Motorola
AMPS 8800X
 "Brick,"
1984

 

Cellular Carrier Comparison
for
New York City

http://www.nyccell.com

An Objective Guide to Wireless
 Carriers in New York City

Last Update: 17 January 2004

 
Motorola T720


Motorola T-720
CDMA and GPRS models, 2002

 


Click to send Broken Link Reports, Comments, Complaints, Compliments, Corrections to Web Master

Some of this site applies only to the New York City Area. Coverage, capacity, rates, phone prices, etc. vary by region.
Most of the technical information applies to all markets

Northern California Edition of this Web Site

Southern California Edition of this Web Site


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

 Table of Contents

Cellular News Stories
Purpose
Introduction
Best Carrier for New York City
Local Number Portability (LNP)
Carrier Selection and Elimination
February 2004 Consumer Reports Article on Mobile Phones
800 Mhz "Cellular" Versus 1900 Mhz "PCS"
GSM in the U.S.
Voice Quality--CDMA versus GSM
Technology Comparison Table
Checklist for Researching Cellular Service Providers
Overview of Cellular Standards
Fraudulent or Misleading Advertising & Marketing
Carrier Rating & Selection Tables 
Rates
Local Coverage
New York City Outlying Coverage
U.S. Roaming Coverage
International CDMA, GSM, PDC, TDMA, & UMTS Roaming
Customer Service
High Speed Data
SMS (Short Messaging System)
Where to Buy--Company Owned Store or Authorized Agent
Handset Selection
Phone Accessories
Ringtones
Software Upgrades on Phones
Preferred Roaming List (PRL) Upgrades
Keep it Charged, Keep it On, Keep it with You
Voice Mail Landline Access Numbers
Usenet Information on Carriers and Equipment
Statistics on Market Share, Subscriber Totals, Subscriber Additions, and Churn
Conclusions
Shopping Checklist
Feedback
Links
Change Log
Appendixes
   A. Cellular Standards (AMPS, CDMA, GSM, iDEN, TDMA)
   B. Spectral Efficiency Comparison of Cellular Technologies
   C. Voice Quality of Digital Systems
   D. Reasons for Churn
   E. Links to Other Non-Commercial Wireless Carrier Evaluations Sites
   F. V.90 Dial-Up Modem Recommendations
   G. Computer Hardware Recommended by Steven M. Scharf
   H--DSL & Broadband
   I--Links to Cached Verizon PRL Details (these may be deleted by Google shortly)
   J--Hearing Aid Compatible Phones
   K--Landline Long Distance Services <4˘/minute Long Distance Services with no Monthly Fees and No Low-Usage Fees
   L--Lowering Intra-LATA and Landline Costs
   M--Going "Tellular"--Eliminating your Landline
Avoid: Think Wireless, Exotic Wireless, San Francisco Mobile, 007PCS, iTrade, iphones, www.ewirelessdepot.com 

 


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Cellular News Stories

Most Recent Stories
(Click Headline for Full Story)

Rural Carriers Prefer GSM 2 to 1 over CDMA
RCR Wireless News, 16 January 2004

Cingular, AT&T Wireless in Merger Talks
15 January 2004, Reuters 

Verizon Wireless Announces Roll Out of National 3G Network
9 January 2004 Wireless Developer Network

 

Click for Complete List of News Stories


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Purpose
The purpose of this site is to help current and potential cellular customers choose a cellular carrier and equipment.

This site provides objective information about the rates, local coverage, and roaming capabilities of the six major cellular providers in the New York City area. This site also has information and advice on phone selection, high speed data, international roaming, and prepaid service. While I have tried to make this site as objective as possible, it does contain many valuable and informed opinions.

I created this site to help people make informed choices when buying cellular service. My background is as an electrical engineer with a background in communications (and as a cellular user back to the early days of AMPS analog cellular). I receive no compensation for this site and I pay for the web hosting out of my own pocket. I created it as a public service, deciding that it was more efficient than answering individual Usenet requests for information.

