Multi-Country Cell Phone Needed

Old Feb 6th, 2006, 06:33 AM
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Multi-Country Cell Phone Needed

I will be travelling France-Switzerland-Italy, and I am looking for a reliable and reasonably priced cell phone rental company. Any suggestions? I want to be able to call and receive from the US, and perhaps call ahead to my next destination. Thanks.

(Phone cards won't meet my needs, I tried cells4rent.com, but you have to pick up in Italy (my last stop) and calls outside of italy have international roaming rates.)
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Old Feb 6th, 2006, 06:53 AM
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I haven't used them myself, but www.telestial.com appear to specialise in multi-country sim cards

Geordie
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Old Feb 6th, 2006, 06:53 AM
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Buy a $49 phone and pay $1.50-2.50/minute for calls (keep 'em brief!).
www.mobalrental.com
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Old Feb 6th, 2006, 07:08 AM
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Lots of threads here regarding this...

Generally rental is not a good deal as it is almost as cheap to buy a phone on ebay or some internet merchants. For Europe, you need a dual band (900/1800) gsm phone...you might have a tri band phone already although the ones from Cingular which don't have 900 might leave you somewhat up the creek without a paddle in some parts of Europe...the ones T mobile used to sell had both but because of roaming arrangements in the US, they are starting to sell phones that also lack 900.

As far as provider, telestial is a rip off place. DO NOT USE THEM. They triple the price of local sims you can get even more easily upon arrival.

For multi country visits, the best alternative is united mobile (www.united-mobile.com)...you get free reception of calls throughout all of Western, Central and Eastern Europe west of Russia. You can look up threads about it.

Their web site www.united-mobile.com is excellent and explains how it works. You can now get a sim card from then denominated in US$ as well as Euro and GB£.....that's new but it allows you to see just how much calls cost.

Mobal??? I sure as hell wouldn't pay $1.50/minute to receive calls....cingular and t mobile international roaming same problem.

But if the phone is just for emergencies not meant really to serve as a phone, then you might consider those alternatives.
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Old Feb 6th, 2006, 01:43 PM
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xyz123 -
although the per-minute rates are high for T-Mobile/Mobal, etc, I still spent less using that mode than if I had to buy a SIM + extra minutes, espec. considering the expiration issue and having to 'top up' within so many months, or you have to buy another SIM. Also, you have to buy yet another SIM for a different country. The United-Mobile SIM costs $49 and the number is good for 9 months.

We don't visit long enough or often enough to buy the top-up cards, so don't just consider the per-minute rates - what is the TOTAL cost going to be?

We used 1 T-Mobile phone and 1 Mobal phone, about 10 calls (either home/US or to each other) for TOTAL cost* of $32
* excluding one-time expense of $49 for Mobal's phone (which doesn't 'expire').

Also, I like keeping my normal cell # at all times for family /friends.

It just depends on how heavy a person's usage is going to be.
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Old Feb 6th, 2006, 05:47 PM
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I totally agree with your last paragraph..myself I am a heavy user of the phone and might receive 8 or 9 calls an evening.

Just a quick point...united mobile sim is good indefinitely if you make at least one call every 9 months...since you can roam in the USA with it, you can make 1 call into voice mail every 8.9 months and keep the card valid indefinitely.

But you're right and I try to emphasize that...if the phone is just for emergencies or for odd calls then using t mo or cingular's rip off international roaming will be fine failing that mobal.

But if you want a real functioning mobile phone to use nightly daily or whatever, nothing beats local prepaid sims.

JMHO
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Old Feb 7th, 2006, 06:31 AM
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First, thank you all for the responses. I have a few follow up questions, excuse my ignorance.
1. What is a SIM? When I looked at the mobal phones, it said something about the SIM being locked. What is that about?
2. What does it mean, 'buy local prepaid sims"? I want to have a fixed phone number so that my family can reach me in Europe. It sounds like the Mobal is the best idea, and hopefully, I'll be able to use it on another trip.
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Old Feb 7th, 2006, 07:14 AM
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The predominant technology of mobile phones in the world is something called GSM almost universal in Europe although new technologies are emerging. In a GSM phone, the whole phone number is controlled by a little chip called the sim card which is made to be inserted and/or taken out of the phone fairly easily. Change the sim card and you change the phone number, the company of the phone, your phone book (although some entries are stored in the phone's memory0 and other things. The United States was very slow to embrace this technology and the largest US cellular company, Verizon, uses a different technology and does not use sim cards. T mobile US and Cingular and several smaller companies use GSM technology so their phones will work in Europe; but then the other issues where the US is contrary minded (as with so many other things as use of Celsius temperatures and the metric system) is the frequency. In Europe they use the frequencies of 900 and 1800 for their GSM phones, in the US they use 1900 and 850 and the twain doesn't meet. Now you can buy tri band phones with 3 frequencies in the US from Americanproviders or from internet merchants, some of them have 850/1800/1900 made for the US market and 900/1800/1900 made for the rest of the world. If you get a former say from Cingular, while you will be okay in the big cities, you may be up the creek without a paddle or at least without a mobile phone in rural areas in some countries. So much for GSM and sim cards.

