Cell phone service overseas

Listener question:
My wife and daughter will be going to Europe on a cruise, primarily in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Ukraine, and various locations getting to these countries.  They want to have a cell phone that they can use, and I don't think US Cellular has a tower there.  Where do we get information about a phone that might actually work in these countries?

Brian's answer:
You're right: US Cellular doesn't work overseas. That's because many American cell phone companies, including US Cellular, use CDMA. The European mobile-phone services use GSM. Do you really need to know the technical details? Not really. Just understand that it's a lot like the problem you'll encounter when you try to watch a Region 2 DVD on a Region 1 DVD player.

To use a phone in Europe, you have two choices:

1. Sign up with a US phone service that offers GSM, like AT&T or T-Mobile. Then be prepared to pay some seriously huge roaming charges, especially if they're hopping from country to country. You won't really know the full cost until a month or two after they're home.

2. Buy a prepaid GSM phone that can be used here or there. If you really want to get sophisticated, you could forward calls from their regular numbers to the prepaid phone, but then be prepared to pay some big-time long-distance charges, since you'll probably be charged international rates for every minute of forwarded calling.

If it were me, I'd probably just get a prepaid GSM phone and leave a special outgoing message on their phones saying "here's where to reach me in an emergency."

We'll take calls from domestic and international listeners alike this Saturday from noon until 2:00 on Newsradio 1040 WHO at 515-284-1040. Or text us at 515-989-1040 and save on roaming charges.

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This page contains a single entry by Brian Gongol published on February 3, 2010 6:26 PM.

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