Replacement contractors who know what's most important to them about cell phones — for example, an extensive service area, the ability to directly connect with coworkers, or bills that are easy to decipher — can find a provider who excels in that area. No one provider is the best choice for everyone.

“There are no great deals,” says Jack Kostak, owner of All-Seal Home Improvement in Dayton, Ohio. His company chose Verizon after presentations from several companies because it had fewer dead zones and the phones were easy to use. In analyzing the options, Kostak says, it seemed companies offered good deals on either service or equipment but never both.

Verizon is also the choice of Fiantaco Construction in Sterling Heights, Mich. That's because the company experienced a lot of dropped calls with Cellular One, as it had with several other services. “I couldn't get phone calls in my own office,” says Charlie Fiantaco, owner and president.

All providers have dead spots and drop calls sometimes, says Ted Jorve, president of the Jorve Corp. in Seattle. Providing the best value was what Jorve looked for. He chose T-Mobile because it has good service and pricing and decent coverage.

The problem at K.C. Co. in Beltsville, Md., was that the cost of cell phone service was becoming almost prohibitive, says Rosemary Nicol, director of customer relations. A huge number of calls came from employees needing to talk to someone in the office. The solution: Nextel's new direct-connect feature. “Nextel is a bit more forward-thinking than other providers,” Nicol says.

But that feature didn't prove worthwhile for A Cut Above in Portland, Ore. When controller Denise Loter started looking for ways to cut costs, she quickly focused on the cell phone bill. T-Mobile had the best rates, Loter says.

Dial One in Santa Ana, Calif., almost went with T-Mobile too, until the company let the contractor try out its phones. There was no T-Mobile service in the contractor's building. “So ask if you can use the phones before you sign a contract,” advises executive vice president Jackie Poehlman.