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The Almighty Buck

Calling Cell Phones Could Cost More 328

tusixoh writes " reports on another reason to keep a close eye on your phone bill. This fall, a subtle realignment in America's phone systems could cause a dramatic increase in what we pay to call cell phones that were once considered local now incur higher toll charges from landlines. The report states that it is unclear how many customers will be affected by these changes. No phone company would provide details on where people could be affected." Update: 10/25 12:31 GMT by M : The IP list carried a couple of informative articles on this: the original situation, and the informed commentary.
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Calling Cell Phones Could Cost More

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  • by Real World Stuff ( 561780 ) <real_world_stuff ... m ['tma' in gap]> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:17PM (#4525948) Journal
    Land line telcos are doing what they can to make their money. Look closely at your bill and ensure every fee is accounted for. Or don't and pay something for nothing.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Land line telcos are doing what they can to make their money

      It's not the land line telcos charging more money, it's the cellular phone companies responsible for the fee increases:

      Because of differences in how wireless networks are set up, wireless carriers don't need to get phone numbers in every local rate center. So your cell phone could have a number from a rate center distant from your home.
    • by Mitreya ( 579078 ) <mitreya&gmail,com> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:56PM (#4526185)
      I don't know what sort of plan you got, but cell plans are NOT getting cheaper.

      I have done some research recently (my contract is coming to an end). In order to improve my (AT&T) plan I have to do a 2 year commitment, otherwise it is *at best* the same as my current contract. Others companies are about the same, it comes down to quality of coverage in your area, I suppose.

      Oh, yeah, if anything, currently every plan I have seen has extended peak time last until 9pm rather than 8pm. So I would say cell plans gotten a bit more expensive...

      • by Bluesee ( 173416 ) <(michaelpatrickkenny) (at) (> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:17PM (#4526582)
        Yes, and I discovered that, when they (Cingular) switched me over to the 'new plan', they forgot to tell me that little detail.

        Then I got bills in the hundreds of dollars - about twice what I was paying! Plus there were certain 'family talk' charges attached to my bill that, on inspection "really didn't belong there" (the reps words).

        It really pisses me off that we don't have a strong enough consumer arm in the government that allows me protection from these scams. I told them that, since they broke our contract because they did not disclose the terms to me up front, I'd really rather break mine. I was informed that if I did that I would have to pay about $300 for the two phones they 'gave' me.

        This, of course, after waiting the requisite twenty minutes to even speak to a human. I didn't even try to do that on my cell phone, since the reception is lousy in my area and the probability that I would get disconnected in those twenty minutes is about 0.9.

        So, kids, spend twenty minutes each month scouring your phone bill - all 15 pages of it - to see if there are line items in there, overcharges, and general assault on your pocketbook.

        It reminds me of the comic strip in which Dilbert dons a ninja outfit to comply with the terms of his ISP contract that specify that he must perform a commando raid on the company to cancel his service.

        To their credit, the rep was very nice, sympathetic (I imagine she's thinking "God, I am such a troll for working here!"), and once we identified the mass of overcharges for the past 3 months, she dutifully credited my account. It only took half an hour.
  • Europe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GreenPhreak ( 60944 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:17PM (#4525950)
    Isn't this how it has been in Europe and other countries since the beginning? I remember it costing a lot more to call someone on a cell phone from a landline when I was in England. Just another one of those things that Americans will have to get used to, that everyone else seems to have acclimated to already.
    • Re:Europe (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Moofie ( 22272 ) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:20PM (#4525969) Homepage
      Please explain why we "have" to get used to it, particularly in light of the usurious rates of mobile phones here in the States relative to Europe and Japan?

      No, I don't "have" to get used to it. Why the hell are we tolerating this telephone cartel? Didn't we have a big antitrust lawsuit about this crap?
      • "Usurious" is not a synonym for "exorbitant."

        Other than that, I agree that pricing increases like this are not inevitable, but something that can be fought.

    • Re:Europe (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rsborg ( 111459 )
      Isn't this how it has been in Europe and other countries since the beginning? I remember it costing a lot more to call someone on a cell phone from a landline when I was in England. Just another one of those things that Americans will have to get used to, that everyone else seems to have acclimated to already.

      Yeah, but when I was in France and Germany last year, all cell phones had free incoming minutes to compensate... I doubt we'll get that luxury here.
      *thwack*... Is that the sound of the consumer getting screwed again?

      • Re:Europe (Score:2, Informative)

        by gl4ss ( 559668 )
        yeh, basically, you dont pay for answering to incoming calls or receiving sms messages in (most, at least finland + couple of others) part of europe.
        unless you are travelling(to foreign countries), then it depends on the operators, and if you don't know for sure the prices are just guesswork. and in my country there's not even that nasty phone tying, where operator gives you a practically free phone but you're 0wn3d when it comes to fees per minute. sure you pay a bit more for the phone but it's not 'locked' to a certain operator and you end up using it more(benefitting everyone)..

        it's actually pretty convinient(sp?) for the cell phone owner, as you can predict your phone costs to the last cent, and using the phone doesn't get that expensive compared to landline either. which could have contributed the massive move to cellphones in countries like finland.

        however, here you do know that you are calling a cellphone when you are calling a number(different prefix). and in my country calling to local numbers was never free anyways even with landline as i understand has been in usa/some other countries.

        *geek needs sleep*
        • by kryonD ( 163018 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:05PM (#4526824) Homepage Journal
          We have the same deal with Cell Phones in Japan. All incoming calls are free, and the use of email often negates the need for outgoing calls. And yes, I did say email, not that dinky SMS protocol.

