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Old 12-07-2010, 04:33   #1
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World Phones ?

Wow, this is a great site! I'm a new guy here and want to start by asking anyone out there for some useful tips on using a cell phone in the Caribbean and Central America. I will be traveling down to St. Thomas to look at a boat and it looks like a solid purchase and if it all works out I will be outfitting her there and sailing west from there making the usual stops on my way south to Panama, but I don't think my Verizon phone will work. I actually heard a dirty rumor that US citizens pretty much get screwed with there service and that the rest of the world tends to pay as they go and can roam about with out too much trouble. Is this true? Please point me in the right direction. Thanks
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Old 12-07-2010, 05:29   #2
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Well first step you need to make sure you get a phone that is a global or quad mode phone. Most US companies, including Verizon but not AT&T, use CDMA technology while much of the world like Europe, Asia, some of Latin America and AT&T in the US use GSM technology. A quad mode phone will automatically detect both technologies and all frequencies.

Second, you should try to get an unlocked phone or unlock yours. Verizon will help you do this if you tell them you are traveling outside the US. Then with an unlocked phone you can buy SIM cards to insert in your phone. This is basically a new phone number and account, so in each new country you can get local rates. Some countries however have a local monopoly on the phone system and charge even higher than using a US phone.

Next trick is to set up a Skype account and try to make calls through a local internet service.
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Old 12-07-2010, 08:57   #3
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Most of the world uses GSM for cell phones. There are 1.5billion GSM phones around the world. Some countries use CDMA. There are about 300million CDMA phones around the world. Some countries that use GSM also have CDMA support in major metropolitan areas specifically for business travelers and tourists. GSM and CDMA are incompatible technologies.

The radio frequencies used vary. In most countries one or two of 800, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz are used.

The US is the only country I am aware of that does not have a clear standard. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA.

For global traveling my recommendation (and my choice) is a quad-band GSM phone (so all four sets of frequencies are supported and the technology matches most of the world). You can choose between an international roaming agreement which is dead easy but can get a tad expensive or getting an unlocked phone.

I have an iPhone (which is a quad-band phone) set up for international roaming. When I get into port or step off an airplane it just works. I also have a Motorola Razr V3 (the older ones are quad band) that AT&T gave (free) me the unlock code for. I buy a local pay-as-you go SIM card anywhere I'll be for more than a day or two. Anyone anywhere can reach me on my US phone number, but for local calls and international calls out I use the local phone with the local number.

My solution may not work for you, but you will be hardpressed to find a better approach than an unlocked quad-band GSM phone to manage your voice communications needs in port.
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Old 13-07-2010, 10:26   #4
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Yes make sure you have a quad band GSM phone then just buy a new SIM card for every country/island you spend significant time in. That way you don't get hit for roaming charges.

PAYG SIM cards are offered cheaply & usually include a certain amount of call time. Even the smallest islands have a choice of service providers, so ask around for the best deal to suit you.
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Old 13-07-2010, 10:43   #5
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To give you an idea how much the sim card costs, in St. Maarten if you buy a sim card for $50 you get $40 of credit on your account. It costs $.29/min to call the USA and somewhere around $.10/min for local. It is really slick. I went to Switzerland and just pulled out my St. Maarten card, purchased a local sim, inserted it, and had a local phone.
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Old 13-07-2010, 12:02   #6
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I carry a GSM in the Caribbean and use sim cards but also have a smart phone with wifi and Skype mobile. Skype is cheaper even for local calls. Of course you need a wifi connection. In the US, I use Skype to call out to other countries using 3G. We also have a Skype in number (costs about $70/yr) so that we can recieve calls from the US at no charge to the caller. Unlocked phones are available at any electronics store on St. Maarten.
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Old 13-07-2010, 13:18   #7
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You can buy quad band "unlocked" phones on the internet for a reasonable price. I've got a several year old Sony/Erricson that does a good job. As the other posters have stated, they work most places but not all (the outer islands in the Bahamas are still analog). The SIM card will get you a local number for a lot less than your roaming enhanced home phone and Skype should be a part of every cruisers kit. For $70/year, you get a lot of communications for that money.
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Old 13-07-2010, 14:26   #8
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Originally Posted by speciald@ocens. View Post
I carry a GSM in the Caribbean and use sim cards but also have a smart phone with wifi and Skype mobile. Skype is cheaper even for local calls. Of course you need a wifi connection. In the US, I use Skype to call out to other countries using 3G. We also have a Skype in number (costs about $70/yr) so that we can recieve calls from the US at no charge to the caller. Unlocked phones are available at any electronics store on St. Maarten.
And then there's that guy on Pond Fill Road that can unlock most any phone....
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Old 13-07-2010, 20:49   #9
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Verizon has some SIM card quad band phones. That is the good news. The bad news is most of them are windows mobile. ack. I have one and curse it every day. Maybe the blackberry with sim card would be a better choice...
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Old 14-07-2010, 04:36   #10
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Originally Posted by Auspicious View Post
Most of the world uses GSM for cell phones. There are 1.5billion GSM phones around the world. Some countries use CDMA. There are about 300million CDMA phones around the world. Some countries that use GSM also have CDMA support in major metropolitan areas specifically for business travelers and tourists. GSM and CDMA are incompatible technologies.

