First offered in the 1980s by only two carriers, today
cellular phones are offered by dozens of carriers. According
to industry reports, more than one half of all Americans
own a cellular phone.
Who can help me when I have a dispute with
my cellular phone provider?
In response to a growing concern among state and federal
regulators among others, the cellular telephone industry
introduced its Wireless
Code of Conduct, a voluntary consumer code. If you
have a dispute with your cellular phone provider, read
the Wireless Code of Conduct to find out the generally
accepted polices. Then contact your cellular provider.
If your cellular provider does not resolve the matter
to your satisfaction, you can contact the Public Utilities
Commission or you can file a complaint with the Federal
Communications Commission. While the Commission
does not regulate cellular telephones, our Consumer
Affairs Division is available to assist you with complaints
about your cellular service.
What is the difference between analog and digital?
There are essentially two types of coverage: analog
and digital. Calls made on digital networks are clearer,
more secure, and more feature-rich than calls made on
analog networks. Because analog technology has been
in use since the 1980’s, virtually every part
of the country where people live has analog coverage.
Carriers have deployed digital technology more recently
and, therefore, digital service plans and coverage tend
to be available in the more populated and highly-traveled
areas of the country. The FCC estimates approximately
97% of the U.S. population lives in counties that have
some digital coverage. However, significant portions
of the country’s land area do not have access
to digital service. Carriers are constantly upgrading
their networks to expand the areas where they can offer
digital cellular telephone service.
Why do I experience dropped calls, dead spots
and busy signals?
Even where a carrier offers coverage in a specific geographic
area, you may not be able to complete a given call due
to limitations in network architecture or capacity.
When a carrier fails to hand off a call in progress,
as you travel from one part of the carrier’s network
to another, a “dropped call” results. When
many customers use a carrier’s network at the
same time, its capacity becomes constrained. Other customers
trying to connect will hear a busy signal instead of
being able complete their calls. Topography can also
affect coverage, causing “dead spots”. A
dead spot is an area where service is not available
because the signal between the handset and the cell
tower is blocked, usually by hilly terrain, excessive
foliage, or tall buildings. Carriers are constantly
improving and upgrading their networks in order to minimize
these types of problems.
Can I get help paying for my cell phone service?
There are Federal programs that can assist consumers with paying the bills for their cell phone service. Lifeline is a federal program that helps qualified individuals pay for wireless or home telephone service. Most telephone companies lower the cell phone bill each month. Some companies provide free wireless minutes each month or may offer a free cell phone with limited minutes. A number of wireless providers participate in this Federally funded program. You would need to contact that particular wireless provider for more information. Here are three that you may wish to contact:
- Safelink Wireless 1-800-723-3546 (TracFone Wireless)
- Assurance Wireless 1-888-321-5880 (Virgin Mobile)
- Lifeline 1-800-447-1339 (US Cellular)
More information about cellular phone service is available
from the Federal
Communications Commission. There are also a number
of consumer information web sites available that provide
consumer information on cellular phone service including
side-by-side comparisons of the service plans available
in a given area, general advice on purchasing a mobile
phone, educational information on wireless technology,
user ratings of phones and pricing plans, listings of
dead spots by location and carrier, and answers to commonly
(www.consumerreports.org) provides free consumer information
on its web site, including details on various mobile
service plans available in major U.S. markets and their
J. D. Power (www.jdpower.com/telecom/)
provides ratings on its web site of all the wireless
carriers in major U.S. cities. The carriers are rated
on various criteria, including call quality, cost, and
is a trade association representing the wireless industry.
Its web site contains tips for consumers on purchasing
mobile service as well as an overview of all mobile
phones that have hands-free accessories.
AARP, the American Association
of Retired Persons (www.aarp.org) provides on its
web site, a published survey entitled “Understanding
Consumer Use of Wireless Phone Service” that discusses
various issues related to wireless service and older
The sources listed on this page represent a sample
of the consumer information available to the public
on wireless issues and is not meant to be a complete
list. In addition, the NHPUC does not vouch for the
accuracy of the information contained in these web sites