          Most folks don't even bother getting a land line since you have to actually purchase the line for about $600.00+. Calling a local land line is about 3 cents per minute and calling a cell phone is around 10 to 12 cents per minute. Cell phones have a completely different prefix, so you won't accidentally get raped on the bill. The flip side of course is that outgoing calls on cell phones run about 20 cents per minute and you won't find any 4000 night/weekend plans around here. My plan is 5000 yen/mo. (about $38 at the current rate) and I get around 200 outgoing minutes excluding the 1 to 2 yen per email charge and my daily web activities checking news and weather. If I have a busy social calendar, which is about 4 dates per week plus assorted work functions, my bill is arround $100.00. I never use my land line for anything more than a link to my 12MBit ADSL provider.
      • In Britain, *all* incoming calls are free on cellphones (including pay-as-you-go service)
    • Re:Europe (Score:5, Informative)

      by ralfp ( 519069 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:38PM (#4526086)
      In Europe (and pretty much everywhere else) cell phones are "calling party pays". This means that it costs more to call a cell phone because the caller pays for it.

      For example, in Finland each wireless carrier has its own area code, so you know in advance that you will pay more for the call.

      The change in the US means that calls to cell phones might become regional or long distance, but the called party still pays. The US is NOT switching to calling party pays (although Verizon tried it in DE a while back, AFAIK).

      • Re:Europe (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Shinsei ( 120121 ) <> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:26PM (#4526916) Homepage
        Hmm.. Is Europe really that ahead of the US when it comes to cell phone usage and tech? I mean, I wouldn't want to have a cell phone if I had to pay for incoming calls - that sounds really really dangerous when I think of the bills...

        Why doesn't the consumers (that would be you americans) question these policys? IMHO, it should be free to receive a call - that's sorta the idea with the cell phone tech, isn't it? To be "available for anyone at any time" ?
        • Re:Europe (Score:3, Informative)

          by macrom ( 537566 )
          At one time, some (most?) of the providers here in the States gave you the first minute free. I had Sprint service a few years ago and the first incoming minute was free; same with AT&T when we switched. Now you are billed whenever you pick up the phone. You are also billed when calling your own voice mail and you're billed when you hit the "Send" button, whether the other end actually answers or not.

          All in all, it's just another way to eat at your wallet. I cancelled my AT&T phone because of the outrageous charges, constricting rules and stupid taxes. Yeah, I miss it, but I don't feel like I need to ice down my ass every month after being raped by the cell phone company.
        • Re:Europe (Score:3, Informative)

          by Chemical ( 49694 )
          It's not so bad. These days, with so much competition in the cell phone market (there are 5 cell phone providers available in my area), cell phone plans keep getting better and better. I don't know how it is in Europe, but in the US cell phone service is probably 10x cheeper now than it was 3 years ago. Companies are adding all sorts of new free crap to their service plans to make things even cheeper, such as free long distance calling, free roaming, and free calls to your provider's other customers.

          For example, for $40/mo, Cingular Wireless offer 500 anytime minutes, and 3000 night and weekend minutes. Any unused minutes roll over to next month. You also get free long distance, free roaming, and I beleive the first minute on incoming calls is free. I think 3500 minutes is more than most people can use in a month. Verizon, while they don't get free roaming, offer 300 anyime, 4000 night and weekend, and 1000 mobile to mobile minutes for $40/mo.

          Also, the cell phone companies have promos all the time where you can get stuff like unlimited night and weekend or unlimited mobile to mobile if you sign up during the promo. So sure incoming calls count against your minutes, but with the sheer amount of minutes given out these days it's not really a big concern.

    • NZ too (Score:2, Interesting)

      by meowsqueak ( 599208 )
      It's been this way in New Zealand for as long as I can remember. I don't understood why cellular communications is still so expensive. Consider a text message - at 150 characters long for 20 cents, that's a bandwidth cost of approx NZ$1400 a megabyte! Someone's raking it in...
      • Re:NZ too (Score:4, Insightful)

        by isorox ( 205688 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:36PM (#4526399) Homepage Journal

        Text messages are ridiculously high, however thats because of a stupid uniformed easily led market (teens).
        Normal phone's have a bandwidth of upto 9600bps (at least thats what I get using my phone as a modem). Thats 4.2Mbytes an hour. It costs me arround £1.20 ($2) for a one hour call, or 50 cents/megabyte. This is on a limited, highly contested frequency. A far cry from text message costings. Yes text's rake it in for phone companies, however 50 cents a megabyte isnt too bad.

        It doesnt seem fair to charge a receipitent for a call. Think about it, if I dont like you I set a computer to phone you 24/7, and you have to pay for it! Give me the worldwide standard instead of one of the u.s. proprietry systems, any day.
        • It doesnt seem fair to charge a receipitent for a call

          Maybe not, but I'm not sure that I want incoming calls on my mobile to be free here in the USA. The fact that it costs to receive calls is pretty much the only reason that there are no telemarketers calling your cell phone. As soon as it's "free" for the receiver, you can bet they'll start including your cell phone in their calls. Can you even *IMAGINE* just how annoying that would be?

    • Re:Europe (Score:2, Interesting)

      by panaceaa ( 205396 )
      In most places outside North America, the person who makes a call pays for both sides of the connection. In the US, each side pays for their half. So if you're calling a mobile phone in Europe, you have to pay more because you're paying for the airwaves as well as for your own connection.

      Making land-line callers in the US pay more to call a mobile phone is bullshit. In the US, mobile phone users are already paying for their side of the connections, so this is double-charging consumers.
  • one more reason... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by buzban ( 227721 ) <> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:19PM (#4525963) Homepage
    that i'll continue to make my cell my main phone. now if i could just get a bogus number for all the times i don't want to give out my cell number for fear of it being sold... ;)
    • by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:39PM (#4526093) Journal
      now if i could just get a bogus number for all the times i don't want to give out my cell number for fear of it being sold... ;)

      Send me $10 and I'll sell you a bogus number.

