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xyz123 Nov 6th, 2004 12:29 PM

Virgin Mobile in the UK operates on 1800...therefore the phone with GSM 900/1900 will not be able to use Virgin Mobile.

GSM carriers in Europe (in other words all carriers in Europe) allow roaming. By definition roaming means using a SIM card outside its home country. However, the rates are very very high, more expensive than what T Mobile USA charges for international roaming and simply not a good idea.

Patrizia Nov 9th, 2004 07:15 AM

Hi ecat, I went thru all this back in August as I was traveling to Germany in September. I purchased a Motorola tri mode and bought a sim at a Vodafone store in Hamburg. Cost me 19 Euros and it included 10Euros of talk time. I mostly used it to receive calls from my husband and kids and it worked out great! I had no charges on my end. Definately buy the sim in the country you are planning to use it in. Don't buy in the US, it will cost too much. Check with your US service provider of choice to see what MHz they are compatible with. Buy a phone that's both GSM capable and US capable.
If anybody is interested I'm selling my GSM phone on ebay as I don't expect to travel again anytime soon and I already have a home based cell phone. or just search item # 5731104538. Happy traveling all!


SusanP Nov 9th, 2004 08:25 AM

I'm another one who doesn't have a cell phone and really doesn't want one! However, I'm going to Italy by myself next year and may be driving in Tuscany, so I think it would be a good idea to have one. Reading all this is giving me a headache!
I still need to read more about this, but one question is, if you buy the SIM card in Italy, presumably that gives you so much calling time. If you don't use all the time, can you remove the card and save it for a future trip?

If you don't use the card when back in the US, do you just put in a SIM card in whatever country you're in next? Thanks!

lobo_mau Nov 9th, 2004 08:39 AM

1st answer: the operators don't save your telephone number forever. If they don't ear anything from you (no telephone activity, no airtime recharge) during a period of time, lets say 3 months, they will cancel your SIM card and reassign the number to another user.
2nd answer: if your telephone is unlocked you may put in it any SIM card you wish, and it will work fine (assuming that there are no frequency incompatibilities). OTOH if the telephone is locked, it will recognize only the SIMs from the operator that handled it to you.

SusanP Nov 9th, 2004 08:41 AM

Thank you, lobo_mau!

SusanP Nov 9th, 2004 09:17 AM

OK, a couple more questions. After your trip, if you decide you do want to use it back in the US, but only occasionally (like an emergency on the road), can you do this with a SIM card instead of paying for a monthly plan here? How much would the card cost? Is it good for an unlimited time, as long as you use it now and then (since you said the Italian one would be cancelled if not used for some time)? Thanks.

lobo_mau Nov 9th, 2004 09:51 AM

I don't know much about US GSM market, but I've checked and they have a prepaid service called TMobile ToGo. The good news is that there is long term contract. The bad news is that they require you to buy 25 USD of airtime each 3 months to keep you connected (all incoming calls free).
Maybe some experts of US market could give you better answers.
Just a clarification of concepts: SIM card is a phisical chip that the GSM phones need to work. The type of subscription may be signature (where there is a contractual bond between you and the operator) or prepaid, where the operator is committed to give you service while you have airtime in your account, and no mutual obligations otherwise.

lobo_mau Nov 9th, 2004 09:52 AM

"The good news is that there is NO long term contract"

jeff49 Nov 9th, 2004 10:25 AM

One advantage of buying a Virgin sim before you leave home is that you will know your new number in advance if you need to leave it for family and friends. I bought a used Nokia 6150 for $10 and a Virgin sim for $6 on eBay and distributed my number to all that might need it before I left. When we landed in the UK, I turned on the phone and instantly had service with 5 GBP credit. No registration necessary. Free incoming calls and 20 pence per minute calls to the US.

There has been a lot of discussion here about chargers/adaptors/converters. I have several Nokia chargers for the 5100/6100 series phones so I took an extra one that specifically says input is 120 volt. I was told by someone that it would work without a converter so I cautiously tried it in the UK (without a converter) and it worked fine. I am not advocating you do this. It is just an observation about one Nokia charger.

I cannot say enough about the advantages of having a cell phone while traveling. Best $20 investment I have made lately. Thanks again to XZY123 for giving me the push with his great information on this board

SusanP Nov 9th, 2004 01:53 PM

Thanks for the additional info. I took a look on eBay. The problem is, there are about a million different configurations with all the phones listed there!
For instance, ignoring the ones that are $400-500 and have cameras, etc., how about a Sony Ericsson Z200, which is unlocked, GSM Tri-Band, WAP 1.2.1 Browser, IR, GPRS, and much more. Seems like it might be more than I need, but what would be a good price for something like this? Can you tell that before I started reading today I knew absolutely nothing about cell phones? Sorry to highjack your thread, eileen, but hope these answers help you as well!
I appreciate any help!

isabel Nov 9th, 2004 02:27 PM

Patrizia -I've been looking for a phone for my daughter who is going to London next semester and I checked out your phone on ebay. It looks good. Would you mind telling me how large it is (dimensions) - hard to tell if it's one of the little ones or the older larger ones. Not that I think that matters that much but she had a real tiny one in France last year (turns out to be locked to the French provider and so now useless to her, she's trying to sell it) - anyway, so she's hoping to get another small one. Also is the charger just 220 or also 120? Thanks

xyz123 Nov 9th, 2004 02:42 PM


Every locked phone can be easily unlocked. What brand is some research on the web. If it costs $10 - $15 to unlock, that might be better than buying a brand new phone.

