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Direct Comparison: 'Real World' Costs

Company Light use Moderate use Heavy use Land-line
Chatty couple
Cingular $29.99 $29.99 $39.99 $59.99 $59.98
Nextel $41.99 $41.99 $47.99 $57.99 $58.99
Sprint $35 $35 $40 $55 $60
T-Mobile $19.99 $29.99 $39.99 $59.99 $49.99
Verizon $39.99 $39.99 $39.99 $59.99 $59.99

What the cost estimates mean: We calculated the cheapest way to cover five monthly calling patterns, assuming calls average a bit more than three minutes each and half occur during weekday billing periods.

_____Special Report_____
2004 Guide to Wireless Phone Phone Plans Compare rates and coverage for Washington, D.C., area.
When Cell Phones Go Bad
How to Make the Right Call on Service
_____Service Details_____
Cingular Wireless
Sprint PCS
Verizon Wireless
_____Direct Comparisons_____
'Real World' Costs
Fine Print
Messaging and Web Options
Reviewer's Notes

"Light use" is about 30 minutes of local calls.

"Moderate use" covers roughly three hours of local calls.

"Heavy use" is eight hours, including 48 minutes of calls made from elsewhere on the East Coast to local numbers in those other areas, and 24 minutes of long-distance use.

"Land-line replacement" is 20 hours or so, including two hours of non-local calling (of which 30 minutes were outside the East Coast) and 160 minutes of long distance.

"Chatty couple" is about six hours of use, shared between two phones.

All estimates add Caller ID and voice-mail charges if applicable, exclude taxes and are based on December 2003 call-length data from the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (www.wow-com.com).

© 2004 The Washington Post Company