      Oh, what the hell, I'm feeling charitable today.

      (800) 555-1212

      Shhhh... keep it quiet, guys.
      • extra points if you make it your home number. ;)
      • Oh, what the hell, I'm feeling charitable today.
        (800) 555-1212

        People might suspect that one because of the 555 prefix. If you want to have some fun with a legit number, use this one:


        It's in the Hawaii area code, which works well if you live here (or if you want to pretend that you live here...). Best of all, if people call it, they can never complain that you won't even give them the time of day. =)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      What I want is two phone numbers attached to my cell phone-on one of the numbers, caller pays, so I could give that out to businesses that want my number. The other number would be like a regular cell phone, and i could give that number out to my friends.
    • now if i could just get a bogus number for all the times i don't want to give out my cell number for fear of it being sold

  • by friendofafriend ( 602350 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:19PM (#4525964)
    If you have a phone in Europe it has a special dial code (07 something). If you call it it costs more than local or even long distance and now makes up a pretty large source of revenue.

    (Fot those in EU US cell phones have regular numbers and are called at regular rates, often free from your local area code)

    Because of this, you can practically get a phone for free with no contract, so this model has its up sides. Personally, I prefer the US approach, he who has the phone foots the (monthly) bill!

  • SWITCH! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clinko ( 232501 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:21PM (#4525975) Journal
    I'll start this comment by saying this:

    I'm cheap.

    I had no features added to my land line and made VERY FEW long distance calls. Either way my bill came out to around 30+ bucks. No caller ID, No Call Waiting, Nothing.

    So... I decided to switch to a Cell Phone. It's only 42 bucks WITH TAX. The key is WITH TAX. With nights & weekends I'm always on the phone at night & costs nothing.

    The point of my story:

    Land lines are going to die!.

    I have no desire to ever have a land line. Right now it's just cablemodem & Cell phone. That's all I need. I don't even have a dial-up.

    My thoughts...
    • Re:SWITCH! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by The Good Reverend ( 84440 ) <michael.michris@com> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:40PM (#4526106) Journal
      They won't die as long as my reception sucks - I can't get a signal worth anything at my house, and I'm not alone. Instead of the death of land lines, I predict a subtle murging of systems, you'll pay for "service" which will include landlines and cell.
    • I almost switched, too.


      I am a married guy and couldn't find plan that didn't charge a lot extra for two people to pool their minutes. I can't figure out why they charge more for 2 people to use 500 minutes than for one person to use 500 minutes. (I know, we could share a single cellphone just like we share our home phone now, but it's marginally more expensive even with 1 phone so I need a REASON to switch).

      Also, what if the reception is bad in my area? All these companies require you to sign up for at least a YEAR, and sometimes two. I don't like being locked in.

    • I'm sure there's a way to hook up the alarm system to a cell phone, but that's not cost effective. That's one of the main reasons for me not to do what you suggest.
  • by boster ( 124383 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:22PM (#4525980)
    Outside of North America, it is common for the party calling the cell phone to incur the extra cost.

    Here's how it works:

    • Cell phones get their own area code (thus you KNOW when you're calling a call phone).
    • Initiator of a call to/from a cell phone pays the extra cost above and beyond a normal phone call.
    • Thus, if you only receive calls (not make them), it can be quite economical (for you).

    This is one reason mobiles are more common overseas. They didn't just start as executive toys. For example, workmen on call sites could be given a prepaid phone (with viturally no money on it), and then be reachable.

    • by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:46PM (#4526730)
      Outside of North America, it is common for the party calling the cell phone to incur the extra cost.

      Oh goody. I get to post my favorite rant on why "caller pays" isn't better. In a nutshell, here's why:

      When the person who owns the cellphone pays for their own calls, they have a strong incentive to seek out the cheapest plan they can get. Hence, they put direct pressure on their cellphone company to be more efficient and keep their operating costs as low as possible.

      When the person who owns the cellphone doesn't pay for the call, the charges for the call are "reverse-billed" back to the caller. Since the caller isn't a customer of the cellphone company, the cellphone company has far less incentive to keep the reverse-charges low. (Ever notice that collect calls are more expensive than regular long-distance calls? A similar economic principle is at work.) Typically the government steps in to regulate the prices that companies are allowed to charge, and that's rarely as efficient as direct competition.

      I'm convinced that over the long-run, the "caller-pays" system will result in higher costs than a "cellphone-owner-pays" system. This depends, of course, on the remaining competitive barriers coming down: in the US, for instance, it's still too difficult to switch from one provider to the other. Hopefully the new regulations which allow cellphone owners to switch providers without losing their phone number will help in this area.

      Incidentally, if my explanation didn't make sense, here's a much more detailed explanation [].

  • by ekrout ( 139379 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:22PM (#4525984) Journal
    ... why I don't use phones, period. Well, to be perfectly honest, I call my girlfriend when she really needs/wants me to, but other than that, I stay away from both cell and normal phones.

    Cell phones are not very reliable. Calls are dropped all of the time. I've had conversations where one of the two parties involved has had to call back two, three, even four times because of lost reception. Also, many towns don't want cell towers, so you may find while driving down I-95 that certain areas just kill your cell phone's reception.

    I also don't *want* to be reached sometimes, especially by a boss or other superior. Cellphones eliminate that freedom because you're always "plugged in" to the (digital)/(rest of the) world. That means eight hour work days turn into 9 hour work days, and you may get a call while at a baseball game on Saturday or church Sunday morning.

