Air Time Rules!
When I left the US 5 years ago my Sprint PCS mobile account came with 5,000 minutes "air time" included in my monthly fee, meaning I could make *or receive* up to 5,000 minutes of calls before being charged any more. All other call charges were the same as for my land line, i.e. local calls *free* and long distance calls pennies per minute (with all the same long distance carrier deals and packages available to me as on my land line).
Not only were calls I made to my local area code *free*, but more importantly calls *from* people in my local are to my mobile number were *free* to them. This worked land-line to mobile, mobile to land-line, and MOBILE TO MOBILE, even CROSS-NETWORK! In addition, minutes that I didn't use each month would roll over to the following month for up to 3 months. I think when I closed my Sprint PCS account I had something over 8,000 minutes of air time left on it.
Here in the EU, 5 years later, I still have to pay ludicrous per-minute fees to mobile companies to call another mobile (after eating through my minuscule monthly allowance), especially if it's on a different network than mine.
The US model results in people being able to use *only* a mobile phone (especially when combined with wires-only DSL which allows them to have Internet access without the overhead of paying for a phone line), and use it *much* more than their EU counterparts, for *much* less per-month cost.
Also, business people who are very mobile, such as salespeople or real estate agents, etc., can publish a local area phone number for customers to contact them on, and customers can call them without having to pay exorbitant land-line to mobile call charges as in the EU, making them a lot easier to reach and therefore improving their business opportunities.
Having lived in both US and EU, I can say from personal experience that I *much* prefer the local-area-number-and-air-time model used in the US.
I'm told US mobile charges have gone up somewhat over the last 5 years since I was there - can any US readers chime in with today's average monthly fees & air-time allowances?