Please e-mail me with questions, suggestions, complaints, etc. I try to answer every legitimate question and I have made numerous additions and modifications to the site based on feedback. If you disagree with something on this site please inform me and try to provide some reference, citation, proof, etc. I do make mistakes, but I don't respond well to claims of inaccuracies when the person can't provide the least bit of evidence to back up their claim.


Introduction
Too many people rush into signing up for cellular service without first doing any research on anything except how many minutes they get for a certain amount of money. This is a mistake. Cellular carriers are notorious for misleading marketing and advertising. This web site will help you make a well-informed decision on the choice of a cellular carrier, equipment, and rate plan.


Best Carrier for New York City
Cutting to the chase, for those who have no time or interest to peruse this site, here is the best carrier for New York City:

Verizon Wireless has the best nationwide coverage, the best nationwide roaming plans, AMPS analog service for rural areas that have no digital service on any carrier. Verizon is also a little more expensive than the other carriers. There is very little international roaming available on Verizon since most of Europe and Asia are not CDMA, but the GSM carriers provide international roaming at the expense of local and national coverage. Verizon does not have the best selection of handsets, but their are sufficient choices. Verizon and Nextel are the only carrier that have local landline phone numbers to access your voicemail (though Verizon does not publicize them, see http://www.bridog.net/cellular/voicemail.txt).

As AT&T moves more and more subscribers over to GSM the capacity problems on their TDMA network will ease and it will become a better option than it is now. The coverage on AT&T's TDMA network is excellent but because TDMA is so spectrally inefficient the network congestion problem on TDMA is too expensive for them to correct, especially given that TDMA is being phased out.


Local Number Portability (LNP)
Wireless carriers must allow you to keep your existing phone number when you change to a different carrier. Some carriers are charging hefty monthly fees claiming that the money is being used to implement LNP. Some are not charging anything extra. There may also be fees to transfer your number.

Beware that when you try to move your number to a new carrier, you may discover that your existing carrier has somehow extended your contract without your consent. I know that Sprint and AT&T Wireless have been doing this, I don't know about the other carriers. You can switch carriers without paying the termination fee, but your old carrier will try to bill you for it, and you'll have to deal with this dispute. They will have to prove that you authorized a contract extension. You may have to eventually fight with a collection agency, and later with the credit reporting agencies.

Click for LNP Section


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Carrier Selection and Elimination
In some ways, selecting a cellular carrier, equipment, and rate plan, is more complicated than buying an automobile. At least with a vehicle, the performance does not vary a lot based on your geographic location. In other ways, it is quite simple to select a carrier if you know the pros and cons of each one.

Prior to even checking rates and coverage you can usually eliminate several carriers from consideration based on their technology and capabilities (see table below, green is good, red is bad, yellow is in the middle).

This section examines in detail, at the following topics which will help you make an informed decision on the selection of a carrier:

Technology (CDMA versus GSM) DOES Matter
CDMA provides overwhelming advantages over GSM in the U.S., hence, the carriers that have adopted CDMA have an overwhelming advantage over those that have adopted GSM.

800 Mhz is Best
800 Mhz
carriers have a tremendous advantage over the newer, 1900 Mhz only carriers.

CDMA is Best, Especially in Densely Populated Urban Areas
The table comparing network congestion is compelling.

All things being Equal, the Best Carrier in Terms of Coverage is Verizon (CDMA)
Verizon is the clear winner for coverage

All Things are Not Equal
While the 1900 Mhz carriers are inferior in terms of coverage, technology and/or capabilities they each have some attraction.

AMPS is Ubiquitous; Don't Choose a Carrier that Doesn't Include AMPS Capability!
No weasel words here, don't go with a carrier that doesn't provide at least the capability to use the old 800 Mhz AMPS network.

Table of Phones With and Without AMPS Capability
Helps you avoid the mistake of buying a handset without AMPS capability

Carrier Evaluations (based on technology & spectrum)
Points out each carriers advantages and disadvantages in a color coded table.