    I just set-up my personal voicemail box today (2 or 3 months into the school year), but that was only because my mom was about to disown me if I didn't do so. I tell her I prefer email, but she prefers the phone. So, I can't win there, and she's my mom, so ...

    I also don't like people who can barely drive to begin with to use cellphones on the road. I know there have been studies that show it's worse than driving drunk!

    Anyway, this ends my rant...sorry for running-on so terribly, but I really hate cellphones :-D

    Eric Krout [] dot com, ya'll...
    • Well, I can't find out any information about you from your webpage, but I assume from your comment that you're in college. Here's a news flash: In the real world, most people use phones more than email (or instant messaging) for getting in touch.

      I thought I didn't need a phone until I had to live without one for two years (couldn't afford the outrageous prices on campus.) Try living without a phone if you need to get your car repaired/towed, for example. Or if you need to get in touch with someone who doesn't have a computer. It's really difficult. A pay phone is not always the answer, because sometimes people need to call you back.
      • You don't need a phone to get your car towed. Just park in the crip space.
      • Short story time:

        Two years ago, I had the left-side rear hub assembly (or "wheel bearing" or "spindle" depending on which era you learned about cars in) suffer catastrophic failure syndrome.

        I was on my way home from work, making a large-radius right turn onto a rural Ohio 2-lane road at about 40MPH, which is not an unreasonable speed for the intersection in question. I'd thought about taking it fast and having fun with things, but decided that I was in no particular hurry and slowed down.

        At the midpoint ("apex," or "inside"), the outside rear wheel fell off from the spindle on out. It took with it half of one side of the drum brakes on the back of the car, and smashed the hell out of what remained of t he other half. The body hit pavement, smashing the muffler.

        While the car was doing its quick uncontrollable 180, I had the luxury of thinking "I didn't -see- a big fucking pothole there," before glancing at the rear-view mirror and seeing the previously-attached rear tire roll across the road and come to rest at a guard rail, with the brake drum still attached.

        The car finally stopped not far from there, after choosing not to dive into the ravine on either side of the road or the river just ahead. It had little to no brake pressure, and the handbrake was disabled due to half of its mechanical system being recently evicted from the vehicle.

        I got out, used my cell phone to arrange for a tow truck, collected what parts I could find on the road, checked for obvious gas leaks (there were none). The soccer mom in the minivan behind me stopped and asked if I was ok, before verifying that I had a phone. I assured her that all was well.

        I sat in the car listening to Rammstein with the engine running and the heat on until the flat bed showed up.

        During this 45-minute period, at least twenty people stopped and offered help. I chatted briefly with a few of them, while the conversation with others consisted of them showing me a phone and me showing them mine.

        But, for fuck's sake, I figured that if I was going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere waiting for a towtruck to arrive, I might as well be able to enjoy some good music without interruption instead of standing in the cold on a windy day talking to good people who could do nothing to help my situation but leave me the hell alone.

        I scribbled out a sign with a Sharpie I found in the glovebox and put it under the wiper blade:

        "I'm OK. You can't help. Yes, I have a phone. Thanks!"

        Peace, at last...

        Since then, I've felt that a cell phone is highly overrated as a vehicular emergency implement. As long as everyone else has one, it's of little safety benefit to own one yourself.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Cellphones eliminate that freedom because you're always "plugged in" to the (digital)/(rest of the) world.

      Cell phones come with an "off" switch these days.
      • Yeah, they do.

        And then the boss complains that your cellphone is off when he tries to reach you on the weekends / your vacation / etc. I know plenty of people who have gotten yelled at for turning their cellphones off (no matter when they were turned off).
        • My phone wasn't off; I was using it. Why didn't you leave voicemail? My phone wasn't off; I left it in the car so as not to disturb other theater/restaurant patrons. My phone wasn't off; I just couldn't hear it ring / feel it vibrate at the heavy metal concert I was at.

          I would not put up with someone chewing me out for not answering my cellphone any more than I would for not answering my home landline phone. It's my phone and my time; I choose when to or not to answer it.

          If it is a work-related issue, then the company can pay for the cell phone, and pay a good bonus for placing me on-call. If the company is not willing to do that, then designated work hours are their time and all other hours are my time to do with as I please, which includes choosing to not answer hte phone if I don't want to.

        • I don't know what that attitude sounds more like; a slave or a dog.

          Here, boy. Good boy. Sit. Stay still. ON YOUR VACATION. ANYWAY. Good dog.

          Egad, man. Have you no self respect? Unless they're paying you to be on-call, work can stay at the office, thank you. Work is where you make your living, not where you live.
    • by rnd() ( 118781 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:24PM (#4526618) Homepage
      How about this:

      You can turn a cell phone off and the calls will still get voice mail. Landline phones just keep ringing and ringing, which is not good when telemarketers call very early on weekend mornings.

      Also, most cell phones include caller-ID for free. This makes it easy to screen calls that you don't want (in your case, just let your Boss go through to voice mail).

      As for your complaint about drivers with cell phones, there are earphones that allow a driver to keep both hands on the wheel.

      Think of how much faster people are able to call 911 to report a stranded motorist or a crime being committed and how many lives are saved because of cell phones.

      As for reception, if that's a big concern then get a phone that still works on the non-digital 800MHZ band where there's coverage across most of the US, even in very rural areas.