The radio frequencies used vary. In most countries one or two of 800, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz are used.

The US is the only country I am aware of that does not have a clear standard. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA.

For global traveling my recommendation (and my choice) is a quad-band GSM phone (so all four sets of frequencies are supported and the technology matches most of the world). You can choose between an international roaming agreement which is dead easy but can get a tad expensive or getting an unlocked phone.

I have an iPhone (which is a quad-band phone) set up for international roaming. When I get into port or step off an airplane it just works. I also have a Motorola Razr V3 (the older ones are quad band) that AT&T gave (free) me the unlock code for. I buy a local pay-as-you go SIM card anywhere I'll be for more than a day or two. Anyone anywhere can reach me on my US phone number, but for local calls and international calls out I use the local phone with the local number.

My solution may not work for you, but you will be hardpressed to find a better approach than an unlocked quad-band GSM phone to manage your voice communications needs in port.
+1

This is the standard solution for world travellers, whether on water or not. I go one step further and carry a dual SIM card Samsung phone in addition to my quad-band Nokia E90, so I can have three SIM cards online at once. You just buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card when you arrive in a new country and send SMS text messages with your new number to everyone who needs to be able to reach you. Often the SIM card is even free. It is free to receive calls on GSM phones almost everywhere except US and some Caribbean countries, and the most useful communications feature of all may be SMS, where you can send and receive text messages to any other GSM user in the world for peanuts.

There are also services which you can set up to forward your home mobile number to whatever temporary number you're using somewhere else, to avoid the often extortionate roaming charges. Globaltel is one I have used and can recommend.

I have a UK -pay-as-you-go SIM card from T-Mobile. I get unlimited high speed internet wherever I might be for something like 10 pounds per month, plus I can call just about any place in the world outside of the EU for 5 pence a minute, including the US, Russia, etc. To call inside of the UK or EU is more expensive, but receiving calls is free. And I can use it all over the EU because of the roaming cost controls there. It's great. It is a total telecommunications solution for me all over Europe -- when I'm in range of an HSDPA (3.5g) tower, I have DSL-like internet.

For the US, I have an AT&T account with unlimited internet.

I have a nice collection of SIM cards from other countries in a little pocket in my passport case.

Man, has it gotten easier to communicate when travelling.

Now that the GSM network has been fully built out in the US, any American who travels at all will want to be on one of the GSM carriers (ATT and T-Mobile); you cannot travel very far with the non-GSM solutions (Sprint, Verizon, etc.).
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Old 19-07-2010, 08:11   #11
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Can the iPhone be unlocked to allow for the use of pay-as-you-go SIM cards?
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Old 19-07-2010, 08:52   #12
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Yes just Google for it. It can be done by yourself but you need some specialist apps on your PC.

You may also come across the term "jailbreak" which frees the phone from Apple restrictions allowing a whole new world of customization & improvements, as well as allowing many non-Apple approved apps to be installed.
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