Long Term Outlook
GSM will improve as 850 Mhz GSM is deployed

Best Phone for Adventurers

Click for Carrier Selection and Elimination Section


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

February 2004 Consumer Reports Article on Mobile Phones

The February 2004 issue of Consumer Reports has an article about mobile phones. To read this article you can go to the library. Consumer Reports does not make their content available on-line except to subscribers, for a fee.

Gist of the Article
Verizon took the top spot in every city. In 11 of the 12 cities it was by a wide margin (at least 5 points better than the 2nd rated carrier). The margins in New York and San Francisco were very high (9 points better than the 2nd rated carrier). Only in Chicago was the margin pretty small (2 points). According to Consumer Reports, AT&T is now the worst rated carrier in Los Angeles and New York, and remains a distant second in San Francisco (what hath GSM wrought?!). Verizon took the top spot (either tied or alone) in every sub-category for Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

The article includes a sidebar “Trouble in the GSM network,” advises consumers to be sure to get at least dual band GSM phones, and talks about the Sony-Ericsson T62u ("erratic').

Analysis
Why did the ratings change so much over the past year?

1. The AT&T conversion from 800 Mhz TDMA to 1900 Mhz GSM has worsened their networks considerably; no secret to AT&T subscribers, even those still on TDMA. Eventually the trend will reverse as 800 Mhz GSM becomes more widely deployed.

2. Cingular is still struggling with network problems in California; the fact that Cingular is now second to last, and is rated higher than AT&T in Southern California, is not cause for celebration! Cingular remains in last place in Northern California.

3. Verizon is on a roll. They are taking full advantage of the superiority of both 800 Mhz and of their CDMA technology. Verizon is perceived to be one of the most expensive carriers because their lowest cost plans are more expensive than the lowest price plans of their competitors. However they are least expensive of the six national carriers if you look at ARPU, though this may simply mean that the other carriers have a lot more high-value subscribers.

4. 800 Mhz matters. The decline of AT&T can be attributed in large part to their TDMA to GSM overlay. This overlay moved massive numbers of subscribers from their once-great TDMA 800 Mhz network, to their mediocre 1900 Mhz GSM network. Now they are converting 800 Mhz spectrum from TDMA to GSM, worsening their TDMA network.

5. Cingular's relatively poor ratings in their formerly TDMA areas can also be attributed to the TDMA 800 Mhz to 1900 Mhz GSM conversion, though this is no excuse in California where they have always been 1900 Mhz GSM.

6. If there is any bright spot, it's that as 800 Mhz GSM is deployed, and as 800 Mhz/1900 Mhz handsets become more widely sold, the Cingular and AT&T GSM networks will improve in the areas where they have 800 Mhz spectrum. Long term, AT&T has the best chance of creating a quality GSM network in New York City and California.

7. Sprint is in a hopeless situation. Their best hope is to be acquired by someone or to exit the wireless business and sell their spectrum. 


800 Mhz "Cellular" Versus 1900 Mhz "PCS"

It's common knowledge among engineering types about the trade-offs of going to higher frequency transmission, but there has been so much advertising by Sprint PCS about how PCS is "the clear alternative to cellular," that some laymen simply can't believe that PCS (1900 Mhz) is really worse than cellular (800 Mhz). It's indoor coverage that suffers the most with PCS because the outdoor coverage issues can be largely eliminated by simply installing a lot more cells. 

Click for 800 Mhz "Cellular" versus 1900 Mhz "PCS" Section 


GSM in the U.S.

This section examines the state of GSM in the U.S. Topics Include

Click for GSM in the U.S. Section


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Voice Quality--CDMA versus GSM

This article examines the issue of voice quality on CDMA and GSM systems. Each side claims to have better voice quality but the voice quality issue is more affected by network quality than which system is technically capable of providing the best quality. 

 Click for Voice Quality Section


Technology Comparison Table

This section compares the current cellular technologies in terms of voice quality, coverage (urban, suburban, & rural), in-building penetration, data services, handset selection, battery life, and system capacity) 

Click for Technology Comparison Table


Checklist for Researching Cellular Service Providers

This section details the things you should check for in the carrier selection process. Topics include:

Click for Checklist Section


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Overview of Cellular Standards
Few people are interested in the technology behind their cellular phone. It matters because two older systems with very good coverage being phased out (AMPS and TDMA) and a new system is being phased in (GSM). CDMA is here to stay. iDEN has a questionable future. Your choice of carrier has implications for coverage, data capability, and for how long you can use your equipment before replacement.

