Finding a Service Provider
There are several issues to consider when searching for and selecting a mobile telephone service provider.
Differences Between Cellular and Broadband PCS
Cellular and broadband PCS services are comparatively similar in quality, price, value added services, and coverage. Broadband PCS is all digital (although analog is not prohibited) and operates in a higher frequency band with additional spectrum capacity in 30 MHz A, B, and C blocks. Cellular continues to maintain analog service offered as Advanced Mobile Phone Service or AMPS in addition to digital service.
Handset Compatibility Between Providers
There are three major digital technologies employed in Cellular and broadband PCS based networks: Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). The largest Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) licensees offering mobile telephone service use the integrated Digital Enhanced Network (iDEN). Digital handsets employing only one of these technologies can not be used to access systems of carriers employing different digital technologies.
Although there are some handsets that work on multiple networks, consumers should be aware that they might not be able to use their existing digital handsets if they travel outside of their home markets, or if they switch carriers. While the Commission does not mandate a specific digital technology, the Commission currently requires that all cellular carriers provide analog service using Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) specifications. Accordingly, subscribers with handsets capable of operating in analog mode will generally be able to access service in most markets in the country. We note, however, that the analog requirement is scheduled to sunset in 2008.
Finding a Carrier in Your Area
While the Commission collects information regarding the current licensee in a spectrum band, the information is kept by the entity's legal name, which may differ from the name it uses to operate in its license areas. Members of the public may contact individual carriers serving their area about service plans and rates or may contact a wireless dealer, who may have information on a number of carriers serving a potential user. In addition, there may be web sites -many of which are commercial- that allow users to input demographic information about themselves (e.g., zip codes) and obtain carriers' service plans with details regarding coverage, price, and features. One site that provides such information on a non-commercial basis is listed below. (We note that naming this site does not constitute an endorsement by the FCC.)
You can identify the licensed carriers in your area using the Universal Licensing System (ULS).
- Go to the Universal Licensing System.
- Click on the Licenses button in the Search section.
- Click Advanced License Search or Market-Based.
- Select two radio service codes: CW - Broadband PCS and/or CL - Cellular.
- Click on the Geosearch button.
- Specify state and county or street address.
- Click on the Submit button.
Remember, the licenses on the search results screen are the "legal" names of the license-holders; they may market services under a different name in your area.