Also, if you walk up and down Oxford Street in London you will find store after store advertising they can unlock any mobile phone (they most assuredly probably can) for as little as £8.

If it is a Nokia phone, you can download a DCT4 calculator (put that in a web site) for FREE like in free, enter the IMEI # (which is the phone's serial number) and the company to which it is locked (SFR, Orange Fr) and voila this generates the unlocking code for you and for free (check out for information on just how it is done (funny, the web is full of British sites which sell cables and info on unlocking phones but few from the US) is almost criminal the way mobile phone companies try to defeat one of the benefits of GSM phone by locking the phones but that's another story....

xyz123 Nov 9th, 2004 02:47 PM


You do point out a big advantage of trying to get a Virgin sim pack before leaving (wow $6, were you on or but may I point out...

if you can't do this and have to wait till arrival in a foreign country, there is this modern 21st century device called the internet and you can e mail all your friends with your local phone number or send them text messages with that info....

Not a big problem.

I certainly wouldn't pay a near crooked outfit like Telestial which triples the prices for the "convenience" of buying a prepaid SIM from various countries in the US.

Patty Nov 9th, 2004 03:41 PM

I have the same AT&T phone. It comes locked so you have to get it unlocked before you can use a UK SIM. Do a web search, I believe it costs around $20-30 to get it unlocked. Since the S46 only has 2 GSM bands you'll have to make sure whatever carrier you utilize operates on 900. You can use a UK SIM in another country, but outside of the UK you may end up paying roaming rates similar to what AT&T charges (you'll have to check with the carrier on their roaming rates). If you don't do a lot of calling and you're country hopping, then it may be just as cost effective to use AT&T's service.

ecat Nov 9th, 2004 05:06 PM

Hi again,

Wow this thread grew - glad I'm not the only one who has been in the dark about this stuff. Thanks again for all the wonderful information it's very helpful.

For those of us in the US looking at either dual and or Tri- band phones thought I'd pass on a great link for model and price compairson.

xyz123 Nov 9th, 2004 05:20 PM

Be careful with them...have to know what you're doing because they sure as hell won't or don't or whatever. About a year ago, I tried to get a tri band phone from them and they sent me the US corresponding model, one with 850/1800/1900 instead of 900/1800/1900 and when I called them that they had not sent the phone I wanted, they told me it was a better phone. I then returned the phone to them, demanded my money back plus the money for shipping. At first, those people refused to pay for my expense in shipping back to them a phone I didn't order...I had to complain to the better business bureau of Illinois about the garbage they pulled and did get my shipping costs refunded.

Incidentally you might find a much better reputable service at Excellent prices for various unlocked phones (and when they sell you a tri band, you get 900/1800/1900 not 850/1800/1900 which is the junk Cingular and AT&T WS sell you (as they decided to make a big move on 850 which nobody else in the world uses)..

isabel Nov 9th, 2004 05:26 PM

xyz - I did try to get it unlocked last summer - I had hoped to use it myself on my trip to Italy - but I wasn't able to. It's an Alcatel phone. I tried several web sites, even talked (by phone) to the US division of the company that makes it. But no one was able to help me unlock it. So if you know something, please let me know. But I basically gave up. I ended up getting myself a quad band motorola from Cingular which came unlocked. I used that sucessfuly in Italy, it's my main cell phone here at home, and I plan to take it with me when I go to visit my daughter in London. But she needs one she can take with her for the whole semester. So that's why I'm looking on ebay - since several people here seem to have success with getting a phone for under $50.

So let me know if you know how we could unlock the Alcatel. If not, I guess I'll just get one on ebay and hope it's a decent one. Any advice in that department? Thanks

twina49 Nov 10th, 2004 04:52 AM

I understand that I can purchase a cell phone and then purchase a SIM card to make outgoing calls, but it's been mentioned that incoming calls are free. Is that free for both the caller from the U.S. AND the person receiving the calls in the U.K.? Thanks!

Robespierre Nov 10th, 2004 05:07 AM

Unlocking a Siemens S46:

xyz123 Nov 10th, 2004 05:09 AM phone operators in the US charge you basically for air time, you pay for the time you are on the phone whether you are making a call or receiving a call. Of course in the US, basically receiving calls on landlines is free.

European operators work on the principle that caller pays. So calls from landlines to mobile phones in Europe are for the most part more expensive than from landlines to other landlines and the mobile phone company gets a piece of the action so to speak.

Therefore when calling from a US landline to a mobile phone in Europe, you will notice there is a stiffer price for calling a mobile phone. A good rate to the UK without a hassle, for example is to prefix the call with 1016868, a service that does not have hidden costs such as minimum call charges or a monthly fee. It appears on your phone bill.

Any way, when you call the UK using this service, you pay 7.9 cents/minute to call a landline phone. But to call a mobile number in the UK, you pay 13 cents/minute, and that is relatively cheap.

So caller pays, which kind of makes sense as how many times on your mobile phone have you received a call and found out it was a wrong number or one of those annoying trying to sell you something pay the 1 minute charge for the call (some companies advertise free first minute incoming)...probably doesn't matter as US mobile companies have been very loose with minutes and give nights and weekends so big deal but let's say you are on a pay as you go pay whatever. With the European model, you don't pay to receive. They think twice before they call you.

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