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Can you hear me now? October 29, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Mobile Telecoms.

Can you hear me now? Not overseas!

You’ve booked the 10-day forced march from London to Paris to Rome to Athens, and you ask the travel agent, almost as an afterthought, “Can I use my cell phone in Europe?” I hear that all the time. What I advise is calling your cell-phone service provider to see if your mobile phone can handle international calls. Good luck. Few do.

Normally, you can’t use your cell phone abroad, if you are coming from USA or Canada. Some work overseas, but the roaming charges are very expensive. Here’s a simple solution: Get a satellite phone. As long as you can see the sky, it will work.

Americans’ fixation with an omnipresent cell phone as a 21st-century comfort blanket doesn’t have to end at the shoreline. Travelers can buy, rent or lease a cell phone or satellite phone that will work “over there”. Many have done it and used them (rented cell phones).

The reason that your cell phones don’t work abroad is that the bandwidth/frequency of the U.S. and Canadian cellular phone systems differ from networks in more than 200 other countries. Outside the U.S., travelers need a system that uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications).

More than 70 percent of the world’s cellular phone owners, 500 million people, use GSM phones. The Internet and travel agents can direct travelers to companies that rent, sell or lease GSM phones. Purchase prices start at about $100. A typical rental is $8 a day, $40 a week or $99 a month, plus air charges for minutes the phone is used. Satellite phones cost about $1,400 to purchase (plus an annual service contract) or $70 a week to rent. Calls are roughly $3 a minute, but who’s counting if you’re on safari or on board the Queen Mary 2?

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