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Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Old Aug 14th 2004, 8:45 pm
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Lightbulb Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?



I'm a Londoner packing to move to the US for 8 months... getting VERY confused about mobile phone use over there. Currently I have a UK Triband phone (Nokia 6610) but my T-mobile charges while abroad are extortionate so I want to get another one once I get to the states.

I'm very naive when it comes to mobile phones.. extremely unteccy! Does anyone have any advice about this (admittedly, rather large!) topic...particularly any advice about the cheapest phone companies, and what kind of tariff I should go for? (I estimate I will be calling 75% within the USA for business & leisure purposes, 25% back to the UK). And will I be able to use the numbers stored on my UK SIM card?

Many thanks Expats!

Yours confusedly,
Sarah
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Old Aug 14th 2004, 9:26 pm
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

You're going to find it hard going to get a moby without a credit rating here. You can use pay as you go phones, but they're really expensive as you pay for incoming calls too.

I'm on my husband's phone account with Verizon. They don't have calling plans like in England. You pay for x number of minutes every month. I think I have around 500 but calls to the UK are going to eat into those in no time at all.
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Old Aug 14th 2004, 10:06 pm
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

We use Virgin Mobile USA pay-as-you-go phones, because as Sibsie said, you can't get a "real" phone with no credit history. We're perffectly happy with them - they're not that expensive, and we don't use them much. Virgin's advantage over the other pay-as-you-go companies (at least a year ago) was that you only needed to put $20 on every 90 days, where the other major telcos wanted $30+ every 60 days.

We also found it great to break our unhealthy dependence on mobile phones that we have always had in the UK

...but now work makes me carry a pager
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Old Aug 14th 2004, 11:27 pm
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Originally Posted by dbj1000
We use Virgin Mobile USA pay-as-you-go phones, because as Sibsie said, you can't get a "real" phone with no credit history. We're perffectly happy with them - they're not that expensive, and we don't use them much. Virgin's advantage over the other pay-as-you-go companies (at least a year ago) was that you only needed to put $20 on every 90 days, where the other major telcos wanted $30+ every 60 days.

We also found it great to break our unhealthy dependence on mobile phones that we have always had in the UK

...but now work makes me carry a pager

We, too, have the virgin pay-as-you-go phones and like them very much. Two of our three children have them and because they are top up when we choose, not automatically, we control the amount of use the children have. It is only supposed to be for emergencies and after school activities (no school but for these).

They are expensive, though, and I don't know if you can call the UK on them. It's 25c per minute for the first 10 minutes of each day and then 10c per minute. 10c for each text sent but doesn't cost you to pick a text up. the other pay-as-you-go phones were cheaper per minute but as has already been mentioned, you have to top up more often which isn't what we wanted them for.
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Old Aug 15th 2004, 3:07 am
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Originally Posted by dbj1000
We use Virgin Mobile USA pay-as-you-go phones, ....
We use Tracfone, and very good they are too. They are basically a pay-as-you-go version of Alltel, which has extensive coverage, whereas I hear that Virgin's coverage is patchy once you get away from the major cities - which is one of the reasons we went with Tracfone instead.

Last edited by Pulaski; Aug 18th 2004 at 1:43 am.
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Old Aug 15th 2004, 4:00 am
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Hi Sarah,

First piece of info we’ll need to help is whereabouts you’re going and if you’re going to be traveling about a lot. It’s a big place and there are no fully national carriers, so advice if you’re, for example, going to be based in one metropolis is going to be different from that if you were traveling from the east coast to the west coast doing lecture tours.

The mighty US of A does not enjoy the wonderful uniform coverage of GSM coverage like Europe (and most of the rest of the world) but rather has a horrible hotchpotch of different and confusing standards. When your phone describes itself as ‘tri-band’, this refers to GSM only. It should work on the following networks over here PROVIDED it has been unlocked: T-Mobile, Cingulair, AT&T Digital (just about to be swallowed by Cingulair). You will see other companies advertising ‘tri-band’ phones in the US market – these are not GSM compatible but rather refer to the fact that the phone can use different protocols and frequencies. Beware!

There are two basic sorts of plans: contracts (one or two years) and pay-as-you-go. As you are only coming for 8 months and do not have the required credit history (although this can sometimes be bypassed by paying a deposit or having a co-signer), it would seem that you are going to have to head for the pay-as-you-go segment of the market. It is, however, going to be difficult to make a recommendation until you let us know more about your specific plans when over here.

