Question on Cell phones in France

May 22nd, 2007, 02:29 PM
  #21  
 
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T Mobile has recently been set up roaming arrangements to cover its acknowledged holes in its coverage.

Cingular, which is being rebranded as the new AT&T as opposed to the old AT&T which became Cingular and is now going back to AT&T is much better in that regard. I suppose if I were going through the rural areas you mentioned, I might consider a Verizon prepaid but most of my travels are on freeways.

As to the whys and wherefores of how CDMA of Verizon has become so dominant, it's tied up with arrangements Verizon's predecessors made with Qualcomm for its phones...Qualcomm had certain patents and as noted with a CDMA carrier, you have no flexibility. You have to use the phone they provide period. To switch to GSM at this point for Verizon would be very expensive. It is also surprising as Vodafone owns 49% of Verizon and really wants to establish a presence in the American market for roaming capabilities and made a big effort to buy AT&T Wireless but failed; since then vodafone's pursuit of an American partner has cooled somewhat.

As far as this question of frequencies; the problem with tri band phones relates to the fact that as with so many other things, the USA is contrary minded, although in this case perhaps it is justified. European and many other carriers outside the USA settled on the use of the 900 mhz and 1800 mhz frequencies some time ago for their gsm networks. The only major gsm network in the USA until about 5 years ago was T Mobile (it was originally called Voicestream). T Mobile used 1900 mhz for its gsm network and picked up some customers because of the use of gsm and the ability to use phones overseas provided the phones had the right frequencies. So some manufacturers began making tri band phones which would use 900/1800/1900 which was fine for Americans who had T Mobile as their carrier going to Europe or Australia or South Africa or whatever and also allowed Europeans coming to the USA to roam with their own phones (provided it was a tri band) on the T Mobile networ. That was the only choice then.

Around 2002, cingular decided to convert to GSM. But the 1900 frequency was really saturated and they couldn't use 900 or 1800 as these frequencies in the USA were alloted to other things. So, since they had some licenses for 800 mhz (which is identical to 850 mhz) they began using 850 mhz for much of their network. In some cases they shared towers with T Mobile, for example, to get into the NY market. Therefore a cingular customer needed a phone with both 850 and 1900 for optimum coverage. But they also wanted in on the international roaming bit so they prevailed on some manufacturer's to begin producing phones with 850/1800/1900...the phones were usable in Europe for roaming purposes but could be a problem if one bought individual sims. Europeans coming to the USA using their tri band phones, therefore, for the most part were stuck with roaming on T Mobile as their tri band phones lacked 850. The obvious solution? Well of course it is to make quad band phones with 850/900/1800/1900. Motorola was first on the scene with those...the phones in a word stunk and it took a while for the other phone manufacturers to move in the direction of quad bands. The reality is the USA market is not one of their priorities as, of course, the biggest carrier in the USA is Verizon which is not GSM and their GSM phones would be useless.

A further complication arose when T Mobile began signing these roaming agreements with smaller US carrier to augment their coverage which as logos does point out is spotty in some areas to say the least. But these small carriers guess what...used 850...so T mobile which for years had pursued customers by point out the easy with which one could roam internationally with their tri band phones was forced to begin selling phones which had 850...and the tri band phones they begam to sell were 850/1800/1900. Can these phones be used in Europe...well yes and no...it most of the urban areas of Europe when roaming there will be some carrier who uses 1800 and the phone will register and allow international roaming. But if you get that phone unlocked and want to use a local sim...say you want to use O2 in the UK...O2's predominant coverage is 900...they have improved to some degree their 1800 coverage but you would have some difficulties in some areas of the UK with such a phone.

So..can you use a tri band phone bought in the USA in Europe...yes but it's not as flexible. Can a European use a tri band (900/1800/1900) phone to roam in the USA; yes but again it's not as flexible and there are gaps in coverage (those areas where T Mobile is not located).

It's interesting stuff!
xyz123 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 02:36 PM
  #22  
 
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logos...take a look at the latest coverage maps of both cingular and t mobile...you will find the situation has improved to some degree.

Of course, new technologies are being developed all the time and in the next decade, gsm and cdma might all be obsolute!
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May 22nd, 2007, 02:47 PM
  #23  
 
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logos..

You're absolutely right...I've never traveled in those areas..I'm a big city boy myself. I suppose I can see the need for Verizon in those areas!
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May 22nd, 2007, 02:47 PM
  #24  
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and so then the difference or perhaps just one difference between tri (850/1800/1900) and quad (850/900/1800/1900) is the price?

I looked at the site Stormin suggested and the cheapest unlocked triband seemed to be about $70. Does that price seem right or do you suppose I could get a cheaper triband in Paris?
SDA1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 02:47 PM
  #25  
 
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We have Verizon and since they don't have an international plan we decided to rent two cell phones from them. Vodafone was the company that we received the cell phones from and paid $300 each phone as a security deposit. Each call made or received cost $1.50 per minute and was deducted from the $300 security deposit. It also cost 28.00 per phone to have it delivered to us. We forwarded our Verizon calls to the new phones so as to be able to receive any emergency calls from the States. It may not have been the cost effective way to do this but it worked for us. Just another option for you.
normal1983 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 02:48 PM
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Forgot to mention that after any calls were deducted from the security deposit the remaining amount will be credited back to us.
normal1983 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 03:02 PM
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There are some quad band phones I've seen on ebay for around $80...I have my own personaly prejudices against Motorola phones but that's a personal matter. $75 isn't a bad price for an unlocked gsm tri band...I think the ones on Tiger Direct are 900/1800/1900...again if you're not using a gsm carrierin the USA you don't need the 1900.

