You’ll hear me refer to “usage” quite a bit throughout these wireless management posts. Of course that means minutes used, but there are several different types and/or levels of “usage” or “minutes”. Wireless companies like to invent things at their convenience. In addition to the different types of minutes, different providers can have different terms for the same type of minute. I’m convinced this is because the implicit intention is to confuse as many people as possible. Here’s a rundown of the most common types of minutes you’ll encounter. Keep in mind, not all providers will offer unlimited amounts of some of these types of minutes. Know your usage (and type of usage) to find the best plan with the right carrier.

Peak Minutes: These are minutes used typically between the hours of 7am and 9pm, Monday through Friday. Peak minutes are the type of minutes that draw away from the plan minutes you bought into, but not in every instance. Keep reading.

Nights & Weekends: Common sense on that one. These can also be referred to as non-peak minutes. These minutes typically will not take away from the peak minutes purchased. Some providers, such as Sprint, have calling plans where nights and weekends start at 7pm.

Shared/Pooled Minutes: This applies to groups who have purchased a large chunk of minutes for use amongst all participating users with that carrier. This also applies to people on a family share plan. A “pool” can be a large glut of minutes bought that everyone pulls from, it can be a collection of minutes where every user has plan minutes contributing to be shared, or a hybrid of the two.

Within Network Usage: These are minutes used between people on the same provider (Verizon to Verizon, Alltel to Alltel, etc). Verizon refers to this as “IN” usage. Sprint and T-Mobile refer to it as “Mobile to Mobile” usage. Some providers have unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling on all plans, which will not take away from peak minutes purchased. Other providers may not include this is every plan but offer it at an additional monthly charge as a line feature. Still others may let you choose a certain number of people where you can have unlimited calling.

Push-to-Talk Minutes: This is also known as walkie-talkie or direct connect minutes. This is the feature that Nextel popularized with that annoying chirp and bad reception everyone within 250 meters could hear. As with everything else, it depends on the provider whether this comes standard with your plan or if costs extra. Also, depending on the carrier (how many times have I said that or a derivative of it so far), you may need to choose from a select variety of phones that are capable of this feature.

Overage Minutes: In the wireless mismanaged company, overage minutes are like herpes; you certainly don’t want it, but you may not know you have it. Overage minutes are any amount of minutes used over your allotted pool of minutes. Too many of these will put you in an early financial grave. Costs of overage can range from $.25 to $.40 per minute. You better have protection to prevent this. Always have at least a 10% buffer over average peak minutes used. I will get into this in more detail in the next post on usage.

Roaming Minutes: These are minutes where the call you make originates outside of the territory of the service provider. For instance, you bought your phone in Chicago and have a Chicago area code. You take a vacation to Cabo and call the office to check on things. Those minutes are considered roaming and you will be charged (oftentimes an arm and a leg) for those minutes. The reason for this exorbitant charge is you are using the network of a provider you have no contract with. I use the international example because that is most common. In the early days, roaming could occur within the same country. Now even mom and pop wireless providers will piggy-back on a large provider’s network who have nation-wide coverage. Most wireless providers on their web pages will provide a list of international rates.

Wasn’t that fun? I could have gotten into more detail and said what providers offered what, but we probably suffered quite a few casualties already. This is the jumbled wireless world we live in. For the individual, it’s not too bad. But for businesses, it gets ugly. Now that you know the various types of minutes, the next step is knowing your usage of each type of minute and finding the proper plan. The next installment will do just that.
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Jazzy Sourcer

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