New York City is one of the best-connected cities in the world. The city is served by a world-class communications network that can connect the city to the most remote locations around the world. In this digital age when communications networks are constantly being overhauled, the city continues to provide landline telephone services. These are quickly being replaced, however, by digital phone services which come bundled with your cable and internet broadband services. Many New Yorkers, especially younger New Yorkers don’t usually think it is necessary to have a landline connection as they effectively conduct their lives by extensively using their cell phones and internet broadband services.
The two main providers of landline phone services in the New York City area are Verizon (http://www22.verizon.com/) and AT&T (http://www.att.com/). Both of these telecommunication companies offer a wide variety of plans that include unlimited calling and long-distance plans which can be ordered on the phone at 888-583-8111 (Verizon) and 800–Call-ATT (AT&T) and even online through their websites.
However, before any phone service can be set up for you, the phone company usually performs an address verification check online. They do this when they ask you to type in your address as you order your phone connection. As an expatriate with little or no credit history in the US, you may also be asked to pay a deposit before the company can supply you with your phone connection. This deposit is usually returned at the end of a year when the phone company has ascertained that you have been paying your bills regularly and promptly.
Once you have set up your account a technician will be sent to your residence to set up your phone connection. Phone companies usually charge phone maintenance or an inside line maintenance charge. This charge usually appears in your bill monthly and is worth subscribing to as it covers premise visits by the technician which otherwise are charged at exorbitant rates. Typically, a phone line is activated within 48 hours. You can expect to pay $40 upwards per month if you do opt to have a landline in New York City though nowadays many New Yorkers prefer to use only their cell phones rather than have the bother of a landline.
Private numbers in New York City are made up of 7 numbers and have the following area codes 212 / 917 / 718 / 646 / 347 prefixed before the. To dial a number in New York city you usually have to dial 11 numbers which include 1 + area code + 7 digit private telephone number.
In order to dial out internationally from New York City, you have to dial 011 + country code + city code and then the local number. Telephone numbers that begin with 800, 888, 877 have to be preceded with 1 and are toll-free numbers. Payphones are located all over the city and accept .25 cents coins or quarters.
It is extremely expensive to call overseas from a pay phone and if you don’t have a long distance plan on your home phone you can always buy a prepaid phone card from one of the many newsagent’s kiosks which are located all over the city. These phone cards tend to use VOIP services and offer extremely competitive rates and are convenient to use.
A relatively new phenomenon on New York City’s telecommunications scenario is the internet phone service. This phone service is usually plugged into a cable modem. Most internet-based phone service providers offer unlimited calling to the rest of the USA and Canada as well. This internet-based phone service is usually sold bundled with a high-speed internet connection and cable TV in a package called Triple Play which is priced around $100 a month.
Some companies providing this service are:
- Time Warner Cable: (http://www.timewarnercable.com/nynj/learn/bundles/current.html)
- Verizon Communications: (http://www22.verizon.com/)
- RCN Corporation: ( http://www.rcn.com/new-york/about-rcn/where-we-service/new-york)
- Cable Vision Systems Corporation: ( http://www.optimum.com/)
Apart from these main cable companies, other companies like Vonage (http://www.vonage.com/) and Magic Jack (http://www.magicjack.com/) have now created devices which work with your high-speed internet connection and enable you to make international and domestic calls for free or reduced rates from New York City to the rest of the world.
Some years ago the main issue that foreign cell phone users used to worry about when they used to visit New York City, was whether their cell phones would work, as the US uses a cell phone frequency range that is between 850 MHz and 1900 MHz which is quite different from the frequency used elsewhere. In those days Tri-band and Quad-band phones were considered to be ideal for travel to NYC and the rest of the US.
Nowadays, cell phone technology has advanced greatly and most foreign phones can be easily used in NYC. As an expatriate in New York if you need a cell phone you can simply buy a prepaid SIM card from one of the two GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) cell phone service providers that operate in NYC and insert it into your unlocked cell phone. A prepaid SIM card can be acquired for $25 from one of the two main GSM cell phone service providers that operate in New York City, T-mobile (http://www.t-mobile.com) and AT&T (http://www.wireless.att.com). If you haven’t brought your cell phone along with you, you can also buy a prepaid phone kit from one of these providers which include a cell phone and a SIM card. You can then go mobile with even a $10 top-up voucher though these cell phones are usually locked and cannot be used with any other provider’s SIM card.
These two companies offer a host of prepaid and post-paid plans. The prepaid plans offered by these two providers are available to anybody and don’t require any social security numbers or credit checks. As a result, these prepaid plans are often more expensive than post-paid (contract plans) which offer lower per-call charges and many other freebies like subsidized handsets.
In order to apply for a two-year contract with a cell phone company in New York City you often have to furnish some form of ID and have a social security number which enables the cell phone company to perform a credit check on you. As an expatriate in New York City, this might not be possible at first, as you may not have a social security number and no credit history. If you still want to get a cell phone contract in spite of this you may be asked to pay a hefty upfront deposit. Currently, AT&T is known to ask for $500 as a deposit from someone who doesn’t have an established credit history or has bad credit for signing a contract for the iPhone which is exclusive to AT&T.
Apart from these two GSM cell phone service providers, there are three other CDMA (code division multiple access) cell phone service providers that operate in New York City:
- Verizon Wireless (http://www22.verizon.com/)
- Sprint Nextel (http://www.nextel.com/en/shop/)
- Metro PCS (http://www.metropcs.com/shop/phonelist.aspx)
The last-mentioned provider offers fixed monthly plans which are available without a contract and activation fees as long as you buy a cell phone from them and pay the usage monthly charges in advance.
Recently, T mobile introduced a similar scheme under its Flexpay monthly plan which offers some of the benefits that are available to regular annual contract holders. The Flexpay monthly plan requires no contract or credit check as long as you buy your cell phone from T-mobile and pay up for the first month in advance. These cell phones are locked and cannot be used with any other providers’ SIM cards. Details of the Flexpay monthly plan are available on the T-mobile website and at your nearest T-mobile store.
All these various cell phone service providers offer services like mobile internet, picture and text messaging, Blackberry and Smartphone support, and 3G and 3GS wireless services (AT&T). You can also sign up for their services online at their websites or by visiting one of your local stores. Most cell phone providers price their plans from $40- $49.99 (not inclusive of taxes) upwards.