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Cell Phones without Borders

by Paul Sanders

Woman talking on a cell phone by the sea

Traveling internationally can sometimes mean disconnecting from the rest of the world, unless you know which cell phones will work for you across the border. Here are a few cell phone features to look for in a mobile phone, as well as some phone tips that will help you stay connected nearly anywhere.

International Cell Phones:

  1. GSM and CDMA cell phone services: Most cell phone services across the world use one of two technologies: GSM (the most common) and CDMA. Only Nextel uses a different cell phone technology for its network. Most cell phones use one or the other technology, but some include both, making them ideal for adapting to various international cell phone services you encounter. Foreign networks may use different frequency bands, however, so it's best to choose a tri-band or quad-band cell phone.

  2. Compatible 3G networks: Not all networks use the same frequencies for 3G coverage. If you want to use your phone's advanced connectivity features, you'll need a cell phone that works on your host country's 3G network.

  3. Unlocked cell phones: Any cell phone you purchase with a cell phone plan will be "locked" to that specific wireless carrier. If you're a long-time customer, your carrier may unlock the phone for you. Usually, though, you'll need to buy unlocked cell phones if you plan to use them with other carriers. Otherwise, you'll incur roaming charges while using your cell phone on a foreign network with which your carrier has an agreement. With an unlocked cell phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card at your destination that will give you a local number and much cheaper calling.

  4. Adapters for foreign outlets: Electrical standards vary across the globe, and your regular cell phone charger just won't work. You can buy a compatible charger for your destination country or find an adapter that will let you plug in virtually anywhere in the world, no matter what shape the outlets are.

  5. International roaming charges: Your wireless carrier probably has agreements with carriers in other countries and regions. This means you can still make calls using your personal cell phone number from those countries and other people can call you, but you'll incur international roaming charges of up to several dollars per minute. You can avoid these charges by buying an international calling plan from your carrier or using an unlocked cell phone with a local prepaid SIM card.

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