What if your wireless carrier had no early termination charges, no bizarre overage fees, and no self-aggrandizing claims about coverage? Thanks to new legislation, this could be your carrier -- and every carrier -- by law. Until then, which companies provide the best coverage and service for business users?

All the features in the world won't do you much good if you can't get a cell signal in your area. Consistently, Verizon received the best marks from JD Power & Associates for call quality among the four major nationwide carriers: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Some local wireless companies, like Alltel in the Southern states, offer comparable or better service. Under the new Cell Phone Empowerment Act of 2007, mobile carriers might be required to publish annual data on dropped calls. Each service provider has approximate coverage maps, which would need to become more detailed under the provisions of the new legislation. Each company allows you to search by zip code to get a better idea of service in your area; coverage tends to be most reliable in the Northeastern states, and least reliable in the Northwest.

Once you've figured out which service providers cover your area, it's time to pick out a phone. Each company boasts one or more flagship device: with AT&T, it's the iPhone; with Verizon, the LG Chocolate; T-Mobile, the Sidekick; and Sprint, the Nextel Walkie-Talkie phones. All four companies offer BlackBerry service and a litany of camera and Internet-enabled phones that suit all budgets and form factors. All of these phones come locked to their carrier; new laws might force the FCC to reconsider the legality of this practice.

Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint all offer dedicated plans for businesses, sometimes with several levels of features and benefits. Sprint features extensive walkie-talkie functionality, popular with construction crews and small companies. AT&T allows you to pool minutes with other employees, like a corporate family plan. Verizon boasts five levels of talk-time, maxing out at a throat-parching 4,000 minutes a month for $150. While T-Mobile doesn't have a business-specific rate plan, it does have a feature called myFaves, which allows free calling to your five "favorite" numbers, regardless of which carrier the recipient uses.

All four companies offer some kind of laptop connectivity, but each approaches the concept differently. Sprint, for example, runs on the ultra-fast CDMA network, and boasts the fastest speeds. Verizon, to its credit, offers six different speed modems at different price points, and includes USB modems for computers like the MacBook, that lack PCMCIA slots. AT&T has a range data plans starting at a low $20 a month. T-Mobile, while not offering mobile broadband, does offer $20-a-month subscription service to its massive network of Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops and public areas nationwide, and allows customers to use their mobile phones as modems with special connectors.

According to JD Power & Associates, customer service rankings vary greatly by region, but T-Mobile dominates the charts. In the Northeast, AT&T was second to T-Mobile. In the Mid-Atlantic states, T-Mobile and Verizon tied for the top honor. Down in Dixie, Alltel tied with the Sidekick maker. And in the Southwest and Northwest, T-Mobile again was number one, followed closely by AT&T and Verizon. The Wireless Group, a lobbyist group, claims that customer complaints have fallen since 2005, but other studies dispute those statistics.

Business Cell Plans: Are You Using The Right One?

What if your wireless carrier had no early termination charges, no bizarre overage fees, and no self-aggrandizing claims about coverage? Thanks to new legislation, this could be your carrier — and every carrier — by law. Until then, which companies provide the best coverage and service for business users?

Add New Comment

0 Comments