|Keep your existing number, learn the scoop on AT&T Wireless, and more |
By Joni Blecher
Senior Editor Joni Blecher, a.k.a. the Cell Phone Diva, wants to answer all your questions about cell phones, service plans, and wireless connectivity. Send her a question!
New domain, same number
A: First, get the OK from your company to keep the same number. Once that's accomplished, call AT&T Wireless Customer Service and explain the situation. Apply to change financial responsibility; if you're approved, you get to keep the same number.
To get a good deal on a phone and service, you'll probably need to change your plan. Service providers typically have weekly deals that you can check out, and you'll probably be able to find a good deal on a plan that best fits your needs. And if you can't get a bargain on a phone, ask about AT&T's Customer Advantage program. The company offers discounts on mobiles to longtime customers.
A: Unfortunately, in most cases, you can't keep your old phone when you change carriers. That's why it's important to pick a service provider before you pick a phone. The only time when you may be able to keep the same phone is if you have GSM service (VoiceStream, Cingular Wireless). In theory, you can simply insert a new SIM card into your old phone. But before you try this at home, call your carrier first. This doesn't always work because of something called SIM locking. For example, you can use only a Cingular SIM card in a Cingular phone.
The big slowdown
A: The WCDMA (Wideband CDMA) network, which provides speeds of up to 2Mbps, is not available in the United States. In fact, it's still quite a few years away. AT&T is currently in the process of rolling out its 2.5G (GPRS) data network, one of the first steps on the road to WCDMA. That's why AT&T's current wireless data service, mMode, is available on only GPRS networks.
A: Unless you're in the 60 percent of AT&T Wireless's markets where its GSM/GPRS networks are currently up and running, don't switch. All the carriers are in a race to provide next-generation data services to customers, and while we've heard that many service providers will have nationwide high-speed data service available this summer, true nationwide coverage is still a good six months away. However, the network tends to be pretty reliable where GSM coverage is available.
Another issue to consider before making the switch is that you'll probably abandon analog roaming. Even though fees skyrocket and call quality drops significantly when you roam onto an analog network, at least you'll still have service. If you often travel away from big cities and use this feature, reconsider upgrading since GSM phones don't typically run on analog networks. That said, this month will see the introduction of the Nokia 6340 GAIT (GSM ANSI Interoperability Team) phone, which will offer GSM, TDMA, and analog support. You might want to wait until then if you decide analog coverage is important for you.
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Joni Blecher is a section editor for CNET Reviews.