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Call Connectivity Options in the U.S.

You will find that most of the phone-buying options in the U.S. require your Social Security Number (SSN). If you have just arrived, you will not yet have an SSN, and getting one takes at least a month. Getting a phone connection cannot wait that long.

The U.S. dialing and calling protocols also are very different from what you have been used to before now.

Here, we take a look at all the basic information you need to know regarding:

  • Mobile phones and call connectivity
  • Buying a phone (with and without SSN)
  • Getting your first voice and data connection
  • Making local and international calls

Your Options Without a Social Security Number (SSN)

If you have just arrived in the U.S. and you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), you have three options to get a mobile phone and network.

  1. Prepaid Phone Package
  2. You have to buy the mobile phone and the prepaid SIM card together as one package. Once the SIM card is activated, you need to add credit to your SIM card in order to make calls and send texts.

    Adding credit to your SIM card is the process by which you buy your talk-time minutes, a certain number of texts and a fixed amount of data. You can pay for credits online. You can keep adding credit as and when it is exhausted. You have to pay for the mobile device and the prepaid SIM card upfront.
  1. Your Own Unlocked Phone and A Prepaid Plan
  2. An unlocked phone is not bound by contract to any carrier. You can use the phone you already have with you and buy a prepaid SIM card.

    But this is a risky option, as only a few phones bought overseas work with the phone carriers in the U.S. You need to check to see if your device’s technology is compatible with that of the service provider.

    Some phone carriers in the U.S. still apply CDMA technology, while many phones abroad use GSM technology. You need to choose a service provider operating with GSM technology to continue using the phone you brought with you.

    The other thing you need to check carefully is the operating frequency bands. While many foreign networks operate in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands, U.S. phone carriers (GSM) operate in the 850 MHz and 1900 MHz bands. You must check if your phone is compatible with the operating frequency bands in the U.S.

    You can keep adding credits to your prepaid SIM card after using up the previous credits.
  1. Buying Your Phone and SIM Card Separately
  2. If you are unsatisfied with either the device or the network of the carrier in the prepaid phone package (option 1), you can buy the phone and the prepaid SIM card separately. You must pay for both of them upfront. You can keep adding credits to the SIM card (the same as the first two options).

Your Options With a Social Security Number (SSN)

When You Opt for a Landline

Getting a landline in the U.S. is not a matter of concern at all. Most phone retailers offer landline phones under $10.

If you are renting a place, you can choose to get the same number that was used by the previous tenant, or you can get a new number. You can choose from one of the many phone line carrier options available.

You can find a list of these carriers and their contact information in all telephone directories (listed under Consumer Guide). It takes up to two days to install the landline phone and establish a network.

Since landlines operate on post-paid plans, you need to have a Social Security Number to establish a connection.

When You Choose Mobile Phones

Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are the 3 major cell phone companies in the U.S. with the best network across the whole country. Within the same area or region, the signal strength and connectivity of these service providers may differ. It is therefore advisable to seek service provider suggestions from your immediate neighbors or colleagues residing in the area.

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Options of Contract Services Offered with Mobile Phones

Phone carriers need your Social Security Number (SSN) for identification and credit information to offer you contract services.

If you need a contract service without having an SSN, you need to deposit a sum ($100–$500) with the carrier company, which will be refunded at the end of the time period stipulated in the contract.

You can choose from a variety of contract service plans based on the duration of your stay in the U.S.

If you are planning on staying in the U.S. for a considerable duration (2 years or more), it makes financial sense to get a mobile phone with a contract service of 2 years, as it greatly reduces the price of the mobile device at the time of buying. The phone company, though, will recover the cost in the monthly billings over the span of 2 years. That is to say, when you sign the contract, you are obligated to subscribe to that particular phone carrier for 2 years.

You will need to provide basic information about the billing address and sign a contract. If you choose to cancel the contract before the time period stipulated in the contract, you can do so by paying a cancellation fee.

If you are uncertain about your duration of stay, or if your stay is temporary, you can opt for the month-to-month contracts. From a list of options, you get to choose a package of talk-time minutes, texts, and data that you think will suit you best and then pay for the package upfront. Even if you do run out of talk-time minutes, texts, or data, you can still use the features for which you will be billed the next month. Some providers also allow you to change phone carriers after one month if you are not satisfied with your current service provider.

One of the disadvantages of the monthly contract is that you have to pay the entire cost of the phone upfront. This can get quite expensive if you are looking for a high-end phone, which can cost several hundred dollars or more.

You need to be careful when signing the contract, as some contracts have an auto-renewal clause in them. You lose the purpose of a month-to-month contract if it gets auto-renewed the same month that you intend to leave the U.S.

How do you make a call in the U.S.?

Local Calls

Landline numbers and mobile numbers in the U.S. consist of 10 digits. To make a call within the U.S. from a U.S.-based number, dial a 3-digit area code and the 7-digit unique landline or mobile number. Area codes are numbers assigned to specific geographic areas. These specific geographic areas are either large suburbs within a city, a metropolitan area, or the entire state itself.

Toll-free numbers in the U.S. start with 8xx. The second and third digits are the same. So, an example of a toll number is 822-346-7989. You need to dial 1 before dialing this number. So, at the time of dialing, it looks like 1-822-346-7989.

International Calls

To dial an international number, the first step is to dial 011. This is the exit U.S. code. This is followed by dialing the country code, area code, and the international phone number. Let us take an example of calling a landline number in Hyderabad, India. The country code for India is 91. The state code or area code of Hyderabad is 040. We must make sure to omit the first 0 in the area code. This is followed by the landline number.

So, you will dial 011-91-40-23047364. (Assuming 23047364 is the landline number)

Mobile numbers in India have 10 digits. To call a mobile number in India, you should skip dialing the area code. So, an example would be 011-91-[10-digit mobile number].

The process of buying a phone without an SSN, dialing patterns, and contracts of telephone service providers may seem complicated at first. But with the information you have learned here (and some hands-on practice), you can adjust in no time. Happy talking!

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For visitors, travel, student and other international travel medical insurance.

Visit insubuy.com or call +1 (866) INSUBUY or +1 (972) 985-4400