    • I bill a minimum of an hour if I'm so much as called off hours once for a question. My employer understands this. It's a tool, it's an emergency tool, they realize that to keep their employees, and to pay for the service, you have to compromise!
    • Just like leaving your home phone behind, you can leave your cell phone behind by turning it off! Or just not carrynig it with you!
  • hmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WhiteKnight07 ( 521975 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:23PM (#4525990)
    It wouldn't suprise me at all if this was an attempt to get more people to use cell phones. The phone companies make more money off of cell phones compaired to your average land line per month. Cell to cell calls are often coverd by special minute deals. Plus then there will be more people to spam with text messages about special offers.
  • by VitrosChemistryAnaly ( 616952 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:23PM (#4525992) Journal
    So right now I'm sitting in a computer lab (working on an overdue assignment). There is a large sign posted (where everyone can see it) that say's "No Cellphones!".

    Guess what? In the past 5 minutes at least 5 cells phones have rang! This is disturbing to those of use trying to work.

    On a more serious note. Maybe higher charges would make the inappropriate use of cells phones less common. I've seen numerous car accidents caused by people on cell phones who weren't paying attention to what they were doing.

    Maybe it'll also mean less phones ringing during movies!

    Here's one grumpy nerd hoping...
  • Ditto (Score:2, Informative)

    by houseofmore ( 313324 )
    Similar article from DaytonDailyNews: 9cellphones.html []
  • by Anonymous Coward more and more people use cells as there only phone. The bill for keeping up the infrastructure will be footed by fewer and fewer people.
  • by cphirman ( 454743 )
    Why does it matter to the large phone companies if you are calling a cell phone or a landline? Almost all the major phone carriers have wireless entities (SBC and Bellsouth, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint,etc). Pretty soon will probably see stuff like "As a Verizon customer you can call any Verizon wireless customer nationwide for free. Call an AT&T customer though and it'll cost you $25/min and your left kidney). Geez...
  • what it will means is it won't be free to call from the land line, unless you change your cell phone number to be in the same area code and prefix, or something very close. Call the company and find out what the service area is specifically for your phone... under TDMA it's called the SID code, under GSM it's called the CSA
  • RTFA!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by m0i ( 192134 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:33PM (#4526059) Homepage
    The comparison with Europe is pointless, as it's not going there anytime soon. The article says that only zones using reverse billing (very few) will be affected, you will pay LD calling those cells. The rest, paying for airtime when receiving a call, remains. A more important point is that cell. numbers will become portable among carriers. This is much more newsworthy to me!
  • I'm in the process of dropping my Nextel service, and so changed my rate plan to the cheapest they offer. When I did so, the customer service person told me something to the effect of "with this plan, land line callers may pay more to call you". I didn't give it much thought, but this is certainly what they meant. Perhaps more expensive wireless plans cover that fee on behalf of the caller ... ?
  • by Deanasc ( 201050 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:40PM (#4526103) Homepage Journal
    I wouldn't mind this if it meant not being charged or loosing minutes when someone called me on my cell. If they want to talk to me let them pay for it. After all I've been paying to hear them.
    • I wouldn't mind this if it meant not being charged or loosing minutes when someone called me on my cell. If they want to talk to me let them pay for it. After all I've been paying to hear them.
      This is modded up as funny, but its how the billions of people in the non-u.s.canada world work. We have a mobile (cell) phone, people ring us, they pay.
      • I wasn't entirely joking when I said that. That's exactly how many consumers feel in the USA. Some of us do know how it works elsewhere and have been patiently waiting for a better plan then we currently have.

        The only reason I leave my phone on now is that my current plan offers enough minutes I don't feel like I'm getting ripped off to answer the phone. Back in the days of 50 cents a minute no matter who made the call I never turned it on.

        I'd love it if it didn't cost me minutes but I only talk about 250 minutes a month total (No land line) and get 350 anytime minutes.

        Actually now that I think of it I'm getting ripped off for 100 minutes (not even counting the 2000 night and weekend.)

        Please don't tell me to get Cingular and keep my extra minutes. Here in State College only AT&T seems to give a clean signal everywhere.

  • Maybe this will discourage telephone solicitors from calling cell phones? that would be reason enough to make my main phone a cell-phone.
  • Wrong Title (Score:3, Funny)

    by garoush ( 111257 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:41PM (#4526108) Homepage
    The title is totaly wrong for this story. It need to change to: "Being interupted 24x7 Could Cost More".
  • The landline companies have yet to offer the calling freedom and rates that are standard with cell phones. They will lose customers if they institute even more charges for what were local calls.
  • by sh0rtie ( 455432 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:46PM (#4526127)

    In the UK if i go abroad with my UK cellphone say for arguments sake Spain and you call me from anywhere then you will only pay the standard premium cost (approx 40p per min) but as my phone is officially "roaming" as its in another country, I have to pay for the international part of your call to cover the multiple network operators involved ie: the price of a international call from England to Spain so ineffect its like a reverse charge call !

    and you feel ripped off!

    a lot of people have been caught out when their friends have called them while they are on holiday and they chat thinking its a regular call until they get home and see their cellphone bill and see hideous charges incurred for other peoples calls, needless to say sales calls get a mouthful of abuse.

    • It may be someone else's call, but YOU'RE the one that decided to take your phone to another country. Since your phone number is still the same, the calling party has no way of knowing where your phone is at any given time (unless you tell them, of course). Say if you go to another country, and someone calling you does not know that, why should they pay long distance charges? As far as they're concerned, it's still a local number.

      The same applies to my land line. If I forward my calls to the hotel where I'm staying in another state (I'm in the US) and someone calls me, *I* get charged the long distance for forwarding the call from my regular number. This makes sense since I am the one who decided to be somewhere else. Why should the cell system be any different?

    • At least you only get "ripped off" when you're in another country. In the US, all cell users have to pay airtime, whether they originated the call or not! So even in your local calling area you're paying for other people's calls, and if you're roaming (which, depeinding on carrier, could only be in the next state!) then you get airtime and roaming charges.
      • So even in your local calling area you're paying for other people's calls

        No, you're paying for your own calls. Just because somebody calls you doesn't mean that you're not involved in the conversation.