You can check the web sites of the various French operators to get an idea of pricing of phones...as I explained on the operators' page on www.prepaidgsm.net you can link to the web page of any French carrier...while the web pages will be in French, you can figure out the pricing. Bear in mind, though, that most likely any phone you buy in France will be locked to that carrier. Phones can be unlocked (but don't do it in Germany!) but that is an added cost!
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May 22nd, 2007, 04:27 PM
  #28  
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I'm not sure I understand the pricing on the French provider's websites.

On that site www.prepaidgsm.net it mentions something about activation fees. They seem to range from 15-30 E. What is an activation fee? Is that paid when you add a SIM card? It seems a bit steep?

normal, thanks for the suggestion. I appreciate it.
SDA1 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 04:38 PM
  #29  
 
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Activation fee is the price of the sim package followed by the amount of credit included with the sim package...these do change from time to time when specials are run but it gives you an idea.
xyz123 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 04:39 PM
  #30  
 
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BTW do understand that French sim packages are among the most expensive in the world as is the cost of local and international calls. Unfortunately not everything is like the UK where they are all but giving the sim cards away because of the ocmpetition.
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May 22nd, 2007, 06:35 PM
  #31  
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xyz, thanks for the info. I think I pretty much get it.

If I were to send an email out to friends and family here in the US asking if they had an old cell phone laying around that they were no longer using, what would I ask for: a tri or quad band phone, gsm, un-locked (most likely from T-mobile). Does that sound right?
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May 22nd, 2007, 06:52 PM
  #32  
 
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...interesting thought...

you want an unlocked gsm tri band phone preferably from t mobile with 900/1800/1900 or an unlocked quad band...don't know how many people will have them but it's worth a try (or if somebody is up for an upgrade, perhaps they will upgrade and give you the phone they're giving up.
xyz123 is offline  
May 22nd, 2007, 07:16 PM
  #33  
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xyz,

that's what I'm thinking. it's worth a shot. even if the phone is locked, it can be unlocked, correct?

if that doesn't work we've decided to simply invest in two phones while we're in paris. we'll buy dual band because we only need them for France. We'll buy SIM cards as needed this trip and when we return next year we'll bring our phones with and just add SIM (or minutes) as needed.

Sound reasonable?

One last thing (I swear!)Considering our new plan, any thoughts on best places in Paris to buy two cheap dual bands? I read on a separate but related thread a post, from Robespierre I think, that he bought a Virgin mobile for something like L30. Are those sold at Virgin stores in Paris? Elsewhere?

Thanks!!
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May 22nd, 2007, 07:27 PM
  #34  
 
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You have to remember Virgin Mobile UK and Virgin Mobile FR are two separate issues....it would seem the best might be to go to a Virgin Mega store...there is one right on the Champs Elysee...of course there are also stores for Orange, SFR and Bouyges...probably I would go at this stage with Virgin Mobile...do check the validity of the sim...if you don't want tohave to buy a new sim you might have to take a top up slip for the lowest possible amount (10&euro and top it up as the validity of the card on most of the French networks, as we noted, expires six months after they steal your unused credit...that would seem the best way to go with your plan which will work.
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May 22nd, 2007, 09:51 PM
  #35  
 
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SDA - I'm glad you asked, cuz we have a similar set up but will be in London after Paris, ... and
If I'm understanding this right,
we can buy 2 phones in Paris to use for 1 week, and buy the France SIM cards.

Then we can take the phones with us to London (to use for another week) and buy a UK SIM card to use there (cuz it is cheaper).

Then we can take the phones home and loan them to friends or sell them on Craigslist.
suz12 is offline  
May 23rd, 2007, 08:11 AM
  #36  
 
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As already suggested, basic quadbands can be had very cheaply nowadays. I just picked up a new Moto V195 quadband as a backup for $39 shipped from tmobile payg website. True, it's locked to tmobile but they will unlock after 90 days of service or it can be unlocked via a 3rd party for about $25.

BTW, tmobile service is not needed to get this phone if anyone else is interested. This same phone can be had on ebay for about $85 or so...unlocked of course.
mrcamp is offline  
May 23rd, 2007, 10:06 AM
  #37  
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xyz, this is complicated stuff but I thank you for all your input. you are a wealth of knowledge. thank you for sharing (and with a slow learner, to boot!).

suz, sounds good to me. should work.

at this point, unless i can pick up the correct phone for free or very cheap from family or friends, i don't see the advantage of buying a tri or quad band here in the US and bringing to France. All we need is a European dual band so probably better off just to buy there. I'll follow this up with a post letting you all know how it turns out. That'll be in early August.
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May 23rd, 2007, 10:11 AM
  #38  
 
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If you buy a cheap and simple nokia - it can easily be unlocked by yourself with helpful instructions off the web.
Lawchick is offline  
May 23rd, 2007, 10:58 AM
  #39  
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ok, change of plans. I was just offered a T-mobile Nokia 3220 tri-band from a friend. It's locked however. Will T-mobile unlock it, even tho I'm not a customer of theirs or should I find instructions on the web to unlock it. So, that's one down. Now we just need one more. Thanks!
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May 23rd, 2007, 11:46 AM
  #40  
 
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SDAI, the 3220 is one of the nokias that can be unlocked for free via an online code generator. Just search the web for "unlocking nokia 3220". OTOH, if you know anyone that has been with tmobile for more than 90 days in good standing they should be able to get the code for you.
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