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A growing number of consumers are dropping their landlines for wireless as cellular calling packages become increasingly attractive and network reliability continues to improve.

A growing number of consumers are dropping their landlines for wireless as cellular calling packages become increasingly attractive and network reliability continues to improve. In-Stat/MDR recently reported that 14.4 percent of U.S. consumers currently use a wireless phone as their primary phone, and nearly one third of all U.S. wireless subscribers will not have residential landline phone service by 2008.

As more and more users cut the cord, however, they are finding that a mobile phone can be limiting as the sole means of communication in the home, mostly due to the lack of multiple phone lines and a data connection. Many times users turn to Wi-Fi as the proposed solution, only to find that the costs and inconveniences of purchasing all new Wi-Fi equipment can far outweigh the financial benefits of cutting the cord, and the technology’s “hotspot” limitations can feel anything but wireless.

Not to mention, switching to a mobile phone or Wi-Fi connection causes users to change their usual calling habits–a change that isn’t typically met with open arms.

One solution to these problems for “all-wireless” users is a technology called fixed cellular, which enables consumers to use all of their existing home phone equipment, including speakerphones, cordless phones, fax machines, PC modems, digital video recorders, and alarm systems, over cellular networks.

A fixed cellular device can be plugged into any home phone jack and will instantly connect all the equipment linked to that phone line to the wireless network.

Unlike mobile phones, fixed cellular devices are stationary, provide a more powerful antenna for better reception and produce a dial tone; and unlike Wi-Fi equipment, fixed cellular devices require no special equipment purchases, or the need to change your usual communications habits in any way.

With multi-phone shared wireless plans, users can include a fixed cellular device in the home for as little as $10 per month in the same package with their mobile phones, and benefit from the cost savings and convenience of managing one phone bill.

Plus, with wireline-to-wireless number portability, users have the option to keep their home phone number and port that number to their fixed cellular plan at no charge. Although it usually takes around two weeks to complete a wireline-to-wireless port, it’s well worth the wait for users who like their home number, or want to avoid the task of being identified by a new number.

Even with new options like fixed cellular for the home, the decision to go all wireless may not be for everyone. Prior to cutting the cord, users should take into account these considerations:

— Coverage: Determine which wireless providers can offer good coverage in your home. How will the service provider guarantee you’ll have coverage and channel availability at all times? Can the provider offer a range of antenna solutions to ensure the highest quality signal?

— Planned usage: Will your wireless service serve as a second line for teens or a true replacement of landline service? Also, what features do you need, and do you need a long distance option?

— Cost: If you plan to have both a cellular fixed wireless device in your home and a mobile handset for traveling, estimate how many minutes you’ll need to cover your usage patterns and choose a package that offers a bundled solution with enough minutes.

— 911 Calls: Ensure your provider is managing emergency calls with GPS location technology or a database that links your street address to your fixed wireless number.

— Reliability: If you experience frequent outages with landline service, a fixed cellular device with a battery backup could be the solution. A fixed cellular service can also be a reliable alternative for security systems in the home (no outside wires to cut).

— Keeping your number: With number portability laws, you shouldn’t have a problem switching your current home number to your wireless carrier. Be aware that if you move out of the area, your service provider may require you to give up that number with your wireless connection.

Jeff Krevitt is senior vice president of marketing at Telular Corporation. He can be reached at [email protected]

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