Cell Phone Carrier Advice

After enduring a horrific two year contract with Cingular Wireless (the former SW Bell Wireless – I live in Texas), I’m ready to jump. Local Verizon store says:

  1. In late November, cell numbers will become portable, i.e., I can switch carriers to Verizon and keep my old number; and

  2. “We have better reception than anyone else”.
    Questions –

a. Is he right about #1, or am I just prolonging my agony by hanging with Cingular for 2 1/2 more months? (Note: My two year contract is expired, so I am currently considered month-to-month with them).
b. Is Verizon, if not the best, as least not horrible in terms of reception? I’m not wanting a funky color phone, or e-mail, or games, just to be able to speak to the person whose phone number I dial.
Thanks in advance.


#1 probably, check with any provider you’re considering.

#2 You’d be best to ask around locally for anyone you know who uses that provider and ask them about specific locations you might be likely to use. As an example I use provider X which for the most part has excellent coverage in Phoenix but my wife’s best friend’s house is a dead spot even though it’s in central phoenix.

I think you’ll find all modern digital cell phones have excellent reception provided you are close enough to a tower.

Verizon is known to be kick-@$$ around here, but I can’t say about TX.

Consumer Reports did an issue with a review of cell carriers within the last year, IIRC. Check your library (they do not make content available online to nonsubscribers AFAIK). Verizon was rated very high on network quality and reliability.

I use Verizon for my local service and have been very happy with their customer service. My wife has a Cingular cell phone and the customer service sucks, but she is stuck with another year on a two-year contract. I will be getting a Verizon cell phone next week after leaving my current job (I have a Nextel company phone which I’ll be giving up).

I just seen on a local tv channel today, a kick ass cite that was comprehensive on gathering data from dead zones on all of the major carriers of cell phones. It was very impressive. When I did a google, I came up with this one. Not sure if this was the one the one on TV or not, but try it.


Some years ago, the FCC did set Nov, 2003 as the date by which the cellular phone companies must provide “number portability”.

However, these phone companies greatly oppose this, thinking that dissatisfied customers (like you) would switch to another carrier real quickly if they could take their number with them.

So they have all (IMHO) been dragging their feet on actually doing the work to implement this. And when November comes, they will all claim to the FCC that 'the technical details of this were too complex to get it done" and will ask for as many years of additional time as they can get away with. And the gutless FCC will let them get away with this, at most giving them some miniscule fines.

So though it’s legally mandated, I personally wouldn’t bet my paycheck on it actually happening in Nov.

There are several decent cell phone forums that you can check out. DSL Reports, which is highly regarded regarding broadband service comments also has an area for cell phone user talk:

Padeye’s comments are accurate. When I chose my carrier I identified the three main geographic spots I would most need service from and to. Then I asked folks who live and work there about the different companies. This approach served me well.

I also agree with Padeye and Geoduck. Write down those places where you MUST have coverage. Take one of the prospective carrier’s phones to those places to see if you can make calls there. While coverage does change over time, the carrier can likely fix coverage that it used to have, but the carrier will not be motivated to add coverage that it never had. (Even the best carrier in town has dead spots and you don’t want to find out later that your house was one of those spots.)

WLNP (Wireless Local Number Portability)
see this link

It is coming on 24 Nov 03. The FCC has suggested that this move of your phone number from one carrier to another take place in 3 hours, but it appears to have mandated that it take place within 6 months after you request it. It is only mandated for the top 100 MSA’s in November, so won’t be required/available everywhere. (However, the carrier might accommodate you in the rural areas.) You can only keep your number in the same local calling area, so you can’t take your phone number from Houston to Dallas. Pricing is unknown at this point.

One more thought: These sites are great resources, but don’t assume that they have captured anywhere near the number of dead spots. Your experience may even be dramatically different than those wireless users across the street, so one can’t expect these pages to be able to succinctly capture all the possible holes. Having said that, perusing these sites (and others) can give you much better insight into any problems that you are likely to encounter.

I second the advice on reading the Consumer Reports article; that’s a great place to start.

Over the years, I’ve done business with most of the carriers in my area, and I do have strong preferences. But I live in Boston, so my experience wouldn’t apply to you anyway.

Probably the best thing you can do is ask your neighbors, co-workers…anyone who frequently visits the same places you do and travels the same routes.

Also, when you sign up with a new phone/carrier, ask how long you have to return the phone. Some might give 30 days, whereas some carriers won’t give a refund if you put more than 20 minutes on the phone. The longer the refund period, the more chances you have to try it in different areas.