        I admit that it can suck if you answer a lot of wrong numbers or undesirable calls... But that's what caller ID and voicemail is for, and they work pretty well for the most part. I'm convinced that the American system is actually better [], and you certainly avoid messy situations like the one described by the poster above. When somebody calls me from abroad, I know I'm not paying their international charges.

    • This is exactly the converse of what people were saying in the first comments of this thread. "It costs more to call mobile phones in Europe, so get used to it."

      Well, in the US, people on mobile phones always pay for their incoming calls. The minutes you get per month are for both outgoing and incoming calls, and if you're roaming, it doesn't matter who called whom. And we don't feel ripped off, because we're used to paying for our half of the connection.

      This brings up an interesting situation. I was living in the UK for a semester, from the US, and my dad would call my UK-based mobile phone. He was on a 10-cents-to-Europe plan, so he expected to be charged 10 cents per minute. Well, that's not what happened -- he had to pay per-minute international mobile charges. These were essentially the same charges UK land-line owners pay to call UK mobile phones, but three times as much. He fought the charges, and since AT&T didn't really understand international mobile calls, he won.

      But what should have happened? I'd suspect US land-line callers to UK mobile phones should pay a higher rate. Otherwise who's paying for the mobile connection?
      • These were essentially the same charges UK land-line owners pay to call UK mobile phones, but three times as much. He fought the charges, and since AT&T didn't really understand international mobile calls, he won.

        Most phone plans have different international rates for landline and mobile. I use Vonage (VoIP) and calls to landlines are 5 cents/min, while calls to mobile phones are 23 cents/min.

        (23 cents/minute... In other words, there's an 18 cent/minute markup for calling a cellphone-- that seems a little steep! Maybe the caller-pays isn't such a hot idea.)

        Anyway if your phone company doesn't make this clear it should be their lookout. I just took a look at AT&T's rates and didn't see any mention of higher mobile charges. It's hardly fair to advertise 10 cents to Europe and not mention that you're charging more for calls to cellphones.

    • Most operaters (vodaphone and orange on contract at least), have roaming diabled by default. When you enable it they explain exactly how you'll be charged. Besides, when you are abroad you can always press the red button - send them to your answerphone.

      Even after 5 weeks in europe (mainly greece and itally), with phone calls to and from greece (so I phone, the signal goes back to the uk, then to a greek land line 2 miles from where I am), my entire bill was less then £120. That includes £60 line rental (200 minutes cross network).
    • a lot of people have been caught out when their friends have called them while they are on holiday and they chat thinking its a regular call until they get home and see their cellphone bill and see hideous charges incurred for other peoples calls, needless to say sales calls get a mouthful of abuse.

      A lot of fun isn't it...
  • by hexdcml ( 553714 ) <> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:48PM (#4526137)
    Well, the I personally think that this method works out the best - and plus - let's say u were popular - wouldn't having every tom, dick and harry calling u in America cost the reciever a lot of money?

    at least here in England (and Europe I presume from reading the other comments) the calling party pays. Which makes sense. You make the call, you pay for it. I don't want to pay for YOUR DECISION to call me! I primarily don't use my phone to call people, instead, I use it for text messages and for recieving calls. Thus, I am quite happily able to live off £10 of pre-paid credit for months on end (i get free txts) - which suits my meagre budget just fine.

    ppl in the US should just stop whining and accept the fact that the most of the other continents are charging more for mobile calls - you guys were just spoilt :-p *pouts*

    • Well, the I personally think that this method works out the best - and plus - let's say u were popular - wouldn't having every tom, dick and harry calling u in America cost the reciever a lot of money?

      I live in the US and use Vonage VoIP. I've noticed that Vonage charges me only 5 cents/minute to call a UK landline, but a whopping 23 cents/minute to call a UK cellphone. It's possible that Vonage is inserting some sort of markup there, but given that their rates are generally bare-bones low, it would appear that British cellphone companies are charging (close to) 18 cents/minute to simply provide service from the cellphone tower to the handset-- not including the long distance charges. That's a lot.

      Here's my question: what do you do if you feel that cost is too high? Under the US system, when my phone bills are too high I look for a cheaper provider (the mere threat of this keeps prices low.) If the prices are too high in the UK, it looks to me like you have a whole lot less recourse. Either you shell out that 18 cents/minute, or you don't call other peoples' cellphones at all. Where are these charges set, anyway-- does the government mandate the charges?

      It seems as though you've got a lot more leverage over your cellphone company's charges when you pay for all the costs vs. when there's reverse-billing going on. Theoretically, this should lead to a more competitive and therefore more efficient US cellphone industry, which benefits us all.

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:51PM (#4526154) Homepage Journal
    Land Line telephone companies are really shooting themselves in the foot, at least for residential customers. It is really getting to the point where having a land line for voice communications is actually more expensive and complicated than a cell phone. The kicker of course is the secret 'long distance' toll that the telephone company charges without any warning. No one really knows where the intrastate long distance border is, the telephone company does not warn you that it is a long distance call, and now they want to charge toll on cell phones that may be next door!

    For instance, in Texas basic phone service is around $20 a month. That gets you local calls in a local metropolitan area(not the greater metropolitan area), or, if you are in a rural area, perhaps a 10-15 mile radius. If you call outside that small area, you are charged a long distance toll that can easily be twice the interstate long distance toll. You can avoid this toll for the small fee of around $30 a month. If you want the other services, like caller ID, voice mail, etc, that will cost $40. The total, with taxes, is well over $100.

