a pay as you go Nokia from a supermaket for 29.99 pounds on the Vodafone network, and apart from an initial fiver credit put on it (which may have come with the phone, I don't remember), that's it.

ETA this was in October last year.

Last edited by Baron Greenback; 02-20-2007 at 03:46 PM..
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  #11  
Old 02-20-2007, 03:44 PM
kellner kellner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyjoe
Let me ask you something...in Europe or wherever, can you get a cell phone for under 50 dollars, pay no monthly fees or anything, and just receive calls? Cuz that would be interesting.
Yes, pretty much. At 50 dollars and nothing else it will be a low-end phone and it will be locked to your provider for two years, but it's not difficult to find one. You might have to make a nominal payment from time to time to keep your account alive, but 5 dollar a year or so will do. Of course you can use that money for making calls afterwards.
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  #12  
Old 02-20-2007, 05:53 PM
dynamitedave dynamitedave is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika

But here's a question.

You live in New Zealand, right?

Let's say I live in NZ too.

You fly to the States.

I call you in the States on your New Zealand number cell phone.

Who pays for the call? Whomever pays, are they paying long distance?
Yep, as otherwise already said, you would pay your normal rate for the call, I'd pay the international part of the call, and it ain't cheap, even Vodafone says to direct your calls to voice mail with a message saying you're out of the country

crazyjoe, yes you can just buy a cheap prepay phone and just use it to receive calls, but Vodafone require you to put $20 credit on it every 90 days or you'll lose all your credit, and credit is required within 365 days of your last top up or else your number will be cut off.

None of our phones are "locked" either, but then we've only got one GSM carrier and one CDMA carrier. Phones are available on the "grey" market, often quite a bit cheaper than from the offical agents, just put your SIM card in and away you go.

But our rates are lots more than most of the world, for Vodafone I pay NZ$65/month for 100 minutes and 20 cents per text. After 100 mins, it's about 44 cents/min. Unused minutes aren't carried over either. Prepay is 49c to $1.39c/min, depending on plan, time, and network called.
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  #13  
Old 02-20-2007, 06:10 PM
qubed qubed is offline
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My feeling is that while cell phone plans vary significantly between the USA and the rest of the world, non-business users end up still pay about the same. Although, this may not be the case in the lower and higher brackets.

One of the biggest things that Americans have is free night & weekend minutes. While not very useful for business users, this pretty much covers 80% of my phone calls. Also, often intra-network calls are free for both users (depends on the service). One of my aggravations in Europe was dealing with that night minutes were not free. Which is part of the reason that people text a lot there.

Yes, on the other hand, we pay for incoming calls & text messages. So, it kind of evens out. Or so my experience seems to indicate.
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  #14  
Old 02-20-2007, 06:27 PM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyjoe
Let me ask you something...in Europe or wherever, can you get a cell phone for under 50 dollars, pay no monthly fees or anything, and just receive calls? Cuz that would be interesting.
Yes you can, with no requirement for minimum credit etc. And they still make a profit: calls to the phone will be a higher cost, and a portion of that will be finding its way to your phone company. In the UK, for example, you know you're dialling a mobile (and will be charged as such) because the number begins 07, whereas all landlines begin 01 or 02.
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  #15  
Old 02-20-2007, 07:16 PM
Citygirl852 Citygirl852 is offline
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I have Sprint, and I have free incoming calls, and my night minutes start at 6pm. I think US Cellular offers a free incoming plan, as well.

The cheapest plan (mine) is 300 anytime minutes for about $50 per month. I think I pay an extra five a month for the 6pm night minutes.
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  #16  
Old 02-20-2007, 07:20 PM
KarlGrenze KarlGrenze is online now
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I think there are still a few prepaid cell phone plans in which the user does not pay for incoming calls, but has to pay a lot if they use up their prepaid minutes (as in calling back!).
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  #17  
Old 02-20-2007, 07:26 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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I still think it is completely and utterly incomprehensible to make us pay for incoming calls, and I'm glad to see I'm borne out. i wonder what we can do to make them quit it?
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  #18  
Old 02-20-2007, 07:39 PM
Stuffy Stuffy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika
Ok, I would still recommend a TracFone, [B]Montgomery0[/B[. Here is the website: www.tracfone.com. .

I paid right around $50 for the model - they have several - and I pay no monthly fees. I think it can text message but I haven't bothered playing with it too much.

