I have Verizon Wireless and I've used my phone in the northern suburbs of Chicago as well as in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Kenosha, and Racine Counties in the Milwaukee metropolitan areas. It works fine in the Milwaukee area. I however did have a problem when I went into Ozaukee County where there aren't many cell phone towers along I-43, and I normally only had the transmission bar showing on my phone. I have the Samsung a650 and vs. my old Motorola 120c phone, The Samsung a650 works in more areas than the Motorola 120c did. I had to be in areas where the phone would show at least 3 bars (not counting the transmission bar) for the phone to work. Also that phone went into analog a lot where digital was weak, and even analog was weak too. The Samsung from my experience holds a digital signal better, but I also have analog backup in case I go into an area where digital might not be available, and that's common in areas served by Alltel, which is the big carrier in rural Wisconsin.
I haven't tested tested Verizon Wireless around Lake Geneva yet since I have yet to visit there, but I may get an opportunity toward the end of the year. It has worked great for me in Madison Wisconsin and along I-90 from the state line to Madison, and along I-94 between Madison and Milwaukee. The trip between Madison and Milwaukee was done with my old Kyocera 2235, which was a good phone for reception, but the bright blue screen caused me to get a different phone. I don't know when Verizon Wireless will expand in Wisconsin, but I'm aware that the only market they'll be adding is Eau Claire, and that's because they acquired licenses from the company that owns Cricket. As for calling plans, if you can cut back on minutes, you can get the 1350anytime minutes for $80. There might be plans that are different at the stores vs. the website. I'm going by the website since I'm at work. But if you wanna make sure that you get service from the sale of service, go to the corporate store and not a reseller. The resellers don't always have the best knowledge of the service they sell and you might get wrong information. I had a problem when I signed up with Verizon Wireless service from Radio Shack. Radio Shack wouldn't have the phone insured and told me it wasn't an option. I lost my first phone and I was fortunate to get a new one through the Oops plan (I don't know if it's still around since this was October 2002) for $80 from Verizon Wireless, compared to $225 that Radio Shack was trying to charge to replace my phone, and would still not offer insurance from them or anyone else. Also the corporate salesperson knows where service is available and can tell you if Verizon Wireless is in those markets. The reseller doesn't have the same knowledge on that. The reseller may have better offers on phones, but if you want better service knowing you'll have the best contract, go through the corporate stores. I can't comment on Sprint PCS though.
I live in the northern suburbs, between Chicago and Milwaukee. I travel all over (northern Wisconsin, UP Michigan, Lake Geneva, AZ, FL, and everywhere in between). I currently have T-Mobile but they don't have service in Lake Geneva or Door County, WI. I'm on a family plan and use about 1500 mins a month. The bill is averaging $145/mo. Should I go with Sprint or Verizon? Also what can anybody tell me about the Sanyo 8200? Thanks