Unlocked the phone; now what?

May 20th, 2005, 04:46 PM
  #1  
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Unlocked the phone; now what?

I bought the Mobal phone and unlocked it (actually dh did). Now we're ready for France. My question is this: When we arrive in France, we buy a phone SIM card and we can call the US and all we'll be charged is the minutes on the SIM card. Is this correct? I just want to be certain how much it'll cost for those calls back to the US. Thanks.
elaine123 is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 05:31 PM
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Well you're 1/3 of the way there..

When you arrive in France, you find a mobile phone store and buy a prepaid sim pack. I have an account with Orange FR, the other major one is SFR.

The sim pack costs around €30 with €10 worth of credit. From that moment on, any calls you receive will be free to you. Of course you will have to communicate to your friends your local (French) phone number...it will look something like this: 06 99 99 99 99..you can use e-mail, text messaging or whatever to make your number known. Your friends and neighbors will have to dail from the US or Canada 011 33 6 99 99 99 and you will receive the call for free.

Calling out is a little more problematic as French prepaid rates to North America are somewhat stiff (€0,80/minute)...the solution buy a phone card from a tabac. You then dial the local French number and pay French domestic rates on your phone and then make the international call following the directions on the phone card....the rate on the phone card is pretty cheap. As an alternative, and this will require some work and access to the internet, you can open up an account with a call back service, which I have described on other pages, such as callbackworld.com. You will have to go to the web to enter your French number. The way tbis works is they give you a dedicated number in the US. You ring that number and allow it to ring once or twice. As the call has not been completed, you don't pay. The computer then calls you back and a voice will tell you to enter the number you wish to call with country code (1 for US and Canada) followed by the number sign key now. As you are receiving, you are not eating into your French sim minutes but you will pay their rate (about 30 cents US/minute timed in 6 second intervals) and the call goes through. Works very neatly and saves a fortune.

You can open the account with callback world before you leave but of course you will have to wait till you get to France to get your French number; you cannot get a French prepaid sim number before arriving in France.

If your minutes start to run out, you can go to a tabac and buy a recharge slip for €10 or €20 depending on how much you use it (I rarely use very much with the devices I use above).

One other thing you might wish to investigate is opening up an account with kall8.com. For $2/month they will give you a US 800 number which you can key in to any other number in the world. You can give your friends and neighbors this 800 number. When you get your French number you can, again via the web, set the ring to number to the French number (011 33 6 99 99 99) and voila they ring the 800 number (no cost to them) and it is forwarded to your French number (30 cents/minute cost to you but no cost from the French sim as you are receiving).

All sorts of fun and inexpensive ways to deal with this but unfortunately requires a tiny bit of work with lots of big rewards.
xyz123 is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 05:40 PM
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Not to hijack elaines thread, but this sounds very similar to my circumstance. I am new to this whole cell phone business since cell phones just "came out" where I live in the West Indies this past November.

I got one as a gift last month and it uses SIM cards only. I assume it's "unlocked" since I bought another SIM card for usage in the US with a local US phone number.

I am assuming that when I travel to Italy this fall I can just buy a SIM card there for usage, as well?

xyz, you seem quite knowledeable on this so can you enligthen me as to whether the same response to elaine's post would more or less apply to my situation as well?
Statia is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 05:41 PM
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Oh and by the way...if you want your number before you leave you can investigate riiing describe on other pages. You can purchase the riiing sim pack here through ebay and you will have your foreign number (in this case with a 423 country code Liechtenstein).

Calls you receive while in France are still free and you wil be able to let your friends and neighbors know your number before leaving. Calls out on riiing are only €0,39/minute but they charge €0,25 set up fee for each call. Or you can use the callback service (but I would use enlinea.com for reasons described in another thread). You can also use the kall8 800 number if you want to make it easier for people to reach you.
xyz123 is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 05:56 PM
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Basically yes...but I would look into riiing as the riiing sim may allow free incoming calls in your country. Go to www.riiing.com for a list of countries in zone 1 (their designation) where receiving calls is free and outgoing calls are €0,39/minute (with that pesky €0,25 per call set up fee).
xyz123 is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 07:13 PM
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Elaine, if you don't mind, I have a question for xyz.
Thanks, xyz for all the knowledge you gave me and others. I finally used my unlocked phone in France last month. I still have a receipt when I recharged. It said that the recharge expires March 30, 2007. I used up all the minutes before I left Paris. Does this mean that my phone number will be good to March 2007?
georgiegirl is offline  
May 20th, 2005, 09:43 PM
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I know Orange FR's policy and don't know SFR but they are probably the same.