    Why again do we have a residential land line? For less than $100 I can get plenty minutes, all the services, plus free long national long distance on my cell phone. I like having a land line so I can have a place that telemarketers and other annoying persons can call, not to mention the DSL. That is sort of worth $25 a month. But $30 more a month to avoid a toll for calling next door. That is crazy.

    • I still don't get why it costs a fortune to call across town, but doesn't to call another state.

      Why is the pricing structure so bogus?
    • This is all you dude. I live in NYC. My local bill's about 12 bucks a months. I get long distance for 5 cents a minute from these guys []. Average use: total bill would be about 35 bucks a month, but since the taxes and such are split between me and the two other critters I live with, that cuts it down to...(pulls out bill)...19 bucks this month. If I got a cell it'd cost me quite a bit more than that on top of a land line I really can't get rid of (how d'you think I'm connected now? $5 a month Dialup :).

      dunno dude, maybe it's just Texas, but NYC's not exactly known for its cheap telcom services. :)

  • by md17 ( 68506 ) <james@jamesward. o r g> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @07:51PM (#4526160) Homepage
    I already got rid of my home phone and just use a cell phone. Also, I will be moving to VoIP at the office as soon as Vonage [] can get me a Denver area code.

    It's nice to be free from those local phone service bastards.
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:18PM (#4526311) Journal
    They are not talking about calling party paid, they are not talking about landline phones paying air time.

    It's only if you are calling a number whose physical switch is outside your local landline calling area.

    For example, I'll take Delaware as an example since it's dead simple. Three counties, three rate centers. If you have a cell phone whose number is from county #1, then county #2 and #3 pay normal intra-lata rates to call your number. Users in county #1 will continue to not pay.

    In Delaware, cell companies give you a choice what county you want your number from so most people get one in the same county they live.

    Let's take another theoretical example. Let's say you live in Benson AZ and your cell phone number is from Tucscon. It's a toll call from Benson to Tucson for landline users, but since Benson isn't big enough to have its own infrastructure for basing cell phone NUMBERS out of it (not towers), then the charges to call a cell phone based in Tucson from a landline in Benson were waived.

    (Above just being an example of a small town with no local calling to its neighboring big town that I know, it's not a literal example)

  • I've maintained for a long-time that the telcos would much rather have residential customers on wireless as opposed to landline. The residential landline service has been subsidized by business customers for decades, and the telcos are salivating over the prospect of putting that money into the profit column.

    Since all the RBOC's have their own wireless ventures, changes in pricing structures would prompt the most upwardly mobile (meaning "has discretionary income") customers to transition from landline to mobile. This moves potentially highly profitable customers from a fixed-rate service to a service that is more useage-based. Sure you get 3,000 minutes per month on your cell phone, but even when the billing is the same, the telco should eventually get a return on not having to manage so much copper in residential areas. Or, at the very least, freeing up some of the infrastructure from voice circuits allows the pairs to be used for DSL/other services without the incredulous expense of sending big burly men out to string more cable.

    That may not seem like a big deal until you consider that many of the residential areas are using copper that's been hanging on poles or in the wet ground for more than 40 years. Getting away from or recycling for other purposes the existing buried infrastructure seems to be very forward thinking, which would appear to be out of character for telcos.
  • No phone company would provide details on where people could be affected.

    They should have said: the only customers who will be affected are those who call wireless phones from their land lines. If you don't call a wireless phone from your home phone, you have nothing to worry about. You can always tell a wireless phone number from a land phone number because the former has 7 or 10 digits (depending on the inclusion of the area code), wherease a wireless number has 7 or 10 digits (depending on the inclusion of the area code).
  • In America, how am I supposed to know that a particular phone number is cellular or not? It's not as if they are restricted to a particular area code, or you have to dial a special prefix to reach cellphone numbers (as it is in some other countries). If the phone is based in my city, I can just dial 7 digits as if it were next door. In some circumstances I am not in a position to ask what type of phone it is prior to calling the person. Then it's only weeks after making the call that I find out, after getting hit with a high phone bill for the airtime charges.

    This is just another way to rip off consumers by having them run up charges on their phone bill without knowing it until after the fact.
    • by rwoodford ( 611449 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:15PM (#4526574)
      I work as a network engineer and I do the routing for one of the major cell phone companies here in the U.S.

      To answer your question, until 11/24/2002 phone numbers, for the most part, are given out in 10K blocks (NPA/Nxx) to specific compaines; wireline, wireless, whatever. In theory, if you know the first six digits of the phone number, you can tell if it's wireless or wireline. That is, if you have access to that information (like I do). To the best of my knowledge, I don't think people outside of Telcos have access to this so the point is moot.

      After 11/24, all Telcos will be participating in number pooling. Basically we donate numbers back to the pool for other carriers to use (if we're only using 50 numbers out of 10K) and whatever we still use is routed back to us via local number portability. So now even if you had the aforementioned information, it could be invalid. Basically your screwed one way or the other.

      To further complicate matters, after 11/24/2003 all numbers will be portable between any carrier within a rate center. So you can move your number from (ex.) Verizon landline to AT&T Wireless to Nextel, to AT&T Local Services...and on and many times as you'd like. By then, it's impossible to know.

  • by Cerlyn ( 202990 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:48PM (#4526460)

    Did anyone read the article? What the phone companies did is *worse* than that. They eliminated something that *will* affect many dialup ISP users. Not to mention all those companies in New York City that pay not to have their area changed (although that's a whole other story)...

    What the local phone companies are getting rid of is "reverse billing." This is a service which allows a company located in Region A to offer a phone number in Region B by paying the difference in cost for phone calls made to their Region B number. When cell phone companies first started up, they only had callable offices in relatively few locations, which could have made calling cell phones expensive. Nowadays, this is not a bit deal anymore.