.
I use to have one. Yes you can text. It costs half a unit*/dollar per message in or out.
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  #19  
Old 02-20-2007, 08:23 PM
dynamitedave dynamitedave is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GorillaMan
In the UK, for example, you know you're dialling a mobile (and will be charged as such) because the number begins 07, whereas all landlines begin 01 or 02.
That's something I forgot about, all cell numbers here start 02x and call from landlines to cell are dear, IIRC 70c/min, but that's going to be regulated down. US cells just use the normal area code etc don't they; callers don't know if the number belongs to a cell and it doesn't cost them extra for the call?

While it would annoy me to pay for incoming calls, there is a bit of logic to both systems and I'd guess for people who make and receive calls equally they would end up paying the same under either system. However in NZ we've got only 2 carriers, one who also owns the landline system. There's no real competition between them which puts NZ at the high end for telecom charges in the OECD.
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  #20  
Old 02-20-2007, 08:29 PM
blondebear blondebear is offline
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I'm on Verizon's "Free-Up" plan. I got the phone free when I signed up back in 2001. I pay for outgoing and incoming calls. It costs $15 a month for a limited amount of minutes. But, I almost never use it--I have it "just in case". Right now, I have a credit on my account of something like $140 dollars and growing.
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  #21  
Old 02-20-2007, 08:33 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is online now
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I'm really surprised it's tolerated in the USA, given that there's a significant element of lost control (you can't control the number and source of incoming calls and texts) - I thought it was us Brits that tended to let ourselves get shafted.
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  #22  
Old 02-20-2007, 10:50 PM
Santo Rugger Santo Rugger is offline
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One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that you can choose who you give your number to. I've yet to get a telemarketer call on my cellphone, and I've had one for about 5 years. I rarely if ever get calls from people I haven't given my number to.

With the size of plan I have (1600 daytime minutes split between 4 people, two of whom [my parents] rarely use theirs) it's simply not an issue. I'm at work all day, so there's basically only 20 hours a week I would be using my cell phone anyway. I'm on Verizon, as are alot of my friends. Those calls are "free", they don't use any minutes.

To me, it makes no difference if my buddy calls me or if I call him. We're still going to talk for the same ammount of time (usually under a minute). If I'm calling a friend from out of town, or if I know we're going to be on the phone for awhile, the only way it matters is if it would be long distance from their land line. If it is, I'll call them. If they have a cell phone too, it doesn't matter.

I'd say "paying", as in, using minutes for incomming calls, is more than made up for by not having to pay long distance when calling in the 48.
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  #23  
Old 02-20-2007, 11:50 PM
Sublight Sublight is offline
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Count me as another who's amazed that people put up with this. In Japan (where the total number of cell phone subscribers just passed 100 million out of a population of under 130 million), you only pay for the calls and messages you send out, not for anything coming in or just going on in your phone (TV, GPS, MP3s, photos, games, etc, although depending on your plan there may be a flat fee for just having them available).

Phones can be around US$50 - $500, although many providers will give you a decent unit free or steeply discounted if you switch to them. Calling plans are a little more expensive, with the no-frills, I-don't-wanna-talk plans running about $20-$40 a month. An even cheaper alternative is a pre-paid phone, where you buy your minutes before you call. As far as I know, you don't pay anything for the service (maybe Cerowyn can confirm or deny this, as he's used this plan when he's in Japan), don't pay anything for incoming calls, and only get charged for outgoing messages. In theory, you could talk to people calling you all year and not pay a thing beyond the initial purchase.
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  #24  
Old 02-21-2007, 01:13 AM
mks57 mks57 is offline
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History of the US Telephone System

It's based on the history of the telephone system in the US.

Back in the days of the Bell System, when Ma Bell had an effective monopoly on telephone service in the US, the billing system was designed for "caller pays". When MTS (mobile telephone service) and IMTS (improved mobile telephone service) were added to the network, before the invention of cellular service, they did it by routing selected blocks of ordinary telephone numbers to a mobile operator. The mobile operator setup and monitored the connection between the wireline telephone system and the mobile subscriber. The caller (wireline) paid the normal charges for a telephone call to the mobile operator. The callee (wireless) paid setup and airtime charges for the wireless segment of the connection. This meant that the wireline billing system did not have to be modified to support calls to mobile subscribers. Mobile subscribers always paid for the setup and airtime charges on their calls, regardless of who originated the call. This was considered to be fair. Mobile phone service was very expensive. Why should the wireline subscriber get hit with a big bill for a call because the callee had a mobile telephone? The people who were rich enough to have a mobile telephone also paid for the costs of the service. When cellular service was introduced, they kept the same billing scheme. Wireline callers were only charged for the wireline segment of the call, and cellular subscribers were responsible for all the costs of the cellular system that connected them to the wireline network. Unlike many other countries, there was no easy way for a wireline subscriber to know that he was calling a number associated with a mobile or cellular telephone. Even with all the technical advances since the introduction of analog cellular service, the argument is still valid. Why should a wireline subscriber have to pay for the expensive cellular network used to provide service to cellular subscribers?

