Alltel recently acquired Western Wireless making Alltel the 5th largest carrier in the U.S. Alltel operates the largest carrier owned CDMA network of towers and is compatible with Verizon's network for full nationwide coverage.
Cons: Somewhat more expensive calling plans, new service in only available in 33 states.
AT&T has become the largest wireless carrier in the nation. AT&T uses a nationwide GSM network of cell towers and is roaming partners with T-Mobile, SunCom, and other GSM providers operating GSM systems.
Cons: The phones offered by AT&T and its GSM manufactures sometimes are not quite "unique" as those offered by Verizon and Sprint with the exception of the iPhone. Their Push-to-Talk system will take some time to acquire enough users to make it worthwhile for many users.
Sprint is part of the Sprint Nextel Corporation, which was officially formed in August 2005 following the successful acquisition of NEXTEL Communications by Sprint Communications for $35 billion. Sprint was originally founded as The Brown Telephone Company in 1899 in Abilene, KS. Sprint Nextel (aka "Sprint") is now headquartered in Reston, VA.
Pros: Extensive coverage for voice and high speed data services; Merger with Nextel means free calling between many Sprint and Nextel subscribers; Sprint Everything plans.
Cons: Fewer handsets available than with GSM carriers; Power Vision plans more expensive than wireless Web offerings from other major carriers.
T-Mobile is a very popular carrier offering service in 47 states using a GSM network. When traveling outside of a T-Mobile area, customers are able to connect using the other GSM networks used by Cingular and others.
Pros: Very inexpensive calling plans with a reasonable amount of minutes and a highly rated customer service department. The GSM network is also used by Cingular which makes coverage nationwide, although roaming charges may apply depending on the plan.
Cons: T-Mobile doesn't offer unlimited nights and weekends with all plans and roaming charges are more likely to apply than with Cingular or Verizon plans. While providing service in 47 states, T-Mobile doesn't offer new service in all cities in many areas. T-Mobile doesn't offer the advanced data features associated with some of the larger carriers.
Verizon successfully transformed itself from a local phone company servicing the North East United States to the #2 wireless provider in America. Verizon operates the largest CDMA cellular network in the country and has generally been the leader in updating its network to include additional data services.
Cons: Typically, more expensive rate plans compared to other providers. CDMA roaming is only available in 10 -15 overseas countries.
A small regional carrier offering service in parts of Georgia, Florida, and California. Using CDMA as their underlying technology protocol.
Cons: Limited self-owned coverage network requiring shared use of other CDMA networks, limited number of phones.
Chicago-based U.S. Cellular is a super-regional wireless company, serving more than 5.2 million customers in 149 markets in 25 states utilizing a CDMA network.
Cons: New service is only available in 25 states.
Launched in late 2005, Amp'd is a VMNO operating on Verizon's CMDA network. Amp'd is geared towards the youth market, transmitting audio and visual entertainment over high-speed cellular networks to their custom-branded multimedia phones. Initial offerings included a wide variety of digital music on demand, focused largely on Alt Rock and Hip-Hop, and video on demand broadcasts including extreme sports and other action and adventure programming. Amp'd is funded in part through a partnership with MTV Networks.
Cons: Entertainment offerings and branding will appeal strongly to some, and repel others away. Limited selection of phones available; phone features are somewhat disappointing for "cutting edge" multimedia devices.
Launched in Spring 2006, Helio is Amp'd Mobile's first direct competitor, offering multimedia entertainment and interactive features designed to appeal to the youth market. A joint venture between Earthlink and SK Telecom (a major cellular service provider in Korea), Helio leases CMDA network capacity from Sprint and is offering a wide variety of media services including integration with the popular websites Yahoo! and MySpace, streaming video from major broadcast and cable TV networks, and a large selection of games available for purchase and download.
Cons: Like Amp'd, the youth-targeted entertainment offerings aren't for everyone; if you don't like them, you'll wind up paying a premium for nothing; Limited selection of high-end only phones.