Landline and mobile phones in the USA
Updated 2023-10-04 09:44

Staying connected with loved ones while in the United States  – not to mention all the other reasons why we have phones – is made simple with many phone communication choices. Mobile phone coverage is available nationwide and is the most popular way to keep in touch. There are various different providers and phone plans to choose from depending on your personal call and data needs. Landlines are still used in some homes and can sometimes be included as part of an internet package.

Using landlines in the US

The traditional fixed telephone is becoming less common in American homes, with some telecommunication providers indicating their intention to terminate their landline telephone services. Recent data reveals less than a quarter of American households have a landline. However, most, if not all, homes and apartments have phone hookups installed, and it's quite simple to set up the service if you're a fan of the landline.

If you'd like to apply for a landline, choose a suitable plan with your chosen carrier (this is what telecommunication companies are called in the USA), and then call them to connect service. Most companies offer unlimited local calls and a few different packages for long-distance and international calling. Generally, there is no in-home visit required, although you will have to pay a one-time connection fee. Providers often offer multiple services, making it easy to get cable TV, an internet connection, and a landline all in one bill.

Cell phones and mobile service in the US

It is more common to use a mobile phone rather than a landline in the United States. The top four cell phone companies in the US are Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. These providers all have nationwide coverage and standard 4G LTE. However, data and signal strength can vary by location, so when choosing a carrier, it is worthwhile to ask coworkers or other locals which carrier they use and whether they're happy with their coverage.

The main factors to consider when choosing a plan and carrier are:

  • Coverage and network quality: Prioritize carriers with reliable coverage and strong network quality in your frequented areas to ensure uninterrupted communication;
  • Data needs: Evaluate your data requirements for activities like streaming and browsing to select a plan that offers sufficient data allowance without overages. Maybe you're someone who only calls and texts – your needs will be very different from big social media users or video streamers;
  • Plan flexibility: Opt for carriers offering adaptable plans that allow easy switching between different tiers as your needs change;
  • International calling and roaming: If international communication is essential, inquire about affordable international calling rates and roaming options;
  • Cost and budget: Factor in the overall cost, including monthly plan charges, device costs, activation fees, and potential extra charges, to align with your budget effectively.

When you're ready to purchase a service from the phone company, there are two options you will have to choose from: prepaid and contract service. Be aware that prepaid cell phones are best for travelers visiting the US for a short time or those without an established credit history in the country; most people intending to remain in the USA longer than a month or so will invest in a phone plan.

If you are going on the prepaid route, ensure that your cell phone is unlocked and buy a local SIM card once you arrive. SIM cards can be found at the airport as well as in convenience stores and cell phone stores. These SIM cards come preloaded with a certain amount of call minutes and data and can be topped up as needed. Another option is to purchase a basic cell phone for use while in the US. For those who wish to be very organized, you can even get a US SIM card sent in the mail in advance via

How do phone plans work in the US?

Contract service offers different benefits to those staying in the country for longer periods. These cell phone plans require a minimum time commitment based on the type of services you select, usually two years, although there are some month-to-month contracts available from certain providers. Common plans are family bundles that allow multiple people to share the same pool of minutes or unlimited calling and data. If you need a new cell phone, the contract service allows you to 'finance' the cost and make monthly payments on the new phone along with your monthly plan payment. Sometimes, the cell phone can be obtained for free if you sign up for a 2-year contract, especially if it's an older model. It should be noted that you may need to provide a deposit and/or credit check to be approved for these plans.

Internet calling and useful apps

Staying connected with loved ones across continents has become an essential aspect of expat life, and there is now a range of apps that offer cost-effective solutions to expats for making long-distance calls. The main change is that you can use WiFi or data to make your calls, meaning you won't rack up large phone bills or have to mess around with long-distance calling cards. Consider downloading Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Google Voice, or Rebtel and use these services to call people rather than using your carrier.

Making phone calls in the US

In the United States, phone numbers are composed of 10 digits. To make a call within the US, you must dial the 3-digit area code, followed by the 7-digit telephone number of the person you would like to call.

To make international calls from the US, you must dial "011" followed by the country code, area code, and phone number. However, some countries near the United States do not require an international code.

If you want to find a phone number, you can obtain some directory assistance by dialing '411'. Please note that there is a surcharge for this service. For all emergency services, dial '911".

Useful links:

Cell phone service operators:

Verizon Wireless




Landline operators in the United States:



Century Link



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