I briefly had a job as a mobile telephone service operator when I was a teenager.
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  #25  
Old 02-21-2007, 12:48 PM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika
I still think it is completely and utterly incomprehensible to make us pay for incoming calls, and I'm glad to see I'm borne out. i wonder what we can do to make them quit it?
That answer is easy. Don't use them. It's that simple. You are paying them for a service. If you don't like the terms don't sign up. Now if you decide that having that phone/service is important, then the cellphone service providers, like any other business, gets to set their own terms of business and cost. You, as the consumer, gets to decide if you will pay for that product.

It's a lot like the restaurants that keep the cost of their meals down, by charging $2 for a glass of Coke. I can pay for the Coke, I can not order the Coke, or I can not eat at that restaurant.

You can pay for the incoming call, you can not answer incoming calls, or you can not sign up for the service.
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  #26  
Old 02-21-2007, 03:25 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tastes of Chocolate
That answer is easy. Don't use them. It's that simple. You are paying them for a service. If you don't like the terms don't sign up. Now if you decide that having that phone/service is important, then the cellphone service providers, like any other business, gets to set their own terms of business and cost. You, as the consumer, gets to decide if you will pay for that product.

It's a lot like the restaurants that keep the cost of their meals down, by charging $2 for a glass of Coke. I can pay for the Coke, I can not order the Coke, or I can not eat at that restaurant.

You can pay for the incoming call, you can not answer incoming calls, or you can not sign up for the service.
Hmm. Seems remarkably easy - except my question is how is it allowed to continue in an environment where the rest of the world doesn't pay for incoming calls? I know the other countries can't compete with us, I'm just surprised there hasn't been more of a demand - and where there is a demand, there usually comes a company that fills that nice and supplies.

I guess my question is - why doesn't some company take the initiative and offer this option of not paying for incoming calls. Wouldn't they get a lot of business?
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  #27  
Old 02-21-2007, 04:34 PM
mks57 mks57 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika
I guess my question is - why doesn't some company take the initiative and offer this option of not paying for incoming calls. Wouldn't they get a lot of business?
Who is going to pay for the call? Somebody has to pay.

The current billing system for wireline telephones does not distinguish between calling a wireline subscriber and a cellular subscriber. Both calls cost the same to the caller.

Switching to the European system would require major changes, both technically and legally, to the telephone system.
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  #28  
Old 02-21-2007, 04:45 PM
GomezK GomezK is offline
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I have a 4 band GSM phone that I bought unlocked (nobody even sells locked phones) at a mall in the Mid East. I've had service in New Zealand, Oz, The Gulf, Africa, Europe and SE Asia as well as the US all on the same phone with differnt SIMs installed. Only in the US do I pay for incomming calls... and yes it is completely stupid. In a few countries local calls are free so if someone called my mobile phone from a landline, then the mobile operator eats the cost of the call, but there are enough outgoing calls thatit all works out. The US is like a 3rd world country when it comes to mobile technology.... even Rwanda has a more logical system.
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  #29  
Old 02-21-2007, 05:04 PM
kellner kellner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mks57
The current billing system for wireline telephones does not distinguish between calling a wireline subscriber and a cellular subscriber. Both calls cost the same to the caller.
Don't you have overpriced support hotlines, phone sex chats, horoscopes and many other wonderful phone-based services like we do in Europe? As long as the system can assign a price to some number prefix, it should work. Our cell phone use special "area" codes originally based on providers. Of course that would be different from the current American system but I find it hard to imagine that it is impossible.
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  #30  
Old 02-21-2007, 06:42 PM
groman groman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GomezK
The US is like a 3rd world country when it comes to mobile technology.... even Rwanda has a more logical system.
It's a matter of habit. To me, the US system makes a lot more sense, the phones available tend to be better than Japan (although crappier than Europe sometimes), and the coverage is very good for such a huge country. As for incoming calls, I don't think it's any of your damn business if the phone # I am giving you is a cellular number. "Cellular" is not an area, so it should not have a separate area code. My cell phone has a local area code, attached to a particular geographical area that I am from. In an ideal world I will pay for my usage of the cellular network to connect me to the phone network as transparently as if I'm in my house, and nobody in the phone network should be able to give a rat's ass if I'm using cellular, landline, satelite or I'm actually going through a TTY operator.

