Cell phone oddity

I hate talking on the phone. For a long time, I resisted getting a cell phone until I was persuaded about its value in an emergency, so I got a cheap one that does not have a contract plan and for which I can pre-pay and that I rarely use.

But it does have its uses. When the tree in our backyard fell during the hurricane and took down the phone line and the power line, the former was broken, cutting out our landline and the internet, but the latter was merely stretched and lay under the tree, so that we still had power but it was dangerous. Fortunately, I was able to arrange for repairs using the cell phone.

But when I was in DC over the weekend for the college reunion, the friend’s house I was staying in turned out to be a dead-zone for T-mobile, with me unable to make or receive any calls. So I was startled on two occasions to receive phone calls while there. The first was from AT&T giving me an update on why repairs could not be done on my phone by the promised date, and the other was from the Cleveland power company saying that they were calling to let me know that they had completed work on the line.

So I was wondering if utility companies somehow had the power to over-ride the dead-zones and reach any cell phone anywhere.


  1. sithrazer says

    Some cell provider has coverage in that area, and the calls got routed through that providers network to your phone. On ‘standard’ cell phone plans this is called ‘roaming’, as in “I’ve roamed into someone else’s territory.”.

    Since yours is a pre-paid phone it’s probably locked to t-mobile’s network for outgoing calls, even if you’re technically connected to a cell network via roaming.

  2. Tony Sidaway says

    The phone keeps trying to connect to a cell continually. Intermittently it may succeed because signal strength in your location varies, and this registers the phone’s location on the system. So calls (any calls) will correctly route to the local cell where your phone was last registered. Intermittently the signal level may improve marginally allowing calls (any calls) to be received. If you watched your phone continually you might even succeed in finding a time window during which you could make an outgoing call.

    The upshot: the phone must have had a viable connection at the time your received the call, even though most of the time it may have had none.

    There is no override for special parties. If you’re contactable any number you’re not actively blocking can place a call.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    I cut the landline a couple years ago and am cell-only now.
    I have cell service with Consumer Cellular. It is not pre-paid; there is a monthly fee. But they don’t require long-term contracts and have good customer service. And for an infrequent user like myself, it is very cheap. For voice-only, I pay less than $25/month for 300 minutes. CC leases coverage from AT&T.
    Another similar option is Greatcall. I think they lease their coverage from Verizon. Both Consumer Cellular and Greatcall target their marketing at seniors.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    The phone keeps trying to connect to a cell continually…

    True. And if it is having difficulty picking up a signal, it uses more power to do so. If you’re in a location where you know there isn’t reception, such as my secret underground laboratory, turn the phone off to prolong battery charge.

  5. Mano Singham says

    But right after I got the call, I tried to make a call and could not get through. The person whose house I was in said that they had to switch from T-mobile because there was no reception there.

  6. Mano Singham says

    But why would it allow only incoming calls from the phone and power companies and block all other class?

  7. Seeing/analyzing says

    I also have Consumer Cellular, but I’m not a senior. I am not allowed to use a cellphone at work, it’s illegal to use while driving, which leaves…using it at home? I have 100 minutes of talk a month; I use about 20 in an average month. Pay next-to-nothing for it.

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