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20 replies
A cell phone question?
frihed89
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In Europe, tri-band mobile phones are available over the counter without sim cards and no contract with a service provider.  You then can either buy a prepaid card with a sim on it, or hook up with a service provider who will send you a sim and you can buy time from them.  I guess in US terms, that means these phones are unlocked. 
 
Now, let’s say you buy one of these phones and then go back to the US.  Would it possible to simply put an existing sim from Verizon or T-Mobil, etc. into your EU cell phone and have it work?
 
By the way, tri-band mobil phones aren’t cheap in the EU, but you can buy a new dual band (GSM only) for as little as $40-$50 (in Denmark, probably cheaper elsewhere) that will work just fine in the EU.

Seva
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For all I know you can use any (“unlocked”) phone with any SIM card. If you haven’t done it yet, go to T-Mobile and ATT websites and see which one has best “pay as you go” plan. A friend of mine has been using a T-Mobile plan with 10c/minute rate for some years. That’s much cheaper then anything I could find going to Europe (Germany to be exact).

By the way, I’m sure independent cell phone dealers get some kind of kick-back from providers when they sign you up and sell you a SIM card. So you may well try to bargain with them about the activation / SIM card fee.

l1r
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Hm…
I’m confused.
Are you saying that I can take my US Tmobile phone with their Pay-As-You-Go SIM card in it that I’ve been happily using in the states and it will roam in Europe so I will be able to make calls?

I am leaving from Denver, CO with $3500 for 23 days
Frankfurt, Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice, Frankfurt
Requesting help with Hostels, Budget, Itinerary, Food
Seva
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ORIGINAL: l1r

I’m confused.
Yes you are!

Frihed is coming from Denmark to US. He wants to use his (“unlocked,” that is not coded for any particular network) phone with a SIM card which he plans to purchase in Salt Lake.

If you take your pay as you go phone from US to Europe two things will probably happen. First, you phone won’t roam since pay as you go SIM is not registered for roaming outside US (though may be in Canada). Second, if you buy a SIM card from a local cell company, you phone will likely not work with it, since most of the phones sold in the US are “locked” (coded to work only with whichever carrier sold them).

l1r
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Oh, ok. Thanks for clarifying that for me.
I knew (proudly!) about locked/unlocked cell phones. I do have an unlocked one, though I doubt I would take it on a trip – Motorola MPX220, abused enough that now only charges from my latop (USB hookup).
When you buy a sim card in Europe and pop it into your phone and use up all those minutes, do you have to get rid of the sim card and buy a new one if you want more minutes? Won’t that also change your phone number?
Also are there carriers that work across Europe, or do I have to buy a sim card in every country (for each individual cell provider) separately?
Also, if you can give me an idea how much those minutes/cards cost?
Thanks…

I am leaving from Denver, CO with $3500 for 23 days
Frankfurt, Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice, Frankfurt
Requesting help with Hostels, Budget, Itinerary, Food
Seva
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ORIGINAL: l1r
When you buy a sim card in Europe and pop it into your phone and use up all those minutes, do you have to get rid of the sim card and buy a new one if you want more minutes?
No, you can simply buy more credit.
Quote:
Won’t that also change your phone number?
Of course! New SIM card = new number.
Quote:
Also are there carriers that work across Europe, or do I have to buy a sim card in every country (for each individual cell provider) separately?
Most will roam, at additional cost, but it depends on specific provider.
Quote:
Also, if you can give me an idea how much those minutes/cards cost?
No. Somehow I just find these costs prohibitively expensive.

Joeri
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Also, if you can give me an idea how much those minutes/cards cost?
Thanks…

 
I can tell you something about the costs in the Netherlands, but not in the other countries, there are just too many providers, networks, contracts and prepaid constructions.
 
Roaming is most of the time not a problem if you have a contract, when you have a prepaid SIM you’ll probably have to switch that feature on, most of the time a text message to the provider will do the trick. All cellphones in Europe use SIM cards. Contracts offer the best value, but normally a contract stands for at least a year. There are also prepaid SIM cards available, for which you can buy more credit.
 