Click for Cellular Standards Section


Fraudulent or Misleading Advertising, Marketing, & Sales

This section examines the various misleading methods used by carriers in advertising and marketing of wireless services, especially the use of implicature. I have included a section on typical salesperson non-answers to potential customer's questions.

Click for Fraudulent or Misleading Advertising & Marketing Section


Carrier Ratings & Selection Tables
Choose a carrier based on your specific needs. Use the tables below as a guide. No carrier is the best in every category. Do not go solely by rates; coverage matters very much. You will regret selecting a carrier based mainly on price.

Check coverage at your home and workplace, but also look at coverage and roaming for out of the area places that you visit (and along the route, if you drive there). Consider the ability to make a call at all in some areas, even if you have to pay extra to do so.

Carriers try to lock you into a two year contract by sweetening the deal if you commit to two years versus one year; this is even more reason why you should carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each carrier before making a commitment. Take full advantage of the money-back guarantees that all the carriers offer for the first 14 or 15 days of service.

Click for New York City Carrier Ratings and Selection Section


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Rates

Topics in this section include:

Click for Rates Section


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Local Coverage
The issue of coverage seems to ignite peoples passions. The worst thing that happens is that someone on a carrier with good coverage gets enticed by low rates to switch to a carrier that happens to have poor coverage. Coverage is not the only issue to consider when choosing a carrier, but IMVAIO (in my valued and informed opinion) it is the most important issue for the individual subscriber. I don't really care if the voice quality of a call degrades because of network congestion when the alternative is a dropped call or not being able to make a call at all. Some people may intentionally chose a provider with poorer coverage because the carrier has lower rates, offers worldwide roaming, or has a better selection of phones. But a lot of people don't realize how much of a difference there is in coverage between the different carriers, and go strictly by rates and./or equipment, which is a big mistake. Bottom line is that there are HUGE differences in coverage among cellular carriers, and independent studies have confirmed this fact.

Watch out for the "100% Coverage" Sales Tactic

A favorite response of wireless salespeople, when a potential customer asks about coverage differences, is "no carrier provides 100% coverage." This response is an attempt to equalize coverage among the various carriers into two groups, 100% and <100%. After all, if neither Verizon nor Cingular provide 100% coverage then why not choose the carrier with the lower prices and cooler handsets. As the data below demonstrates, there are huge differences in coverage between the carriers. 89-90% is much better than 68%. In terms of total area covered, a CDMA/AMPS phone or a TDMA/AMPS phone covers orders of magnitude more area than a GSM-only phone.

Click for New York City Local Coverage Section


New York City Outlying Coverage

Since New York City cellular subscribers often travel outside the immediate New York City area, it is useful to know what kind of coverage to expect in outlying areas

Click for New York City Outlying Coverage Section


U.S. Roaming Coverage

The rationalizations against the wisdom at looking at the big picture when it comes to roaming coverage are truly amazing because they apply to so few subscribers.  I.e. one Cingular aficionado wrote: "I have several colleagues who don't even take their phones with them when they leave their home area. They view the phone as an anchor."  I certainly agree that if you never leave your home area and the lowest cost provider has good coverage, that indeed selecting that carrier makes sense. But most people do travel at least occasionally. Business people want good coverage in the cities they travel to, leisure travelers often go to (or through) rural areas where they very much want the reassurance of a working mobile phone. Some urban areas do not have any GSM coverage at all.

If you never leave your home area than you can skip this section. If you travel, for business or pleasure, and would like your phone to function in areas where wireless service is available, then pay close attention!

Click for U.S. Roaming Section


International CDMA, GSM, PDC, TDMA, & UMTS Roaming
EarthRoam is a separate web site that provides details on international roaming, including rates and coverage by carrier. It also details prepaid international roaming.