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Old Aug 15th 2004, 4:06 am
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Originally Posted by Pulaski
whereas I hear that Virgin's coverage is patchy once you get away from the majot cities
Virgin uses the Sprint PCS network -- the only network where you can pick up roaming charges making a call in downtown Phoenix!
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Old Aug 15th 2004, 8:50 am
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Originally Posted by fatbrit
Hi Sarah,

First piece of info we’ll need to help is whereabouts you’re going and if you’re going to be traveling about a lot. It’s a big place and there are no fully national carriers, so advice if you’re, for example, going to be based in one metropolis is going to be different from that if you were traveling from the east coast to the west coast doing lecture tours.

The mighty US of A does not enjoy the wonderful uniform coverage of GSM coverage like Europe (and most of the rest of the world) but rather has a horrible hotchpotch of different and confusing standards. When your phone describes itself as ‘tri-band’, this refers to GSM only. It should work on the following networks over here PROVIDED it has been unlocked: T-Mobile, Cingulair, AT&T Digital (just about to be swallowed by Cingulair). You will see other companies advertising ‘tri-band’ phones in the US market – these are not GSM compatible but rather refer to the fact that the phone can use different protocols and frequencies. Beware!

There are two basic sorts of plans: contracts (one or two years) and pay-as-you-go. As you are only coming for 8 months and do not have the required credit history (although this can sometimes be bypassed by paying a deposit or having a co-signer), it would seem that you are going to have to head for the pay-as-you-go segment of the market. It is, however, going to be difficult to make a recommendation until you let us know more about your specific plans when over here.

FB

Hi - thanks for the info. A bit more detail then.. I'll be based in Washington DC for most of the time, but may also need to travel about - probably to major cities. I expect I'll need to use it quite a lot - I'm freelance - so would be looking for the cheapest tariff really, as opposed to the most technically advanced. I have a phonecard with cheap international calling rates, so in fact will try and use that for my UK calls, and restrict my mobile phone use to USA domestic calls... but you never know.
By the way, being completely unteccy (as I mentioned).. any advice as to which phone shops are best would also be helpful! Do they have "Carphone Warehouse" -type places in DC where you are able to chose from a variety of phone companies rather than just one??
Advice much appreciated! S
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Old Aug 15th 2004, 4:19 pm
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Those LD phone cards are great. You can pick them up here at corner stores, especially "Mexican" stores (i.e., stores fequented by people from South and Central America). Also, look at http://www.uniontelecard.com/default...02197ac89f362e for the cheapest (can order online) - depends on which countries you'll be calling.

One caveat: check if your intended US pre-paid wireless company charges for 1-800 calls (you have to call 1-800 numbers to use LD phone cards), and if so whether it is a flat charge or per-minute rate. I took some pre-paid AT&T cards to the UK this summer and used my sister-in-law's cell phone to call the 0800 number in the UK and was charged regular rate per minute for the 0800 call, plus of course my AT&T card was being debited for making the LD call. This kind of double-whammy can make nonsense of using "cheap" LD cards with a cell phone.

Maybe someone with a pre-paid cell phone in the US can tell us whether you have to pay for 1-800 calls?

Originally Posted by sdee
Hi - thanks for the info. A bit more detail then.. I'll be based in Washington DC for most of the time, but may also need to travel about - probably to major cities. I expect I'll need to use it quite a lot - I'm freelance - so would be looking for the cheapest tariff really, as opposed to the most technically advanced. I have a phonecard with cheap international calling rates, so in fact will try and use that for my UK calls, and restrict my mobile phone use to USA domestic calls... but you never know.
By the way, being completely unteccy (as I mentioned).. any advice as to which phone shops are best would also be helpful! Do they have "Carphone Warehouse" -type places in DC where you are able to chose from a variety of phone companies rather than just one??
Advice much appreciated! S
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Old Aug 15th 2004, 5:35 pm
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Originally Posted by sdee
Hi - thanks for the info. A bit more detail then.. I'll be based in Washington DC for most of the time, but may also need to travel about - probably to major cities. I expect I'll need to use it quite a lot - I'm freelance - so would be looking for the cheapest tariff really, as opposed to the most technically advanced. I have a phonecard with cheap international calling rates, so in fact will try and use that for my UK calls, and restrict my mobile phone use to USA domestic calls... but you never know.
By the way, being completely unteccy (as I mentioned).. any advice as to which phone shops are best would also be helpful! Do they have "Carphone Warehouse" -type places in DC where you are able to chose from a variety of phone companies rather than just one??
Advice much appreciated! S
Can't you ask/email your soon-to-be colleagues in DC? Perhaps they can give you some suggestions about which providers are reliable and which shops to go to for phones.

Also, will you travelling countrywide or just a region? e.g. East Coast, West Coast, a number of particular states?