Companies sometimes subsidize the sale of their phones. Cingular may give you a great deal on a gsm phone it sells to you and subsidizes the purchase. They don't want you to use the phone with some other company's sim card so they "lock" the phone. That is the phone will only recognize a sim card issued in this case by Cingular. Getting phones unlocked so they can take any sim card from any cmopany ranges from easy (T mobile US usually will do it for you after 3 months with them or you can do it yourself; Nokia phones are particularly easy as the unlocking code calculator is a free download on the web) or you can go into a mobile phone store in many countries (they are found on every other block say on Oxford Street in London) and for a few quid, the phone can be unlocked. Most gsm phones sold by internet merchants are unlocked and advertised as such some on ebay are not. Got to check that before buying a phone or be prepared to have it unlocked. The companies claim it is illegal and apparently in Germany it is illegal but in most other places, it's your phone and you can do with it as you please. You know it's like downloading music.

Local prepaid sims. Well international roaming means using a gsm phone with a sim card issued in a country other than where it is issued. Both T mobile US and Cingular have international roaming plans but they are obscenely expensive. Europeans are used to driving 100 kilometers (not miles a silly measurement in the 21st century) and voila they are in a different country and they don't want to pay high roaming rates. So in Europe, companies offer relatively cheaply what are called local prepaid sim packages. You don't have a contract with the company, you pay up front for the sim card which gives you a phone number in that country and some time to make calls at that country's rates. BTW the basic premise of GSM phones is that when you are not roaming, receiving calls is FREE at least to you (the caller pays more; you may note that when listing ld rates to call Europe from the US calls to mobile phones are somewhat more expensive than calls to landlines, the premise being the caller pays)...so for example if you live in France and travel by Eurostar to the UK, you can use your French mobile phone and pay French roaming rates which does not include free reception of calls or walk into any mobile phone store, and in Europe they are almost on every street corner, and buy a UK prepaid sim pack. In the UK, especially, they are dirt cheap. Insert the sim card, hold onto your French sim card, and voila you now have a British mobile phone with a British mobile number (you do have to let people know it)...go on to Holland, walk into a Dutch mobile phone store and buy a Durch prepaid sim, switch the sim and voila your phone is now a Dutch phone with a Dutch number..go back to France, put in your French sim card and voila you are now back to having a French phone number.

Policies regarding how long the prepaid sims are valid, rates to call foreign number (say from the UK to North America) vary greatly, you have to read the literature of the various countries to figure it out.

Mobal is a rebrand of British company O2; you get excellent rates while in the UK and the free reception of calls but once you leave the UK, you are roaming and pay very high rates both to make and receive calls. The nice thing about Mobal is they provide a dual or tri band GSM pnone with the European frequencies for pretty cheapo rates but the phones are locked but they are Nokia phones and can easily (or should be easy) to unlock realizing they are locked to O2 UK.

So there are the basics of Mobile Phone 101...it is up to you just what you want the phone for.

Now to beat the roaming problem, of having to get prepaid sims in 3 different countries and the associated problems with notifying friends of your new number in each new country. So if you were doing a trip a couple of days in France, then a couple of days in Switzerland and then a couple days in Italy, you could buy 3 different prepaid sim cards and with an unlocked phone, you would have 3 different numbers in each of the countries with the inherent problems of notifying friends of the numbers and not necessarily very cheap calls to North America (the biggesgt exception as with everything else is the UK where with the proper choice of local prepaid sim, you can cut costs of calls to North America to as little as 5p/minute)...so there are a group of what are known as international sim cards.

At present the biggest and best is offered by United Mobile at its web site. You are not roaming throughout Western Europe. You get one phone number and it will be the same phone number whether you are in the UK, France, Switzerland or the Czech Republic or even Australia and China. That is in any of these countries if somebody calls you the call is free to you. You have the same number no matter where you are, it is a number in Liechtenstein so your country code will be 423 but it doesn't matter where you are. The sim card is easy to buy right on its web site. Calls back to North America while in europe are fairly cheap (0,39€/minute with a set up fee of 0,25&euro but you can easily beat that. The only bad thing about United Mobile is whoever is calling you has to choose the ld carrier they use to call Liechtenstein as the rates vary tremendously.

Then there are text messaging and other things.

The important issue for you to decide...do you want a phone simply to be for emergencies and the odd call..in that case prepaid sims and local numbers are not necessary. But if you are like me (I am sure you might not want to be like me) and use the mobile phone to stay in touch etc. etc. etc. then local prepaid sims and/or united mobile are viable alternatives.
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Old Feb 7th, 2006, 07:24 AM
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Are you renting a car? I've never rented a phone but I have seen ads on www.autoeurope.com for renting a phone along with the car. Have a fun trip!
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Old Feb 7th, 2006, 07:27 AM
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One sure way to finesse all of the technology issues is to go with a U.S. carrier who uses GSM, and get a quad-band phone from them. I have such a phone that I got at no cost from T-Mobile that I can use here, in Europe with my own SIM (expen$ive), or in Europe with local SIMs.

I see that http://www.wirefly.com is offering a Motorola RAZR V3 for free with a 1-year agreement at $30/mo. If you don't need to make your purchase right away, you might want to hold out for the RAZR V3i that has a built-in MP3 player. By the way, the V3c won't work in Europe (the c stands for CDMA, which is only used here).
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Old Feb 9th, 2006, 06:23 AM
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I am somewhat dizzy but better informed and I thank you all, particularly xyz for typing such a detailed and informative posting. Still not sure what I will do, but you've given me a lot to ponder and investigate. Thanks.
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Old Feb 9th, 2006, 06:28 AM
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I have the $49 Mobal phone and love it. You receive adaptors for all the countries...A good buy, as far as I am concerned.....
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