Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Have SIM, Will Travel

SIM Simminy, SIM Simminy, SIM SIM Siree
If you want to travel, you'll need one of these.

What could be more fun than heading overseas on the trip of a lifetime, only to find out that your cell phone is little more than dead weight. No mobile calls for you, my friend. You get to use the hotel phone to call home. Hope you brought lots of extra cash. They're going to take it all.

There's a way to avoid this ugly scenario with only a little bit of planning. What you need is a cell phone that works in the country you're going to. Now, that might be the cell phone you already have. But it has to be enabled for overseas calling.

How do you do that? Well, first of all you need to know that not all cell phone services use the same standard. Most of the world is using something called GSM or Global System for Mobile communications. In the United States, AT&T and T-Mobile are the major service providers on this standard. Verizon, Alltel and Sprint use another system called CDMA or Code Division Multiple Access. Nextel uses something completely different called iDEN or Integrated Digital Enhanced Network.

What this means is that you'll need a GSM phone to work on GSM networks found in other countries. The best GSM phones offer quad band service. That means they operate on all 4 of the radio bands assigned for GSM cellular service. That's 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 1900 MHz. Next step down is a tri-band phone with 900/1800/1900 MHz capability. The 900 MHz band is the one used most frequently for services outside the United States.

Wait! Don't get on the plane or boat yet. Before you leave, you'll need one more little item called a SIM card. SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module. It's a little circuit card that looks like one of those removable memory cards. You'll find it inside your cell phone. Don't bother looking unless you have a GSM phone.

What's important about the SIM card is that it is what enables the phone to work on a particular network. The cellular provider that sold you the phone is the one the SIM card works for. Move out of its coverage area and your service goes dead or you get hit with roaming charges.

But, you can get a replacement SIM card for your GSM phone that lets you take it overseas without incurring those high roaming charges. A good choice for this is the OneSimCard international mobile service SIM card. It works in over 150 countries and saves you up to 85% compared with your current service provider charges. Plus you can receive calls free in more than 54 countries.

All you need to do is buy an International SIM Card and use it to replace the one now in your quad or tri-band GSM phone. Save the one you take out. You'll want to put it back when you get home.

You should also know that some carriers lock their phones so only their own service can be used. Sometimes they'll unlock yours if you ask nicely and have proven yourself to be a good long term customer. It's best to give the International SIM Card a check in your phone to make sure it is unlocked to avoid a nasty surprise on the road.

No GSM phone or only a dual band model? Is your head swimming from too much information and no desire to go poking around inside your cell phone? Why not rent or buy the right mobile phone with service for where you are going? That way you can be sure you'll have what you need to communicate in the countries that you plan to visit. Bon Voyage!

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