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Old 12-01-2019, 22:00   #1
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cell phone while cruising

I'm sure this has been discussed to death but I'm not finding any threads on it.

What I've read is T-Mobile is the best. Works in Canada, Mexico and about 200 more countries which is great.

At the PDX boat show I stopped at their booth and the 2 guys told me not to go with their company. Yes, you can roam all over the world but if you don't place a call at least once every 90 days T-mobile will kick you off.

Are cruisers experiencing this? If so then what are the options?
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Old 13-01-2019, 00:24   #2
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Re: cell phone while cruising

Where are you going? Why do you need T-Mobile? We have sailed to a lot of countries - 40 some - and if we stay long in particular place we just get a sim card for that country. In Georgia and Russia we got a sim card even through we were going to be there only 30 days but we traveled inland and it was a way the marina could us is need be. At one time we had a nice collection of sim cards from various countries.
When we came to the USA this last fall we got a sim card for short term use.
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Old 13-01-2019, 03:37   #3
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Re: cell phone while cruising

I recently canceled T-Mobile service, and received a refund in the form of a debit Master card. The very fine print on its contract made it clear that if I used the card in a retail purchase, I was agreeing to an ongoing relationship with monthly service fees. I called T-Mobile and was assured that if I activated the card and went to my bank, I could deposit the entire debit card amount into a bank account with no future obligation. I activated the card, went to my bank, and was told that the card issuer denied the charge. I then called the card issuer, who agreed to mail me a check. A lot of hassles for the customers, all for the sake of milking a few more bucks out of them.
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Old 13-01-2019, 04:05   #4
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Re: cell phone while cruising

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Originally Posted by danielamartindm View Post
I recently canceled T-Mobile service, and received a refund in the form of a debit Master card. The very fine print on its contract made it clear that if I used the card in a retail purchase, I was agreeing to an ongoing relationship with monthly service fees. I called T-Mobile and was assured that if I activated the card and went to my bank, I could deposit the entire debit card amount into a bank account with no future obligation. I activated the card, went to my bank, and was told that the card issuer denied the charge. I then called the card issuer, who agreed to mail me a check. A lot of hassles for the customers, all for the sake of milking a few more bucks out of them.
...and therein lies the problem with such manipulative plan practices as are common in the USA...the consumer is constantly getting screwed...at least there are enough carriers to maintain some vestige of competion (though I suspect a lot of backroom arrangements get made).

Ive not lived in the USA since 2004. Ive also not had a phone plan since then. I just buy a SIM wherever I roam...cheap, easy, no manipulative plan. A dual SIM phone is very handy for this. Its also handy in countries like Panama where one carrier doesnt have the best coverage in most of the country...so if you wander all over Panama then having two local SIMs is best.

The manipulative practice of locking phones to a network is also less common outside the USA...rare here in Central America. Even if your phone is locked, most can be easily unlocked (Ive used a service called DC-UNLOCKER which supports many makes & models of phones).

Between cruising and travelling, Im rarely in one country for more than a few months, so a plan tied to a specific carrier makes no sense for me.

I suspect the rates are also much cheaper using a local SIM. Any carrier offering a "global" plan just has roaming agreements with many carriers. While that may be convenient, I cant imaging that its cheap.

You can avoid the hassle of going into a shop to add funds to your SIM account by topping up on line. I use "Ding" mostly for top ups. They support many carriers world wide. I have my Ding account linked to my PayPal account for funding. Ive used to Ding to top up SIM accounts in many countries and only rarely found carriers who are not supported.
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Old 13-01-2019, 08:05   #5
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Re: cell phone while cruising

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Originally Posted by Cpt Mark View Post
I'm sure this has been discussed to death but I'm not finding any threads on it.



What I've read is T-Mobile is the best. Works in Canada, Mexico and about 200 more countries which is great.



At the PDX boat show I stopped at their booth and the 2 guys told me not to go with their company. Yes, you can roam all over the world but if you don't place a call at least once every 90 days T-mobile will kick you off.



Are cruisers experiencing this? If so then what are the options?


Read the fine print. T-mobile cancelled us after 3 months in Mexico.
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Old 13-01-2019, 08:32   #6
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Re: cell phone while cruising

just cave in to the carrier of choice in mexico., is easiest. there are many from which to choose and all are less pricey than usa based plans, ditto for wifi modems and coverage, so what you need to tell em when and where you plan on voyaging--is all good. works.
when i used sprint unlimited on a grandfathered plan, th e hurry to ditch me was amazingly obvious. they did so without my consent and dissed me for 300 usd i will never pay as they instigated the change not i. i am with mexicos largest carrier for telephones and a different one for internet of my own. works well and reliably.
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Old 13-01-2019, 08:44   #7
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Not advisable.. Triggers SAR alerts..
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Old 13-01-2019, 08:47   #8
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Re: cell phone while cruising

During our recently-completed circumnavigation, one of the first things that we would do after arriving in a new country was to purchase SIMs for our mobile phones. However, now that weíre in Mexico, we have reactivated our USA carriers as our plans include unlimited data and free calls to the US, Canada and Mexico - this has proved to be less expensive and more convenient than buying a SIM from a Mexican carrier.

