Who Pays for Cellular Calls

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Scott Robert Dawson

Nov 25, 1997, 3:00:00 AM11/25/97

On 23 Nov 1997 15:53:43 +0100, na...@mips.rhein-neckar.de (Christian
Weisgerber) wrote:

[discussion of caller-pays cellular snipped]

>The most natural way to handle all this would be to let the market
>decide. Offer caller pays, callee pays, and split charge service, and
>see how it develops from there. Assuming that people are egoistical, I
>would expect this to converge quickly into a general acceptance of
>"caller pays" with only few exceptions along the lines of current 0800

I agree.

I suspect that this whole situation developed differently in North
America and Europe because of the distances inside the countries, and
was only later reflected in different numbering.

In North America, because Canada and the USA are large enough to
require significant amounts of internal "long-distance" calling,
mobile phones are considered to be "based" in a particular location,
and are given numbers in the same area code(s) as landlines based in
the same location. Other users call the cellphone number as if it was
a landline in the same location. (It is 7100 km from Saint John's
Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia- the Trans-Canada Highway.)

If a mobile user is far from eir home area, ey will pay a
long-distance fee for carriage of the call *from* eir home area, just
as a caller would pay long-distance on a call *to* that area.

This leads to situations where one person calls another over a
distance which would be a local call, but the person being called is
using a mobile with a number in a far distant city, so the caller pays
long-distance to the mobile number, and the callee (with the mobile)
pays long-distance on the call as well, because it is coming from the
distant city.

This is the reason for the North American analog networks'
"roamer-access numbers". When a caller knows ey is local to the
callee's mobile, but the callee's mobile number is a long-distance
call, ey will dial a local "roamer-access number" to get into the
cellular carrier's network, receive another dial tone, then dial the
mobile number. The call is then routed directly to the mobile,
avoiding two long-distance hops.

Of course, if the mobile is not local to the roamer-access number, the
*callee* pays the long-distance charges from the location of the
roamer access number.

On the other hand, a caller dialing *out* on a North American mobile
experiences the same local/long-distance calling patterns as a
landline in the same location.

In Europe and other locations, I suspect that the countries are small
enough that potential long-distance charges to mobiles (incurred by
routing calls across the country to mobiles that could be anywhere)
could be 'smoothed out' across all the people calling the mobiles,
without raising the rates for calls to mobiles to
completely-unaffordable levels.

This allowed mobiles to be placed in separate easily-recognized area
codes covering entire countries, with a fixed rate to call them no
matter where they were in the country. (Am I right on this, Europeans?
Also, in Europe, is calling a mobile in another country more expensive
than calling one in the same country?)

When I had my Bell Mobility analogue cellphone, I had two numbers: a
regular +1 416 809 XXXX number, and a caller-pays +1 600 245 (I think)
XXXX number.

The first number was geographically-based (in Toronto), and I paid
long-distance on incoming calls to it if I was far enough away from
the Toronto area. The second number was not geographically-based and I
never paid long-distance for incoming calls no matter where I or the
caller was in Canada. Callers to that area code got an intercept that
stated that they were calling a mobile number and they would be
charged so much a minute (95c, I think, I might be wrong), and were
given a chance to hang up.

Thanks to the efforts of such luminaries as Mark J Cuccia and others
on this newsgroup, I know that area code 600 is a bit of an anomaly
in the North American Numbering Plan (translation: the FCC wouldn't
allow it). I know that it couldn't be dialed from the Dallas, Texas
area (+1 972 618 XXXX)- I got my cousin to try it. I'm not sure
whether it could be dialed from *Canadian* points outside of Bell
Mobility's analogue territory.

I must add that I still paid airtime on incoming calls to either

Of course, now that I have a GSM mobile phone from Fido, there are no
roamer access numbers for the GSM net. Not a problem as long as I
remain in the Toronto area, but this seems to be GSM's only major
billing-type disadvantage. GSM-experts, is there any equivalent to
North American "roamer-access numbers" on GSM networks?

Then again, in January I'll be getting a dual-mode GSM-1900/AMPS phone
that can roam on Bell Mobility's analogue network. I'll have to find
out whether I can use Bell Mobility's roamer-access numbers with my
Fido phone. Of course, that wouldn't help me if I and my local caller
were both in, say, England...

I think North America could use a couple of nation-wide (or even
NANP-wide) area codes for mobiles... let's have a choice.

The new competition between the PCS networks in the Toronto area has
driven the costs of mobile phones down to the point that they can be
almost as cheap as landlines... as long as you don't talk too much and
use up your provided "free" airtime. Long-distance charges are often
cheaper than those on the landlines; during business days I pay
15c/minute on Fido and 43 cents/minute on Bell, even including Bell's
discount... On the other hand, Bell is cheaper at night.

** PCS= "fancy digital cellphone"; there are four companies competing
in Toronto: one using GSM at 1900 MHz, one using TDMA at 800 MHz, and
two using CDMA at 1900 MHz.

>> even more importantly from a personal privacy standpoint, that I should
>> even have to tell them it's a cellphone at _all_?

With North American cellular exchanges mixed in among the landline
exchanges in each area code, there's no way to tell unless you live in
a particular area long enough to start recognizing the exchange
numbers. On the other hand, separate nation-wide mobile-only numbering
ranges like area code 600 in Canada more-or-less shout, "this is a

> From a privacy standpoint, every call to a cellphone should start out
>with a message "important notice: this is a call to a wireless service,
>remember that anybody can listen in".

Analogue: snoopers can listen in with a 150-dollar illegally-modified
scanner from Radio Shack.

Digital: GSM, TDMA, CDMA: snoopers would need about 100 000 dollars
worth of test equipment from Hewlett-Packard just to easily receive
the signal, then they'd have to decode it...

>Christian "naddy" Weisgerber na...@mips.rhein-neckar.de
> See another pointless homepage at <URL:http://home.pages.de/~naddy/>.

Scott Robert Dawson
Note: remove the characters .antispamtext from
this address to get my real address...

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