Using my T-mobile phone in Italy.

Old Sep 7th, 2009, 03:23 PM
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Using my T-mobile phone in Italy.

Does anyone know what I need to do so that my t-mobile phone will work in Italy?
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Old Sep 7th, 2009, 03:46 PM
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You need to find out if your cell phone is already set up for International Service. You should either call T-Mobile or stop by one of their stores.

I selected my cellphone model specifically because it allowed international calls.
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Old Sep 7th, 2009, 04:02 PM
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The main T Mobile network frequency is 1900 MHz, but T Mobile also uses 850 MHz in some states, so your present phone operates on these frequencies. If your phone ALSO can call on the European frequencies, 900 and 1800, it can potentially be used in Europe. One way to do this is to have T Mobile set up international roaming for the period you'll be in Italy. From what I understand the calling rate is very high, 99 cents a minute, but no additional steps are needed other than calling T Mobile customer care to set up international roaming privileges. A second way to use your phone in Europe is to call T Mobile and ask them to send you an unlocking code so that you can unlock your phone and use a sim from another company in the phone. When T Mobile asks your reason for unlocking your phone, simply tell them you want to use the phone in Europe. After your phone is unlocked, you have two options:

1) go into a phone store in Italy, buy a prepaid Italian sim, and use it during your stay.
2) buy an international sim from one of the companies listed at

I use the Passport sim from this list and my wife the Mobal sim. We've used both sims in Italy and Turkey in the past few years.

If your phone does NOT work on the European frequencies, you'll need an unlocked phone that does. You can get one from (which also sells the Passport sim) or from ebay. An unlocked Motorola quadband (v190 or v195 or v197) sells for about $50 new on ebay, and you should be able to get an unlocked used phone for less. Whatever make you get, remember that it has to work on the European frequencies.
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Old Sep 7th, 2009, 05:36 PM
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This information has been very helpful, thank you.
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Old Sep 7th, 2009, 05:57 PM
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If you decide to go the route of buying a SIM in Italy...I think T-Mobile will unlock your phone for free but only after you've owned it some minimum period (perhaps 90 days, don't hold me to that). Then they'll email you an unlock code and instructions to use it. I did that for my previous phone, a Motorola, but I never used the unlock code, because the instructions say you need to place ANOTHER SIM in there - e.g. you get to Italy, buy a SIM, swap it in, then follow the instructions printed out to unlock the phone...and hope they work!

Beyond that, you need to have a "world phone" meaning it will operating on the GSM frequences used in Italy. Not all GSM phones are world phones; neither of my two T-Mobile phones that I've used has been a world phone. Before my last trip to Europe a few years ago, I pondered using a hack to turn my old Moto phone into a phone that would work in Italy, and I had an unlock code and instructions from T-Mobile...but I never bothered to try it with another SIM. I am going again in a few weeks and may try it with this old phone, though.

Before you do anything, find out more info about your particular phone model to see if it's a "world" phone. A quick Google will probably answer your question or just call T-Mobile and ask. If it's not a world phone, don't bother trying the SIM thing or even asking T-Mobile to setup international (expensive) calling for you, because it won't work anyway.

Another trick for using a phone overseas if you by chance will carry a laptop or netbook to Europe is to use Skype for phone calling. I have a "SkypeIn" US phone number that will "ring" anywhere (Italy or anywhere else) when someone calls it from another US phone. I forward my cell phone to it while I'm out of country, so anyone who calls my cell automatically gets forwarded on to Skype, with no extra cost to the caller (they won't even know where you are). You can use a headset or built-in microphone on the laptop with Skype to use it as a phone or just "read" your Skype voicemail on your laptop later. Calling OUT from Europe with Skype back to the states is cheap, too, about 2.3 cents a minute. Of course, calling from a laptop is much less convenient than having a regular cell phone but also much cheaper, and people who call you incur no international long distance charges. If you will have WiFi where you stay, you can at least catch up on phone calls at night at your hotels.
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 02:04 PM
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I used two cell phones in Italy this year. Both happened to be T-mobile U.S.A phones unlocked before I left the U.S.

I bought two TIM SIM cards once I arrived in Italy. I could do a side by side comparison between 1800mhz only phone vs. 1800+900mhz phones.

The 1800+900mhz phone worked well in all locations.
The 1800mhz only phone worked in big cities. Did not work at all in Cinque Terre towns or in Lake Como. In the future, I would not bother to take the 1800mhz only phone unless I am visiting only big cities.

TIM: prepaid SIM.
I paid 5eu/SIM which came with a number and ~5eu airtime. I added 10eu additional airtime for 15eu total. The seller was not enthusiastic about selling new numbers. It took about 20min/number and a lot of key strokes on his terminal to get this done. I got both numbers using just one passport.
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