It might make sense to offer free incoming calls at a fixed fee, but charging callers is the ridiculous 3rd world left-over that other countries need to get over, not something that US needs to sink to.
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  #31  
Old 02-21-2007, 07:15 PM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika
Hmm. Seems remarkably easy - except my question is how is it allowed to continue in an environment where the rest of the world doesn't pay for incoming calls? I know the other countries can't compete with us, I'm just surprised there hasn't been more of a demand - and where there is a demand, there usually comes a company that fills that nice and supplies.

I guess my question is - why doesn't some company take the initiative and offer this option of not paying for incoming calls. Wouldn't they get a lot of business?
It would probably come down to this.
Now, AT&T will offer you 500 min/month, unlimited long distance for $40/month. But incoming calls count toward your minutes.

They COULD offer you 300 min/month, unlimited long distance for $40/month, and not charge you for incoming calls.

That may result in the exact same thing, in the end. But consumers are only going to look at the number of minutes and not figure in the advantage of not being charged for incoming calls. So which phone company is going to be the first one to (seemingly) reduce their minutes, while charging the same amount.
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  #32  
Old 02-21-2007, 07:36 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by groman

It might make sense to offer free incoming calls at a fixed fee, but charging callers is the ridiculous 3rd world left-over that other countries need to get over, not something that US needs to sink to.
Ok, then charge the receivers and nto the callers. It's the idea of charging both that offends me.
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  #33  
Old 02-21-2007, 08:22 PM
groman groman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaamika
Ok, then charge the receivers and nto the callers. It's the idea of charging both that offends me.
You pay for airtime. If the caller happens to be on a cell phone from Verizon calling my cell phone on T-Mobile, who is going to pay for his Verizon air time? If you call my cell phone from a landline it's as free as any other local call.
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  #34  
Old 02-21-2007, 08:49 PM
mks57 mks57 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kellner
Don't you have overpriced support hotlines, phone sex chats, horoscopes and many other wonderful phone-based services like we do in Europe? As long as the system can assign a price to some number prefix, it should work. Our cell phone use special "area" codes originally based on providers. Of course that would be different from the current American system but I find it hard to imagine that it is impossible.
It wouldn't be impossible, just incredibly expensive and disruptive. Every cellular number would have to be changed. Telephone switch software would have to be rewritten, which is very expensive to do. Existing communications regulations and contracts would have to be changed. It would be a real mess.

There would be side effects. Many business telephone systems are programmed to block all calls to "premium" area codes and exchanges. A cellular telephone number would have a negative value. Why should I call your cellular number if it is going to cost me a substantial amount of money as compared to an ordinary local call? My current calling plan charges me 10 per call for local calls of unlimited duration.
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  #35  
Old 02-22-2007, 02:48 AM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mks57
It wouldn't be impossible, just incredibly expensive and disruptive. Every cellular number would have to be changed. Telephone switch software would have to be rewritten, which is very expensive to do. Existing communications regulations and contracts would have to be changed. It would be a real mess.
'Incredibly' expensive? I'd like to see how that really would break down. Changing telephone numbers hasn't proven to be that big a hassle in countries that have done it (for example, every single London landline number has had three changes in the past twenty or so years).

Quote:
There would be side effects. Many business telephone systems are programmed to block all calls to "premium" area codes and exchanges. A cellular telephone number would have a negative value.
We're talking about a separate set of codes which specifically identify the phone as a mobile one, not bundling it in with premium rates. Sure, an exchange could be set up to block these, too. But only if the operator of it decides to do so.

Quote:
Why should I call your cellular number if it is going to cost me a substantial amount of money as compared to an ordinary local call?
Because in this system, you're making an informed decision to make a call which uses the more expensive cellular network.
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  #36  
Old 02-22-2007, 03:52 AM
mks57 mks57 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GorillaMan
Because in this system, you're making an informed decision to make a call which uses the more expensive cellular network.
Being a cheap bastard, my informed decision is going to be not making that call unless I'm provided a landline number.
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