The situation in the Netherlands is as follows:
5 main providers with their own network, there are also dozens of other providers which roam in one of the mainprovider’s networks. Most people here have a contract, it offers best value (sometimes calling is only 1 cpm) and it’s also possible to get a free phone with the deal.
There’s also prepaid, you just buy a simcard (most of the time they cost about 10 euros, but there’s also 10 euros or sometime even more credit on it). You can charge them online or in supermarkets etc.
Best value at the moment for international travellers in the Netherlands is Vodafone prepaid Z11:
SIMcard costs 5 euros, credit 10 euros.
– Textmessage 9 cents
– Calling 29 cpm, free during the weekend
– 3=60: after 3 minutes the remaining hour in the same call is free
– Vodafone Passport: calls outside the Netherlands are the normal price + 79 cents, being called outside the Netherlands costs 79 cents only.
– Unlimited (up to 1800kbps) mobile internet for 9,50 a month.
 
If you have specific questions about a certain country or provider, I’m happy to see if I can find some info for you. 

I am traveling for 4 days
Seva
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– Calling 29 cpm, free during the weekend
– 3=60: after 3 minutes the remaining hour in the same call is free
….
Well, in my book this is a reasonably good deal. This past summer I’ve been thinking about getting a German SIM card, but did not really find any offers were I wouldn’t have to pay 20-25 Euro upfront. And since my trip was a week in Germany plus a week in Italy, either way I’d have to pay for international roaming.

I’m still hoping that with EU states getting progressively more integrated, it will be possible to have plans with flat rate (say 20-40) for all of the Union, or at least sizable part of it. Is this really too much to ask?

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ORIGINAL: Seva

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– Calling 29 cpm, free during the weekend
– 3=60: after 3 minutes the remaining hour in the same call is free
….
Well, in my book this is a reasonably good deal. This past summer I’ve been thinking about getting a German SIM card, but did not really find any offers were I wouldn’t have to pay 20-25 Euro upfront. And since my trip was a week in Germany plus a week in Italy, either way I’d have to pay for international roaming.

I’m still hoping that with EU states getting progressively more integrated, it will be possible to have plans with flat rate (say 20-40) for all of the Union, or at least sizable part of it. Is this really too much to ask?

 
Rates have been dropped since ‘Brussels’ got involved in the problem, but you can forget a flat rate for now, just too many providers and countries involved. Calling thru the normal net is very cheap though.

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Seva
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Rates have been dropped since ‘Brussels’ got involved in the problem, but you can forget a flat rate for now, just too many providers and countries involved. Calling thru the normal net is very cheap though.
Why not? Look:

T-Mobile has presence in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom;

Vodafone in Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom;

Orange in Austria, Belgium, France, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Each of these companies is in a very good position to roll out some kind of “One Europe, One Rate” plan. (Hmm… I like this. I should sell this name…) I’m sure it’s going to happen relatively soon. Remember back in 2002 I have predicted that DB will be selling online-tickets with Credit Card used as the ID? Well, that’s exactly what they do now.

Joeri
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DB tickets are something else compared to mobile calling imho.
 
T-Mobile, Vodafone and Orange are all present in even more countries than you listed, but still, why would they do something like introducing a flat rate? It’s far too lucrative for them right now. The EU only made sure there’s a max rate now, and as long as that’s the only thing they do, companies won’t give away profit.

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Seva
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Why would that be “giving away profit”? Don’t you think that at the flat rate of, say, 30 cpm, people who often travel across different European states would be making a lot more calls then they do now, at the rates of about 1[=”-1”]€pm or above? Wouldn’t that actually result in [/]more profit for the company?

Canuck17
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I have read the thread diligently and still have more questions! I will be packpacking from Nov 3 for 5.5 months in and out of Europe (a little bit in the middle east and Morocco) my questions pertains only to Europe. Is there a point in bringing along my unlocked cell and doing the whole sim card/pre paid phone card? What is the cheapest/most convenient way for me to call home (Canada) every now and again without paying exhorbitant amounts of money.
 
Last time I didn’t even bother to call home for three months. Those phone cards at pay phones are a rip, and it is confusing and inconvenient when you are only in one country for max two weeks. Any advice or what have other people done in the past?
BTW: It is my boyfriend that I most want to talk to, the rest of my family would be happy with emails!!

Looking forward to Israel, Egypt, Jordan and India in the fall!!

