Will my cellphone know I've moved from Detroit to Windsor?
April 23, 2007 10:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving to Windsor, ON from the US, this fall, for grad school. I'm presently roped into a three+ year wireless contract with Cingular, here in the States. Given the proximity of Windsor to Detroit (I will be able to see Detroit from campus), is it at all possible that I'll be able to continue using my Cingular plan without paying $0.79/minute international roaming fees or acquiring a new plan?

My only other experiences of bringing my phone into Canada have been in the Toronto airport and in Winnipeg, both of which are, of course, far enough away from any US city that I would no longer be receiving a Cingular signal. In those instances, my phone kicked over to Rogers, and I paid through the nose each of the few times I used the phone. But Windsor is so close to Detroit that I feel like I should be able to "trick" my phone into thinking I never left the States. Is this a case of wishful thinking, pure and simple? I'm having a hard time imagining that there's some kind of wireless-signal-blocking forcefield that runs the length of the Detroit River, but what do I know?

At this point it should be clear that I've never actually been to Windsor, so, on top of any phone-related advice, if people have any general, Windsor-related tips and/or tidbits, those would be greatly appreciated, as well (any "Windsor blows" type responses... aren't really helpful, since I'm moving there whether it blows or not). Thanks so much.
posted by wreckingball to Technology (19 answers total)
Is there any particular reason why you want to keep your Cingular account? Have you tried calling them and asking to be let out of your contract?
posted by nathan_teske at 10:45 AM on April 23, 2007

Response by poster: it's partly because it would be useful to retain a US phone number, but I'm also just curious to see what my options are before I try and negotiate a release from contract with Cingular.
posted by wreckingball at 10:47 AM on April 23, 2007

Verizon has a North America plan that counts parts of Canada and Mexico as the US.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:03 AM on April 23, 2007

Those kinds of fees are a function of the location of the cell, not the location of the phone. They can't actually tell where the phone is. (If your phone has a GPS built in, they don't use that for purposes of figuring toll rates.)

If you are talking to a cell in Detroit, you'll be charged as if you were in Detroit.

But keep a close eye on the roaming indicator on your phone. You may be using a Canadian cell without realizing it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:24 AM on April 23, 2007

You've got a two-part-er, but wrt the cellular, couldn't you set the tower to 'prefer' the cingular towers?

Windsor is a nice city of ~200K, 10 minutes by tunnel-bus from Red Wings games, Tigers games, etc. Windsor Casino. Art Gallery. Large auto industry tech sector. University. Nice neighbourhoods. Strong multicultural ethnic communities.

Regarding general Windsor tips, have you found where you're living already? The Most Important Factor is understanding prevailing winds and your least favourite smell ...

East Windsor (Walkerville and East), you get the Ford engine plant, the GM plant, foundries;
West Windsor, Amherstberg; the Windsor Salt/associated Big Chemical factories and the acetone smell...
North Windsor; by the University/bridge, the 'Detroit river effect' mixes the Windsor, Detroit, and Ohio industrial pollution, and the exhaust of thousands of idling trucks going over the bridge...
posted by acro at 11:25 AM on April 23, 2007

When I was 19 and we used to go to Windsor to drink underage I had an AT&T GSM mobile (or was it VoiceStream...). At the time reception was spotty, but for the most part I could make and receive calls without roaming within about 5 miles of the border.

That was 7 or 8 years ago now, so I would imagine things have probably improved.

Also, have you tried calling them and asking if it will work?
posted by rsk at 11:30 AM on April 23, 2007

sorry... (but.) Mild winters (Southern-most city in Canada); the 'City of Roses'; Cuban cigars...
posted by acro at 11:36 AM on April 23, 2007

The one time I went to Detroit, we didn't leave the U.S., but the cell phones of several people I was with began welcoming them to Bell Mobility. You may or may not show up as being in the U.S. when you're actually in Windsor, but you can easily show up as being in Canada when you're in Detroit.
posted by oaf at 11:42 AM on April 23, 2007

This doesn't directly answer your question, but you should be able to get out of your contract with no fees, because you will be moving somewhere they don't provide coverage. I did this last year with Verizon when I moved from the states to canada, I just had to send them proof of residency in canada, and they took care of all the rest.

Another option: Get SkypeOut with your current US area code, forward your phone to Skype, then forward Skype to a new canadian number, pay for the unlimited North American skype option. Now anyone can call you at your old number, and you don't have to pay anything.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2007

Now anyone can call you at your old number, and you don't have to pay anything.

You have to pay the per-minute charge.
posted by oaf at 12:06 PM on April 23, 2007

I was just in Windsor last week, and as a Cingular customer myself, what I kept noticing was how sporadic coverage was in the city. Like rsk, as long as I was close to the border, I didn't get roaming charges, but as you head around the city, both roaming and low signal problems erupt--when driving up and down Ouellette, I had maybe two bars tops at any given time.

For what it's worth, my companion had Verizon, but never had any signal at all while we were over there.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 12:31 PM on April 23, 2007

Like blue-beetle and Verizon, when I relocated from NYC to Toronto (late 2005), T-Mobile let me out of my contract without penalty because I was leaving the country. I didn't even have to ask, when I said I was leaving for Canada the guy volunteered that they waive the penalty in such cases. I did have to provide them with evidence that I was in fact going (in my case I think copies of job offer & flight tickets), but it was painless.

If T-Mobile and Verizon both do this, seems like Cingular should have a similar policy?
posted by jamesonandwater at 1:02 PM on April 23, 2007

I lived on the Detroit side of the river (close enough to see Windsor) for over four years. I can't speak to Cingular but I often had to call Verizon and have them take off the roaming charges because my cell phone would think it was in Canada.
posted by ofthestrait at 1:07 PM on April 23, 2007

Last I checked, FCC regulations forbid broadcasting any sort of signal across the Canadian border -- including signals from US cellular towers.

However, Canada has no similar regulations, so you can very easily pick up Canadian towers in the US. (I used to live near the border in WA, and I've known many people who've gotten charged for roaming despite never leaving the country, because Canadian towers are beefier near the border.) Something to keep in mind if you do start thinking about getting a new phone, I guess.
posted by lastyearsfad at 1:34 PM on April 23, 2007

Last I checked, FCC regulations forbid broadcasting any sort of signal across the Canadian border -- including signals from US cellular towers.

I don't know where you got that idea. It's physically impossible to avoid broadcasting a signal across the border, and the FCC is not in the habit of writing regulations which require violating the laws of physics. (It has been known to occur, but when it's pointed out to them they're good about changing the regulations.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:00 PM on April 23, 2007

I've routinely used US cellphones up along the Canadian side of the St. Clair river. It all depends on how close the cell towers are to the border. If you can see Detroit from where you are, it'll probably work.
posted by the dief at 4:02 PM on April 23, 2007

In January, my Cingular phone showed 'Rogers' when I was on the UW campus between University Ave and Wyandotte. I have a new phone now which might or might not reach the cell towers in Detroit from the same location. It sounds like a better idea to get a Canadian account and avoid surprise roaming fees. You'd have to take a hit on the Canadian/US currency exchange when you pay your phone bill anyway.
posted by ardgedee at 4:10 PM on April 23, 2007

Last time I was in Windsor, my Cingular phone showed another provider's tower (it may have been Rogers - it wasn't any US company I've heard of).
posted by srah at 8:52 AM on April 24, 2007

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