Can I use my U.S. cellphone over in Europe or the Middle East?

The thread title is pretty self explanatory. I figured that Canada and the U.S. are interchangeable, as I’ve tried it in Winnipeg and it worked.

Notwithstanding all the international country codes and area codes I’d have to dial, is it possible to take my cellphone with me anywhere I go, and still be able to call Mom and Pop and get the latest hockey scores? Can I still call my buddies in Minot?

Anyone ever try it? I’ve heard rumors of a couple of soldiers that did it, but they were just that–unconfirmed rumors. Although, I know Europe and the ME have cellphones. I’ve used them before. But can I use mine?

So what’s the lowdown?

I want to know if I have to pack my charger or not.

Maybe, but almost certainly not.

Europe and most of the middle east are built out on the GSM standard, which is a relatively minor player here (but growing – most of the next-generation networks will be a GSM/CDMA that matches the European current-generation standards). But more importantly, the frequencies in Europe and MENA are different, and most U.S. cellphones don’t look in those frequencies.

Further, there are no (or few) service plan overlaps. So unless you already have a so-called “global phone” (if you’re concerned about cost at all, you don’t), you’ll do better leasing a phone in your destination.

P.S. Your charger won’t work over there anywhere – they have funny electricity over there. :wink:

Somebody who knows more about this than I do will doubtless be along shortly,but

(a) you need a phone which is technically capable of this, and

(b) you need to be on a payment plan with your service provider which allows this.

As the US developed a cellphone network earlier than other other countries, they ended up with one which was fairly primitive. (A bit like British plumbing, really.) So, for a long time, most US cellphones wouldn’t work outside the US and Canada. Meanwhile we in the rest of the world had phones which worked everywhere in the world except the US and Canada.

How old is your phone? The older it is, the less likely it is to offer “international roaming”.

Depends on what kind of phone you have. Is it a GSM phone that works at 900/1800/1900 MHz? Does it take a SIM card? If so, you should be able to use it without too much difficulty, depending on what country you’re in. You can buy a SIM card then for that country to help keep the costs down. (This site has some unlocked GSM phones; they also handle the SIM cards. I’ve purchased other items from them in the past and found them to be reliable.) Depending on your cellular service provider, you might also just be able to call using international roaming (e.g., AT&T).

Whatever you do, do NOT rent a cell phone for use overseas - the charges can be outrageous. We are in the midst of battling with a phone rental company over $1000 for just two weeks of service (someone else here at work arranged it; had I only known… ).

Oh man. . . you really wanna know? It’s a Motorola Star-Tac, from 1999.

And the damn thing still works despite having the antenna bent off twice and being dropped onto pavement several times.

But I guess I got my answer to the OP . . . :frowning:

Call me a cheapskate.

I have the same phone.

No, it won’t work overseas.

[hijack] One could say the same thing in reverse - because Europe mandated a standard early on, they ended up stuck with an inferior standard, and are now paying the price with their upgrade to 3G. The CDMA vs. GSM debate has been going on forever, but one thing you can say for sure is that the upgrade from classic CDMA to CDMA2000 is simpler and more backwards-compatible than the upgrade from GSM to WCDMA. [/hijack]

In any case, I’d say land area, population density, and government regulations have more to do with the different state of mobile phones in the U.S. and Europe.

I bow to your superior technical wisdom. My point was that in Europe we have taken international roaming for granted as a standard, available even in cheap phones given away at promotional prices. I’d say its many years since you’ve been able to buy a phone, or a payment plan, which didn’t offer it. Whereas in the US it seems to be (a) novel and (b) expensive.

But I take your point that in the long run the GSM system may turn out to have been a bit of a technological blind alley.

Just to point out that I gather from reading many threads on this topic on travel boards (not from personnal experience) that most american travellers (at least in Europe) strongly advise to buy a cheap phone localy rather than renting one or buying an american “global” phone. I could give links to threads on this very topic if you’re interested (but I don’t know whether you asked this question because you actually intend to travel or just out of curiosity).

If you were thinking about getting one of those “global” phones, BTW, I would advise you to think twice about it. A friend of mine that I deployed with was having some family medical crisis (his wife was very ill) while he was deployed. He called home every day, sometimes several times, on his global cellphone.

When the bill came it was for $1,000. For one month. And we were there for two months.

Avoid the temptation at all costs, unless you’ve got a lot of money and nothing to do with it, in which case you can save yourself the trouble and just give it to me so I can waste it.

Definatley the cheaper option will be to buy a cheap pre-pay phone in Europe. You probably won’t be able to get one on rental, having no relevant credit history (i.e. none in the country in question). It’s likely you can pick one up before you even leave the airport. A quick check with Virgin Mobile shows a phone for £50, no ties, and a reconditioned one for £35. .

Whether it works or not is irrelevant, since getting it out in public will get you laughed back over the Atlantic. Or perhaps you could donate it to a museum or something? :wink:

Actually, a friend of mine only just got rid of her Star-Tac last month, so you wouldn’t be alone - but hers was, of course, a GSM one.

They have electricity in Europe now?

Only if you register your DNA with the government first, and fill out the P338/E5-1 form in triplicate.

Oy, jjimm, less of that or I’ll get you cut off.
I can (in theory) use my phone in the USA. However, at $1.50 to $2.00 per minute to make or receive any call, to or from anywhere, I find it easy to resist the temptation.

I can’t use the phone at all in Japan, and in fact last I looked it is illegal to use a GSM phone there, but it’s fairly cheap to pick up a prepaid model locally. What? Yes, I am still talking about phones.

Well, you only have to pay if you can make or receive calls, and you can’t do that unless your phone can find a GSM signal. Considering the state of the GSM networks here, it might not be as expensive as you think. :wink:

Yeah, I saw an ad for those, something like $3.99 a minute, but guaranteed to work anywhere on the globe, which leads me to two points:

  1. What area code do you get with a global phone? IIRC, it’s an American company, so I’d imagine it’s some “800” code or something like that. Or maybe something in the 100s.

  2. What the hell ever happened to the Iridium phone? Last I heard, Uncle $ugarbags (aka. “the U.S. Gov’t” for you civilians) picked it up, but I’ve never seen/heard of one in actual use. I know the constellation of satellites is up there – which you can see with the naked eye as an “Iridium Flare”. But who uses them? IIRC, they were supposed to be a ‘global phone’.

Yeah, if I won the lottery, I’d buy one just for the novelty. But I wouldn’t buy one now, unless I were rowing my canoe across the Pacific.

Even if I did, I’d learn to talkrealfastlikethatguyonTV.

Had no signal in San Francisco in Jan 03, nor in Hawaii in May, but had an AT&T signal in LA in December.

Get an Iridium phone. Good anyplace in the world. I don’t know who sells them now, but the Iridium system is now owned by Boeing.