TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Access of Calling Card Dial in Number From Prepaid Cellular

Re: Access of Calling Card Dial in Number From Prepaid Cellular

Mark Crispin (MRC@CAC.Washington.EDU)
Sun, 19 Dec 2004 11:28:13 -0800

On Fri, 12 Nov 2004, Marek Tomczyk wrote:

> I like the offer of AT&T Wireless very much as it provides a long
> validity of one year for balances starting at $100.

That's news to me. I used to have AT&T Wireless Free2Go on my Alaska
phone (now Dobson Cellular One). The expiration period was 45 days,
although it would rollover if you recharge in time.

AT&T Wireless was recently bought by Cingular, so this may have
changed. In any case, Free2Go uses TDMA digital, which is on its way
towards extinction. Most TDMA phones are also SOC locked, so you
can't use them with another carrier.

I suggest that you consider either a prepay GSM SIM card for your home
country phone (assuming you have an unlocked tri-band or quad-band
phone), or one of the CDMA prepaid services.

Under CDMA prepay, Verizon's is on their network, the phones are
unlocked, and can be used with monthly service. Virgin has ultra
cheap prepay using Sprint's network (which almost certainly means that
the phones are locked but there are ways of getting Sprint unlock

Another advantage of Verizon is that, overall, it probably has the
best coverage in the continental US (48 states), especially if you
pick a phone with analog capability. If you go to Alaska, you'll need
a TDMA/analog phone, although GSM has finally appeared in Alaska.
There is very little CDMA in Alaska.

> So the idea is to use a calling card service for this matter. The AT&T
> documents say that prepaid calling card service is not possible with
> Free2Go. Besides this AT&T says in its terms that certain numbers can
> be blocked if "abuse" to the network happens.

Don't worry about it; your plan is fine.

When you call one of the cheap international calling card companies,
the cellular company still gets to charge you for the airtime, so they
are happy.

What they are concerned about are calls to numbers with delayed
surcharges and fraud issues. Calls to the premium 900 area code, and
to the local 976 premium exchange, are almost always blocked to cell

Most cell phones have international calls blocked unless you ask
customer service to unblock it. Most people consider that to be a
good thing, and also do that on their wired phones (although the
default for wired phones is to allow international calls unless the
customer asks for it to be disabled).

However, "international calls" really means "calls outside of country
code 1"; that is, the 011 North American international dialing prefix
is disabled. That doesn't always help.

Remember that country code 1 is quite a few countries. You get a
message "urgent, please call me at (555) 555-5555" which looks like an
ordinary US or Canada number, but is really an expensive pornography
service in the Caribbean that charges $10/minute. The customer
complains about the bill and refuses to pay. Usually, the phone
company refunds the charge and takes the loss itself, but it then
blocks future calls to that number.

From the prepaid cell phone company's point of view, they are
probably happy if you use a calling card for international calls,
because then the problem (of how much to charge you for the
international call) is some other company's problem. The cell phone
company just charges you for the airtime, which they know how to do
quite well.

-- Mark --
Science does not emerge from voting, party politics, or public debate.
Si vis pacem, para bellum.

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