What the slip referred to is that it remained valid for recharging through the March 7 date.

On Orange FR, the way it works, is your retain the number and the ability to receive calls for 6 months after the scheduled expiration of the credit. An €10 carries with it 10 days of credit, an €20 credit 2 months and €30 3 months. So just for arguments sake let's say the last recharge you posed to the phone was on April 10 for €20. The credit remains valid for 2 months till June 10 and you would retain the number and the ability to receive calls until December 10. If you don't recharge by then, you lose the number and if you were to return to France would have to buy a new sim pack. If you make annual trips to France, the way to retain your number is to buy recharge slips before you leave for €10 and a day or two before expiration, recharge. It can be done from the US as Orange (and SFR I guess) allow roaming in the US.

Incidentally wasn't it great having a mobile phone and the ability to call and be called?
xyz123 is offline  
May 21st, 2005, 02:29 AM
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I know that putting in a European SIM card has been discussed at length on this forum, but Cingular/ATT has stated that my tri-band phone will work "as is" in Europe. I simply have to set up my account for their international plan and then I am all set. Is this not true?
timjstark is offline  
May 21st, 2005, 03:30 AM
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Well yes and no...

1. You will pay an arm and a leg, over $1/minute to both make and receive calls. With a local sim receiving calls is always free and while dial out rates to North America can be high, there are simple ways around them.

2. The other problem is more technical. US gsm frequencies are different from most of the rest of the world. There are some key numbers called the frequency. European gsm systems operate on either 900 or 1800. T mobile US operates on 1900 and so since they were the first major gsm carrier in the US, their tri band phones (3 band phones) had 900,1800,1900 and could be used throughout the world where gsm was located. For a whole bunch of reasons, when AT&T and Cingular went gsm, they began operating on both 1900 and since that band was saturated 850. So the tri band phones they sell have 850/1800/1900. Therefore you will not have 900 frequency and there will be times in Europe when you will not have mobile service in areas where the predominant gsm service operates on 900.

A much better solution is to get a true world phone (900/1800/1900) or a cheap dual band phone (900/1800) and then you'll be fine throughout Europe even though you'll be paying asininely high rates.
xyz123 is offline  
May 21st, 2005, 05:11 AM
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Thank you xyz. Yes, it was great having the ability to communicate with others. I decided to activate the international roaming service with T-Mobile. I used it long enough to let my family know that I was okay since I travelled alone. After that I replaced with Orange sim. They called me from USA which is cheaper. BTW, I have another phone with T-Mobile, Motorola V66. It was not unlocked yet. They said that I have to change the setting to 900 in order to use it in France and change it back when returning to USA. I did not want to bother so I just removed the sim card and carried with me to swap out. Does this sound right to you? Thank you.
georgiegirl is offline  
May 21st, 2005, 05:39 AM
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Thank you xyz.

I have checked the coverage maps for the specific areas in which we will be and the Cingular/ATT phone that we have shows good coverage using the 1800 band.

So while my phone does not have the 900 band, the fact that the 1800 band shows good coverage can I assume that it should work?
timjstark is offline  
May 21st, 2005, 05:53 AM
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Some of the older phones havwe to be set manually to search for either 1900 or 900/1800. It is somewhere in one of the menus and takes all of 5 seconds, if you know where to look. Check the manual.

Newer phones don't have this problem.
xyz123 is offline  
May 21st, 2005, 05:56 AM
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For the most part, coverage will be okay but you will run into regions, especially in the hinterlands where you might find there is no 1800 coverage. Will it matter? Depends...you know in the US there are still many dead spots and if god forbid, for example, you carry a mobile phone specifically to be able to summon help and the unthinkable happens while you are in a dead spot, you will say the phone is pretty useless.

It would still be my preference to have a phone capable of having both 900 and 1800 if possible. Whether the lack of 900 is a big deal is problematic.

But then again it would be my preference not to pay their outrageous almost criminal roaming rates and use a local sim or an international sim such as riiing but admitedly that's me.
xyz123 is offline  
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