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Illustration by Christoph Niemann

It’s travel surfing made simple: New high-speed data plans, which began rolling out this spring from the major wireless providers, turn your cellphone into a modem, enabling you to get e-mail or surf the Web from anywhere at speeds of about 40Kbps. You can either connect via a laptop, or use your cellphone’s color display. Picking the provider that’s right for
you depends on what you want to do. The more data-intensive your activities, the higher-speed network you’ll want. If you want to know the instant you get a message, look for a service with an always-on connection. As you browse these service plans, keep in mind that 5 megabytes of data equals approximately 90 Web pages or 850 e-mail messages.

VERIZON
Technology: CDMA 1X
Average Speed: 40 to 60Kbps
Connectivity: Dial up; times out in 5 minutes
Base Pricing: $30 plus voice minutes, or $35
for 10MB

AT&T WIRELESS
Technology: GPRS
Average Speed: 25 to 30Kbps
Connectivity: Always on
Base Pricing: $2.99 plus $0.02 per kilobyte, or $7.99 for 1MB

CINGULAR WIRELESS
Technology: GPRS
Average Speed: 40 to 60Kbps
Connectivity: Always on
Base Pricing: $6.99 for 1MB

VOICESTREAM
Technology: GPRS
Average Speed: 40Kbps
Connectivity: Always on
Base Pricing: $2.99 for 1MB of phone access only, $19.99 for 5MB using phone as modem

SPRINT PCS
Technology: CDMA 1X
Average Speed: 50 to 70Kbps
Connectivity: Dial up; times out after several hours of inactivity
Base Pricing: Not available at press time

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