Click for EarthRoam International Roaming Web Site


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Customer Service
The quality of each carrier's customer service is hard to quantify. According to Epinions, the carriers for the New York City Area are ranked as follows for customer service:

The Wall Street Journal had an article in October 2002 that rated the wireless carriers as follows ( a combination of customer service, quality of coverage, and dropped calls:

Better: Verizon
Good: Cingular (Cingular has a strong TDMA network where they were one of the original 800 Mhz carriers)
Less bad: AT&T
Worst: T-Mobile & Sprint

Customer Respect

This survey focuses on how companies treat their customers online. Click for Report.


High Speed Data--1G, 2G, 2.5G, 2.75G, 3G, 802.11

This section details the data capabilities of each network technology. Sections include:

Click for High Speed Data Section


SMS (Short Messaging System)
All four major carriers now support SMS. A lot of older phones can't send messages, but they can still receive them. You can send messages to phones from any carrier, to any carrier. Supposedly, only Cingular and T-Mobile GSM can receive messages from GSM phones in other countries, but any carrier can send messages to GSM phones in other countries. There is a way around this for some carriers, you can send an e-mail message to a phone without utilizing SMS. For example, on Verizon you can send an e-mail to 4085551212@vtext.com, on Cingular to 4085551212@mobile.mycingular.com, on Sprint to 4085551212@messaging.sprintpcs.com, on AT&T to 4085551212@mobile.att.net, on T-Mobile it's 4085551212@tmomail.net, on Alltel it's: 4085551212@message.alltel.com (replace 4085551212 with the cellular phone number you are sending the e-mail to).


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Where to Buy--Company Owned Store or Authorized Agent

Company-owned stores and authorized agents offer the same rate plans but equipment prices vary. Much depends on how much of the carrier kick-back the store uses to subsidize the equipment. The Chinese stores are notorious for sharing more of the kick-back with the customer. For Verizon be sure to check out the discount under Special Rates.

Click for Advice on Where to Buy


Handset Selection

Be very careful when selecting a handset. Each carrier sells handsets that vary in their capabilities, including which networks they can work with. For example, Verizon sells handsets with and without AMPS capability. Sprint sells handsets with and without 800 Mhz CDMA capability, AT&T sells GSM only handsets, GSM/TDMA handsets, and GSM/TDMA/AMPS handsets. Cingular sells GSM only handsets and GSM/TDMA/AMPS handsets.

Click for Handset Advice Section


Phone Accessories
Information on both common and esoteric accessories

Click for Accessories Section


Ringtones
How to find ringtones and port them to your phone for free

Click for Ringtones Section


Software Upgrades on Phones
Information about upgrading your phone's software

Click for Software Upgrades Section


Preferred Roaming List (PRL) Upgrades
Information on Verizon's PRL's

Click for PRL Section


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Keep it Charged, Keep it On, Keep it with You
Train your friends and relatives.

Click for KIC Section


Voice Mail Landline Access Numbers
Only Verizon and T-Mobile still support this very desirable feature, and only Verizon does it with local phone numbers

Click for Voice Mail Landline Access Numbers Section


Usenet & Other Forums--Information on Carriers and Equipment

"We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true." Robert Wilensky

Click for Forums Section


Statistics on Market Share, Subscriber Totals, Subscriber Additions, and Churn

This section looks at the metrics of the six national carriers. It is interesting to track the trends of each carrier to see which are gaining market share and which are losing market share.

Click for Statistics Section


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Conclusions

AT&T Wireless
AT&T TDMA coverage is worsening as they convert precious 800 Mhz spectrum from TDMA to GSM. Two more downsides to AT&T are: 1) the inability of their TDMA network to handle data and 2) the fact that there are not many good TDMA handsets. AT&T GSM is poor but  has potential for improvement since AT&T has have 800 Mhz spectrum for GSM. Cingular may be merging with AT&T.

