I switched my home’s phones to a cell phone back in August. This post outlines what I did.
For the old phone line I had what I think was the cheapest service available. The service was maybe 17$/month, but the confusopoly charges ran the bill up to about $34/month. So a years service was costing me abour $400 dollars. In addition to that I was buying my long distance service from yet another vendor so my total phone cost was about $450/year along with about 14 transaction events to handle the billing.
What I did was by a two pieces of capital equipment, a used cell phone and a clever widget that bridges from the cell phone to the existing in house phone wiring. That capital equipment cost me about $100 total. I then switched the phone number to Page Plus Cellular. Page Plus Cellular is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, or MVNO. It stands on the physical network of Verizon Cellular. While MVNO is the technical term for this, most people just say “Prepaid.”
Cell phone minutes are cheap on Page Plus. When I set this up they were six cents each (if you buy them in $80 batches), now they are four cents each. I estimate that the annual cost for the minutes we use is about $250/year, e.g. ~ $20/month. I have to top up the account four times a year; so there are 4 transactions to handle/year.
So in the first year I’ll save about a hundred dollars have ten fewer transactions. In next year I’ll save $200.
I think the quality is great, we occasionally get lousy connections but so far i haven’t had one were I couldn’t blame the counter party’s cell phone. I guess it could count as a feature that I can take the home phone with us when we travel.
But over all this just is not that big a savings.
I appreciate at there are other schemes that use your internet connection. I didn’t go down that route for three reasons. I’ve had a hard time getting dependable quality with internet phone. I didn’t want to get the two services entangled with each other. It’s not clear if it would have been cheaper without taking on significantly more risk and support costs for me.
Because this cell phone doesn’t move I could presumably buy my minutes from one of the more marginal physical cell phone companies (say Metro PCS). Suprisingly they don’t offer something cheaper. But if something cheaper comes along I switch after spending down my current basket of minutes.
Update Sept 2012: I think I’m spending about 5-10$ a month; but yeah we don’t use the land land much.
Ha! This had not occured to me before. If you use smart phone (even a very cheap one) you can install google voice on the smart phone and then have the phone route your international calls thru that; which is very cheap.