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Sorry, for what it is worth, I’ve been trying to figure it out for several years now. (My solution last summer was to use Skype on my laptop.) All the options seem just equally bad, when compared to the cost of calls from a regular phone.

  • Telecom cards (that you must insert into a payphone) are a rip-off.
  • Prepaid cards with PIN are a bit cheaper, but still costly when used at a payphone. (Besides, it’s usually impossible to know the rate upfront.)
  • “International” calling cards (from ATT, MCI and others) are very expensive. Actualy, it sometimes turns out that their supposedly toll-free access numbers are blocked on payphones.
  • Cell phones are the worst, because you end up paying their outrageous international long distance rates.
If you figure it out please, please, please let me know!

Joeri
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Why would that be “giving away profit”? Don’t you think that at the flat rate of, say, 30 cpm, people who often travel across different European states would be making a lot more calls then they do now, at the rates of about 1[=-1]€pm or above? Wouldn’t that actually result in [/]more profit for the company?

 
Maybe but if that would have been the case, they would already have done that I guess. My own provider (T-Mobile) already has a flat rate btw, still expensive but nowhere near the €1pm you’re talking about: 58cpm.
 
Cheapest way to call from Europe (in my case the Netherlands) is via a regular phone. Costs can be as low as 1 cpm. Nothing beats this, except Skype.
If you want to use your cell, a contractdeal is the best, problem is that you have to sign up for at least a year. Some providers offer some international deals on their prepaid SIMs though, flat rates for an hour or so.
Another option is via toll free access numbers, problem with that is that when you call such a number with a cellphone you also have to pay for using your cellphone. Be careful with that!

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My own provider (T-Mobile) already has a flat rate btw, still expensive but nowhere near the €1pm you’re talking about: 58cpm.

This summer I went to Germany and Italy. I’ve looked at the prepaid rates in Germany which was first. The cheapest option I could find was a prepaid SIM with 20cpm rate for Germany. However, if I’d called Germany from Italy, the rate would be close to 1[=”-1”]€pm. Calling Italy from Italy would be about [/]2[=”-1”]€pm.
[/]
Coincidentally T-Mobile is also my provider in the US. (Talk about globalization.) Here T-Mobile has a prepaid plan with US$100 buying 1000 minutes of talk time including US wide roaming and long distance. If we assume that real costs of operating cell phone network and routing calls across the US and across Europe are comparable, we conclude that a 20cpm flat rate valid across Europe would be feasible.

Of course rates would only be going down with enough demand and competition. The flat rate of 58cpm you mention is a step in that direction. (I have not found anything like that in Germany.) Today international long-distance rates are between 2%(!) and 10% of what we’ve seen 10 years ago. It’s probably harder to compete on the cell phone market, and the infrastructure costs more, but we will probably see cell phone rates going down.

frihed89
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Thanks Seva for answering all those questions (which I could not have answered).
 
It turns out, of course, that you can’t do what I had wanted as the policies of the providers are so different.  I never realized how different the EU and the US service providers were with regard to mobil telephone policies.
 
 

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It turns out, of course, that you can’t do what I had wanted as the policies of the providers are so different.
Care to tell why?

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I have heard people with the same problems.  It is possible to buy a phone in another country and use it here with some providers but it’s tough to do it…you have to be prepared to talk to a lot of employees before you can get it activated.  And I’m almost positive that you can’t pull it off with Verizon :-/

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I have heard people with the same problems.  It is possible to buy a phone in another country and use it here with some providers but it’s tough to do it…you have to be prepared to talk to a lot of employees before you can get it activated.  And I’m almost positive that you can’t pull it off with Verizon :-/
You know what? You have no idea what you are talking about!

You can go to eBay and have a prepaid T-Mobile sim card with $30 credit on it shipped anywhere in the world for $5! I could see how some local salespeople may be ignorant or scared of the whole terrists thing, but the idea is that anyone may buy a prepaid card just like anyone may use a payphone!

But no, you can’t do this with Verison, because Verison is not GSM compatible. (Have you even heard about GSM?)

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Wow, sorry.  I just meant that you shoudl be prepared to run into problems getting it activated because of sales people not knowing enough about what they are doing.  I know a lot of people who have had a harder time than expected getting an unlocked phone activated, that’s all.