The company joined Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless and others that have launched similar plans in recent months.
Roaming and long-distance charges are disappearing because the prices carriers pay to offer these services have dropped. Carriers pay their competitors "roaming rates" to have calls hosted in areas their networks don't cover. These rates now average about 10 cents for every minute--so low that carriers can afford not to pass the costs on to subscribers.
That wasn't possible two years ago, when the average per-minute price was between 35 cents and 45 cents, said Roger Entner, an analyst with The Yankee Group.
These changes have happened in the last few months because the agreements carriers reached about three to five years ago are beginning to expire. New contracts reflect the new prices, Entner said.
Cingular Wireless subscribers pay a monthly fee for a certain amount of calling minutes7 a.m. and 9 p.m. and get upward of 3,500 minutes of airtime they can use on weekends or weeknights after 9 p.m.
Nextel Communications, VoiceStream Wireless and Sprint PCS also offer plans that eliminate long-distance and roaming charges.