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1/17/2002

Wireless Telephone Could Be All You Need

Kate Traynor

The phrase "cutting the cord" takes on a new meaning in the digital age as people rely more heavily on cellular telephones and less on telephones connected by traditional land lines.

If you have considered forgoing a traditional telephone in your home in favor of a wireless phone, you are not alone. An Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spokeswoman, citing telecommunications trade-group statistics, estimated that about three percent of wireless telephone subscribers use the device as their only phone at home.

According to FCC, there were more than 100 million wireless telephone subscribers in the United States in December 2000, a 27 percent increase over the previous year. Wireless telephone use seems to have increased since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. According to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, a telecommunications trade group, there are now nearly 130 million wireless subscribers in the United States.

For some people, particularly those who travel frequently or live in an area that has reliable wireless-service coverage, going without a traditional telephone may make sense.

If you are contemplating cutting the cord or just thinking about subscribing to a wireless service, consider the following points:

The basics. FCC has a consumer-oriented fact sheet that describes wireless terminology and discusses what service providers do and do not offer.

Cost. According to FCC, 20 million wireless telephone subscribers have service plans that do not charge extra fees for long-distance calls. If you make many long-distance calls, you may be able to find a wireless service that costs less than a traditional home plan. But you may do better by switching your home service to another carrier whose options fit your normal calling patterns. When comparing costs, you should include any deposit that the wireless or conventional carrier requires you to pay.

Choosing a service. A chart from ZDnet, a technology information organization, gives an extensive comparison of different wireless service providers. The information originally appeared in PC Magazine last March.

Internet access. If you want a reliable Internet connection at home, you may need to install a traditional telephone line. Other options for connecting to the Internet include a cable modem, integrated services digital network line, or digital subscriber line access, all of which generally provide faster connections than a telephone modem. Wireless Internet connections are available but are not yet in widespread use.