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Cell Sites

Check out the chart below to decide which of the four major cell-phone service providers best suits your needs.

Now that you've picked a cell-phone, the real work begins: finding the best deal on a service plan, which is typically packed with an elaborate menu of rates and options. Fortunately, we've done some of the legwork for you. Just check out the chart below to decide which of the four major cell-phone service providers best suits your needs.

Service How much to talk? What about the Web? Gotchas? Bottom Line
AT&T Wireless Services
Digital One Rate plans start at $59.99 for 300 minutes, with no long-distance or roaming charges. An extra $29.99 a month for unlimited access to PocketNet data service. The wireless Internet access requires a minimum one-year contract. If you always need to be connected, AT&T Wireless offers one of the broadest coverages for voice calls.
Bell Atlantic Mobile
Service for voice calling starts at $19.99 for 20 minutes. Each additional minute is a pricey 69 cents. Web access costs an additional $9.95 a month, and surfing minutes are included in those monthly 20 minutes. Few. But if you exceed your monthly allotment, you'll be paying that steep per-minute rate. With Bell Atlantic Mobile, Web surfing and voice calls are all charged at the same per-minute rate.
Nextel Communications
Basic calling plan starts at $49.95 a month for 30 minutes of voice calls. Additional minutes are 25 cents each. Web access costs extra (prices unavailable at press time). Coverage limitations mean you can't make a voice call or connect to the Web if you're in a rural area. Great for metro users, bad for country travelers.
Sprint PCS
Web access is another $9.99 a month for 50 minutes of surfing time. Basic plans start at $29.99 a month for 120 minutes. Each additional minute is 35 cents. Free Web surfing for 50 minutes per month. Beyond that, you're charged 30 cents a minute. It's the most mature and advanced Web-access service available for cell-phone users.

A version of this article appeared in the April 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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