If you can be more specific, this will certainly help people to post specific suggestions.
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Old Aug 16th 2004, 5:21 am
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

I specifically bought a Tri band phone in the UK and was told by Virgin that I could unlock the phone and it would work here, all I needed was a sim card. Well u should have seen the looks when I asked for one!!! Most did not know what the hell I was talking about and I ended up getting a new phone with airtime etc here!! Its a whole new ball game here and not as simple as in the UK. I would suggest getting a pay as u go phone with no contract as others have suggested but make sure that there is service where u intend to use it before u purchase. Our area is only covered by a few of the companies so my choice is limited.
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Old Aug 17th 2004, 4:40 am
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Originally Posted by sdee
Hi - thanks for the info. A bit more detail then.. I'll be based in Washington DC for most of the time, but may also need to travel about - probably to major cities. I expect I'll need to use it quite a lot - I'm freelance - so would be looking for the cheapest tariff really, as opposed to the most technically advanced. I have a phonecard with cheap international calling rates, so in fact will try and use that for my UK calls, and restrict my mobile phone use to USA domestic calls... but you never know.
By the way, being completely unteccy (as I mentioned).. any advice as to which phone shops are best would also be helpful! Do they have "Carphone Warehouse" -type places in DC where you are able to chose from a variety of phone companies rather than just one??
Advice much appreciated! S
Hi -- not my neck of the woods, I'm afraid. So I'm hoping someone local is going to get back to you on this thread who’s on the spot, so to speak.

However, think we’ve probably got so far in your determination:

1) Looks like you’re going to have to take a pay-as-you-go plan because you have no credit, nobody whose credit you can piggyback on, and – anyway – the minimum contracts are 1 year.

2) You can probably leave the Nokia at home. The only GSM networks are T-Mobile (expensive pay-as-you-go plan) and Cingulair/AT&T (bad coverage). Also, may be difficult for them to give you the plan without the phone, their SIM card may well lock your phone to them, and it’s a nightmare all round.

3) The best retailer to buy from is probably WalMart – I would probably check out the TracFone service. It’s around $50 for the phone and you get 400-minute top-up cards from any WalMart for $80. You need to check the coverage first before you buy, though! Use their web site. I have never used them but I have used the same Alltel network and was pleased with the quality of the service. Also consider the Virgin service. This uses the Sprint PCS network, not recommended in the southwest but who knows in D.C.?
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Old Aug 18th 2004, 1:54 am
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Originally Posted by fatbrit
.... It’s a big place and there are no fully national carriers, .....
Either you or Alltel don't know what they are talking about. Alltel claims national coast-to-coast coverage with just a few pockets mostly in places like the Rockies, Alaska and Idaho where they claim no coverage.

Sorry FB, my money is on Alltel to know where their phones work!
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Old Aug 18th 2004, 4:27 am
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Originally Posted by Pulaski
Either you or Alltel don't know what they are talking about. Alltel claims national coast-to-coast coverage with just a few pockets mostly in places like the Rockies, Alaska and Idaho where they claim no coverage.

Sorry FB, my money is on Alltel to know where their phones work!
The pedantic Pulsaki strikes again! Personally, I think the OP wanted non-technical, easy to understand advice. If you can do better, please do so but don't carp about the little crap. The point I was making is that the US of A does NOT have uniform GSM coverage like Western Europe.

P.S. Also, don't try to use your Tracfone in Kingman, AZ -- as an example. Also, much of the coverage in such little, insignificant states as PA, NC, SC etc is roaming and therefore pretty dire on the TracFone service.
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Old Aug 18th 2004, 3:36 pm
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Default Re: Mobile phone problem! Can anyone help?

Originally Posted by sdee


I'm a Londoner packing to move to the US for 8 months... getting VERY confused about mobile phone use over there. Currently I have a UK Triband phone (Nokia 6610) but my T-mobile charges while abroad are extortionate so I want to get another one once I get to the states.

I'm very naive when it comes to mobile phones.. extremely unteccy! Does anyone have any advice about this (admittedly, rather large!) topic...particularly any advice about the cheapest phone companies, and what kind of tariff I should go for? (I estimate I will be calling 75% within the USA for business & leisure purposes, 25% back to the UK). And will I be able to use the numbers stored on my UK SIM card?

Many thanks Expats!

Yours confusedly,
Sarah
Get a business/travel plan, more monthly, but overall be cheaper, mobiles suck over here, and with international roaming, be about the same cost...as for your sim numbers working, depends on your network, O2, you have to put in a number before hand...Also it ain't easy just getting a sim card over here, ATT best bet, but they suck proverbial balls
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