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Old 13-01-2019, 10:59   #9
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Re: cell phone while cruising

Thank you all for your responses. A dual sim phone seems reasonable. Buy one here in the U.S or wait until Mexico? Recommendations?
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Old 13-01-2019, 12:42   #10
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Re: cell phone while cruising

Check out GoogleFi, they are the best. It works almost everywhere and the rates are reasonable. I've been on it traveling in the Caribbean for 5 months and love it.
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Old 13-01-2019, 15:04   #11
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Re: cell phone while cruising

I agree with Ted, Google fi is a good solution. It didnít work in Aruba and doesnít work in the San Blas, but overall a good solution.

Skyroam is also something to consider for data. It is $99/month for 500mbytes per day (throttles after 500mbytes in a day). Allows 5 simultaneous users.
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Old 13-01-2019, 15:15   #12
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Re: cell phone while cruising

+1 for google fi.
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Old 13-01-2019, 16:29   #13
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Re: cell phone while cruising

Personally I am extremely satisfied with T-Mobile US. It just takes a little research...

The reason that T-Mobile is recommended for world travelers is that it is a GSM network, like almost everywhere else in the world. Sprint and Verizon are CDMA so are not compatible unless the phone additionally supports GSM: there are no end of problems here because these phones are usually locked to network. Pass on them, and if you have them then move your number to a GSM network. AT&T is also GSM but IMHO is much less user friendly. YMMV

One of the many things to like about T-Mobile is that they were the first in the U.S. to un-bundle the phone purchase from the contracts, so no more subsidy every 2 years to upgrade and get locked in again (at your expense). You are free to buy from them or any other seller. So buy yourself an unlocked phone that has the bands that TM uses, and also that are used elsewhere, and you will be good to go. Look for "international" or "global" models. (Getting the right bands is mostly a 4G LTE issue, not basic phone usage - but you probably want LTE for data.)

Next thing is to NOT sign a contract for 2 years. TM's pre-pay plans are competitive. At least in the past a $100 pre-pay would keep the number alive for a year regardless of usage (this may have changed). Every year when I came home for the holidays I would wait until departure to add $100 and get another year. I've had the same number with them for nearly 20 years (although I haven't been out cruising recently). It is easy to change plans on the fly, and pay the bill, through their web page (e.g. I will add Can/MX coverage just before going north).

TM also offers Mexico/Canada coverage (voice/text/some data) for about $10/month so roaming in those areas is a bargain. This works for seasonal visits but living outside the US is not considered roaming and will end badly.

The preferred way of using cell phones is to get a new SIM card in each country (they are pretty cheap elsewhere) and text or email those you care about with the new number. For longer stays put the new number into your home TM voicemail greeting so others know how to call. If they feel the need they will be paying for the overseas call on their plan - the rest of the world is "calling party pays", which is much more sensible. Using a US number in overseas roaming mode can wreck your budget, so be very careful about putting in the US sim card while overseas.

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Old 13-01-2019, 19:25   #14
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Re: cell phone while cruising

T-mobIle is not unlimited international. They shut off my data. They have limits of 3 months roamin internationaly before you return.to the USA. I cancelled and am now using local SIM in Caribbean for 7th month now, which is a bit of a PITA. I recommend GoogleFi. BUT I didn't know about it when I left. Works in over 170 countries, you can port your US number and cheaper than TMobile. Must activate in US. I ported my number to Google voice, had to use a VPN and have a friend with a US number help activate. So set it up in the US before you leave.
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Old 13-01-2019, 19:44   #15
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Re: cell phone while cruising

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Originally Posted by CarinaPDX View Post
...
The preferred way of using cell phones is to get a new SIM card in each country (they are pretty cheap elsewhere) and text or email those you care about with the new number. For longer stays put the new number into your home TM voicemail greeting so others know how to call. If they feel the need they will be paying for the overseas call on their plan - the rest of the world is "calling party pays", which is much more sensible. Using a US number in overseas roaming mode can wreck your budget, so be very careful about putting in the US sim card while overseas.

Greg
One way to avoid the ever changing phone number issue is to establish a number with Skype or a similar service. I have a USA based Skype number which I can set up to transfer to my local cell number and/or roll to voice mail. I never give my local number out to anyone who is not in-country. My Skype number is used for all forms of registration...like bank accounts etc. Anyone calling my USA number has no need to even know where I am...I just answer in English if I see a Skype transfer coming in. And if I initiate a call via Skype, the caller ID shows up as my Skype number.

WhatsApp, VERY popular in Central America, can also continue with your originally registered number even when you change SIMs so no one needs to update your contact info.
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