Whether traveling for business or pleasure, everyone needs certain essentials. Besides a power converter and a passport, the most important item to pack is an international cell phone. It can be used to communicate with clients, make or check reservations, or simply to keep in touch with family and business contacts back home. These days, a cellphone is just as important for sending picture mail and texts as well. It’s a well-known fact, however, that most cell phones do not necessarily work when traveling abroad.
Basically there are two very different worldwide cell phone networks and they are CDMA and GSM. CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access and does not have as much coverage worldwide as GSM. CDMA networks exist mostly in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Latin America, certain islands in the Caribbean, New Zealand, South Korea, China, Taiwan, and possibly just a few other countries. GSM stands for Global System for Mobile Communications and globally is the leading technology used in Europe, Latin America, most islands in the Caribbean, Australia, Africa, New Zealand, and most of the Middle East and Asia. In the U.S., several major carriers are also operating GSM networks.
A phone that will utilize GSM technology is generally the best international cell phone choice, especially since it is the normal technology mode in Europe. On the other hand not all GSM cell phones will work in all countries. There are four basic GSM bands and they are 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz or 1900MHz. In North America, the 850MHz and 1900MHz bands are used, but in Europe, they use 900MHz and 1800 MHz. Therefore, for the best global coverage, the very best international cell phone by far is obviously a quad band, which has all four bands.
One of the other major advantages that are inherent in GSM technology is the ability to use an unlocked cell phone, which is a handset with no carrier restrictions. An unlocked cell phone enables the user to purchase a prepaid SIM card at a phone or convenience store in any country where they are traveling regardless of carrier. When utilizing a prepaid sim card, the user receives a local number, making it inexpensive and convenient for business or personal calls in that country. The one drawback is that, when utilizing that country’s sim card, the user will not receive calls to their U.S. number and calls to or from home will be expensive. In this instance, carrying two separate cell phones would probably be a good option, one for the country of use and one for staying in touch with home.
On the other hand, there are U.S. companies that specialize in providing SIM cards that function not only in the U.S., but also in over 200 countries globally. These can even be purchased online, eliminating the need to hunt for a phone store when reaching a foreign destination and also avails the user of the opportunity to buy and test their SIM card in their phone prior to traveling.