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France data roaming, mobile broadband tips & info

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This info applies to Internet access from your cell phone when you're in France.

First and foremost: BE VERY, VERY CAREFUL or you can burn through a LOT of money with "data roaming" charges.

Second, use free WiFi when you can to save costs.

If you plan to use your USA (or other local) cell service provider, be sure to read the fine print VERY carefully. Some plans have exclusions and limits in their "unlimited" plans, and you can end up with suprisingly high charges.

Unless you plan to use a plan under your USA cell service provider that you've CAREFULLY reviewed, be sure do disable your "Internet" and/or "3G" roaming feature on your phone. If you don't, your phone may happily connect to a French network and do all kinds of background communication even when you aren't browsing or accessing e-mail.

OK, so now you're going to need a local sim and a PREPAID plan that provides Internet access, data transfer and e-mail.

Using PREPAID plans and adding only small amounts to your account is the safest approach. If you screw up, you might lose 20 euros of credit on your plan, but you won't end up with a $3,000 bill (as one person did), and you won't lose a 100 euros credit.

You will need to have your cell phone "unlocked" so it will use a sim associated with a different service provider. Contact your USA supplier to get instructions.

Many of the clerks in the local stores that cell SIM cards DO NOT understand options and setup steps for using a local sim and prepaid plan. Figure it out before you go. Here is a great place to get info:
http://paygsimwithdata.wikia.com/wiki/France?cb=2655

Be sure your phone will be compatible with the sim (check the providers' Web site).

Be sure you read the fine print on plans. (See example below.)

Currently, you can get an Orange sim and an "unlimited" Mobicarte/"Internet max" access plan for one month for 21 euros. This plan states that Orange can slow down your Internet access speed, if you exceed 500 MB of data in a month. Also POP3 ("client") e-mail is another 9 euros. (Without this option you must access your e-mail through a Web interface, which is fine for many people.) There are some other exclusions in the "unlimited" plan, but this is basically a good deal.

Orange is also running a special of two months Internet access (not including client e-mail) for the same price.

When you pick up your sim, you should be sure to "register", so bring your ID, such as a copy of your passport. Orange for example, won't allow you to activate Internet access without having registered.

Learn how to check your balance in the plan and right after you re-activate "Internet" or "data roaming" features, do a little browsing and check to see how much (if any) your account goes down. Check your balance regularly.

Turn off "Internet" or "data roaming" features entirely uring long periods when you don't need them.

Turn off any unnecessary application background processes on your cell phone that you don't need (e.g., traffic updates).

If you have any additional tips or deals, please post.

-- Paul

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