    Unfortunately, a lot of other firms like using reverse lookups. ISPs use reverse billing to allow them to have phone numbers all over the place while maintaining only a few central dialup pools. Outreach programs often use these numbers to reach out to communities that they would not have been able to easily call them otherwise.

    Personally, I feel (*hope*) that CNN seems to be missing some details. If the phone companies truely are getting rid of reverse billing, one would think that they would be getting rid of all their 800/888/877/866 numbers that are *entirely* reverse billed down to pay phone costs. And if a cell phone provider with a central switch in Region A serves customers in region A', and said switch is located in region A, I don't see why reverse billing would come into play; the cell phone company would be like any other large business that just happened to own a few hundred phone numbers in the area.

  • by AtariDatacenter ( 31657 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @08:48PM (#4526464)
    This will have zero impact on me, which is one of the reasons why I decided to take control of my phone bill. I was getting pretty sick of SBC trying to stick it to me every way that they could.

    My last phone bill? $76.69. Same as the month before it. And that included standard local telephone service, unpublished number, voice mail (with telephone or web access to pick up messages and pager/email notification), caller id, call waiting, 3-way calling, speed dial, anonymous call rejection, and maybe another feature or two I don't remember. (I still remember SBC billing me for "touch tone". Bastards.)

    On top of that, I now get free calling 24x7 to anywhere within my area code. And free calling 24x7 to anywhere within my state. And free calling 24x7 to anywhere within the continental United States. Frankly, the only thing I have to worry about is accidently calling a Canadian number.

    My last phone bill had 1,739 minutes of long distance in 249 calls, for an added fee of only $0.00. And no, I didn't have to just call members of the plan. This was the rate to absolutely any regular telephone number in the US.

    I was on SBC's "local plus" plan, which billed me about $30/month extra on top of basic telephone service to call anywhere within my area code for free. Now, I'm saving money, got tons more features, and don't have to worry about fluctuating phone bills. Thank God.

    Yes, I know. This absolutely isn't the perfect plan for everyone. But MCI's The Neighborhood really has a lot going for it if you've got a regular phone bill that is at least $70. I wish their financial condition was better. I'd like to see them tear SBC a new hole.
  • because like mentioned previously, outside the US calls to mobiles are actually more costly than to land lines. But my post is actually more of a question to US cellphone owners:

    How much (on average) does an outgoing call from your mobile costs? Please provide explanation such as within same area code or otherwise, service operator, etc.

    Do you get charged for incoming calls as well?

    Do you have prepaid packages? How popular is it and what are its pros and cons?

    I live in Malaysia and work in Singapore, and I use prepaid packages for cellphone usage. In Malaysia, I'm using the HotLink [] package from Maxis [], where as in Singapore I use the M Card [] by M1 []. A significant difference between the two is that in Singapore, they actually charge for incoming calls, something that doesn't happen in Malaysia.

    Which method does the mobile operators in your countries follow?
  • Varied Rate Calls (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tucay ( 563672 )
    In a perfect world the end user could select the rate for the incoming call. If it was an important call from someone I want to talk to then I don't mind paying my share of the connection time. But if its a pesky hanger oner than they can pay to talk to me and I'll do a revenue share with the phone company. Perhaps, I can turn my phone into a profit center?
  • by sdxxx ( 471771 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:45PM (#4526723)
    Very few people are going to be affected by this change. The issue only applies to geographically large area codes, in which certain numbers within the area code actually constitute long distance calls. For example, if your area code is AAA, then the number:


    might be local, while


    is a long distance call. In these area codes, the three digit "prefix" after the area code is what determines where you are calling, and calling between certain pairs of prefixes is long distance.

    How does this apply to cell phones? In very geographically spread-out area codes, cell phone service providers do not necessarily have a prefix in every fare zone. Returning to the example, a cell phone company might have the prefix 1-AAA-455, which is local from a 444- phone, but not a 333- phone.

    In these situations, people living in the 333 calling area might be assigned 455 cell phone numbers, which would be long distance when called from a local phone. In the past, what happened is that if someone called 455 from a 333 phone, the cell phone provider would be "reverse billed" for the long distance charges. Cell providers didn't mind this because it didn't happen very often, and because they hoped it would lead to cell phone adoption in new markets (in which they might eventually install their own equipment and get their own prefix).

    Now what's happening is that the land-line providers want to end the reverse billing, primarily because it is very complicated to implement. In particular, there are going to be some changes whereby people will get to keep their cell phone numbers even if they switch mobile phone companies. When this happens, the existing implementation of reverse billing will not work any more--things are complicated by the fact that now a call to 455 might need to be reverse billed to one of several different cell phone companies.

    Since reverse billing is so rare anyway, the land line companies successfully lobbied to stop implementing it.

    Note that this is very different from say, Europe, where calling a cell phone is always more expensive than calling a local land line. All that's happening is that there will be some fare zones in which it is impossible to get a cell phone number. So some people may not be able to call any cell phones free from their land lines. However, for any particular cell phone there will always be land lines somewhere that can call it with a local call.

    In any event, highly populated areas with overlay area codes (where calling accross area codes is not long distance) should see no change in how calls to cell phones are billed.
  • From what I understand, if you use Verizon in the Boston area, then it does cost to call 'local' cell phones. I guess they are just getting the jump on everyone

  • . . . that since these numbers are long distance, a landline user must dial the access code "1" before the number? Otherwise, the customer could place a toll call without knowing it, which I imagine would result in lots of indignant letters to public utilities commissions, and we know how much the telco's love that.
  • When I dial a number that's in my area code but outside my local calling area, I have to prefix my call with "1" and my area code. Won't this take place for cell phones, too? Won't this alert people that calling that phone will result in an additional charge?

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson