So Many Cell Phone Providers!

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Wherever you're located, the likelihood of having a choice among several cellular service providers for your wireless needs is high. Major cities usually have a choice between 3-5 major service providers and another 2-4 mini cellular players. The seemingly endless combinations of service providers makes way for some confusing yet interesting options for consumers. This brief article will help new cell phone consumers, and some old, learn the basic ins and outs of cell phone service providers.

First a clarifications on network terms you'll encounter.

CDMA: Short for Code-Division Multiple Access, this is a digital cellular technology that uses spread-spectrum techniques. Unlike competing systems that use TDMA, such as GSM, CDMA does not assign a specific frequency to each user. Instead, every channel uses the full available spectrum. The frequency of the transmitted signal is then made to vary according to a defined pattern, so it can be intercepted only by a receiver whose frequency response is programmed with the same code, so it follows exactly along with the transmitter frequency. Major CDMA players are in North America are Telus Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, and Bell Mobility.

GSM: GSM is currently the world's largest cellular network. GSM stand for Global System for Mobile Communications. GSM uses narrowband TDMA, which allows eight simultaneous calls on the same radio frequency. Considered the most advanced digital cellular technology, GSM networks are leaders in many typically "digital" services including Short Message Service (SMS), over the air (OTA) configuration and GSM positioning. Many new GSM phones are called "global phones" because they can be used in virtually any country. They also have SIM cards ("Subscriber Identification Module") that enable unique identification of each user and easy transportation of your data between phones. GSM 900 (transmitting on the 900 MHz frequency band) is Europe's main digital network. It's also used in the Asia-Pacific region. GSM 1800 is also used in Europe and Asia, but has not been as widely adopted as GSM 900. GSM 1900 is the system used mainly in the Americas and Canada. Top North American providers are Cingular Wireless, T-Mobile, Rogers Wireless and Fido.

So the question is now which network do I choose? GSM appears to provide a greater range for those who travel, yet CDMA supposedly has clearer reception. Theoretically having the entire spectrum available for your use should mean greater call clarity, however, this is not always the case. Many CDMA subscribers will attest that their GSM counterparts have better reception in some hard to reach areas.

Consumers should also be mindful of the types of phones available on each network. Manufacturers try to produce phones for each, nonetheless, LG typically produces cell phones for the CDMA network, and Nokia on the GSM, (although Nokia has a huge CDMA portfolio as well.) Take some time and browse the phones and their options -- you have a huge selection so start now. Wireless functions such as SMS, or roaming may dictate which carrier you choose. But again, you have plenty of options to choose from, and if you've never had a cell phone before, take some time to learn about the hundreds of options you have, both in a phone and with particular plans/carriers. Don't just compare phones either. Providers nowadays have comparable phones, therefore, the selling feature may be plans and attached options. Price, when evenings begin, add-on costs such as txt messaging, data-transfer, should all be compared and analyzed before purchase. Be sure to take advantage of monthly deals from providers, usually you can get a solid cell phone for FREE! Generally you need to sign up for a contract that lasts 2-3 years, however, if you're planning on staying with the firm and are confident with your choice, the contract isn't such a bad idea.

Switching providers is also an option with existing customers. Let me explain. Switching carriers is no longer a tedious event. Already present in the US and soon to be implemented in Canada, cell phone number portability will enable customers to switch service providers to take advantage of 'new activation' discounts with the new carrier all while keeping your old phone number. This feature can only benefit the consumer. Service providers will likely lower their fees and increase their perks in attempt to prevent a mass exodus from their customer base.

Some other phone options include prepaid options, where you can prepay for a pre-determined amount of minutes, no contract. You can also invest in unlocked cell phones, where you do not have the contract obligations and you own the phone. It works like this: you purchase the phone, usually from an independent dealer, then you activate the phone with a compatible service provider on a monthly plan. This is a pricey option, typically high end phones fall under this category, those that aren't offered by the carrier but will operate on their network.

So as you can tell there are plenty of phone and carrier options for customers vying to get the best deal. The biggest thing is likely patience. Be patient when it comes to purchasing, better deals likely lie somewhere else. Also, figure out what your needs are. Do you travel? Want to be tied into a contract? Once you know what you want, compare between providers. Do the same type of comparison with phone featuress as well. You'll be surprised how a little research on phone and service provider quality can save you a load of headaches in the future.

Visit DiscussWireless for consumer discussion forums with categories of all major cell phone providers and manufacturers. Compare and review cell phones and plans here, read posts from other consumers regarding service issues and phone reviews.

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