Cingular
Cingular is not a good choice for this area unless you need international roaming. This is because of the poor roaming and the poor coverage. If you must have international roaming then T-Mobile has better rates than Cingular, and a better world phone. Cingular does not have any 800 Mhz spectrum in NYC, so the GSM quality is unlikely to improve. Cingular may be merging with AT&T, which would be very good news for NYC's Cingular users.

Nextel
The only reason to choose Nextel is if you need the two-way radio feature or if you are looking for the cheapest family share plan. It is not a good choice if you ever plan to venture outside the urban core.

SprintPCS
Sprint also has some coverage issues, though it is much better than Cingular or T-Mobile. Also, Sprint has analog back-up as well as the ability to roam onto other CDMA carriers, so you will be able to make calls, but the roaming charges are high unless you sign up for their new plan that allows up to 50% of your minutes to be roaming minutes. Sprint can be a good choice if you can get onto one of their excellent retention plans.
Sprint has a better selection of phones than Verizon, which is one reason to choose them over Verizon. If you do have Sprint (or you get it), be sure to lobby them for one of their excellent retention rates. Sprint has a 9:00 p.m. off-peak start time (except on retention plans that may offer an 8:00 p.m. start time). Sprint has dropped their promotional plans that offered roaming but no long distance. If you qualify for the USAA discount or Military discount then you need to call Sprint to sign up (see the phone numbers in the Special Rates section. Sprint does not publish their local/regional plan on their web site.

T-Mobile
T-Mobile is not a good choices for this area unless you need international roaming. This is because of the poor roaming and the poor coverage. T-Mobile has better rates than Cingular. T-Mobile does not have any 800 Mhz spectrum, so the GSM quality is unlikely to improve.

Verizon
Verizon's has excellent coverage in the area but unfortunately has eliminated the 8 p.m. off-peak start time which distinguished it from AT&T. Verizon's high speed data network is one advantage (if you plan on hooking your computer to your phone
). One downside is the lack of international roaming except in South Korea. Verizon's phone selection is improving, but it is not as good as Sprint's.


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Shopping Checklist

Print out this list and take it with you when you go shopping

Click for Shopping Checklist Section


Feedback
Combined Feedback from all my cellular related sites

Click for Feedback Section


Appendixes

A. Cellular Standards (AMPS, CDMA, GSM, iDEN, TDMA)
B. Spectral Efficiency Comparison of Cellular Technologies
C. Voice Quality of Digital Systems
D. Churn
E. Links to Other Non-Commercial Wireless Carrier Evaluations Sites
F. V.90 Dial-Up Modem Recommendations
G. Computer Hardware Recommended by Steven M. Scharf
H--DSL & Broadband
I--Links to Cached Verizon PRL Details (these may be deleted by Google shortly)
J--Hearing Aid Compatible Phones
K--Landline Long Distance Services <4˘/minute Long Distance Services with no Monthly Fees and No Low-Usage Fees
L--Lowering Intra-LATA and Landline Costs
M--Going "Tellular"--Eliminating your Landline

 


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Links

AT&T Wireless             NEXTEL

    voicestream wireless        

         

    

     SINGLUAIR logo    

All trademarks, both marked and not marked, are the property of their respective owners.


Affiliate Links

 If you found this site useful and were going to order from one of these merchants anyway,  then it would be greatly appreciated
  if you use these links to enter the merchant's site. I pay for the web hosting and registrations of these sites out of my own pocket.

In Association with Amazon.com    

    


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail webmaster

Change Log

Click for Unified Change Log
(this change log covers all three of my Cellular Carrier Comparison sites, New York, Northern California, and Southern California)


Avoid: Think Wireless, Exotic Wireless, San Francisco Mobile, 007PCS, iTrade, iphones, www.ewirelessdepot.com


Click to send Broken Link Reports, Comments, Complaints, Compliments, Corrections to Web Master

Disclaimer: The information provided are, in some cases, my own opinions and the opinions of others; the rates listed are the published rates of the providers for this area (either on their site, or in their stores and dealers, or from newspaper advertisements).

Trademarks: All trademarks, both marked and not marked, are the property of their respective owners.

Add Me!


Return to Table of Contents
e-mail: cellacademician@hotmail.com