Want to travel and don’t really know how things are going to work with your cell phone? I have done so much research on this topic that I now carry two cell phones with me overseas to be prepared for making international calls.
We are going to cover some of the basics of things you need to know about using your cell phone overseas and how NOT to get a $1,000 bill when you get back home. If you’re interested in using your BBM overseas FOR NO CHARGE scroll down.
First thing you have to understand is cell phones work on two different technologies, CDMA and GSM. The only difference you need to know between the two is that GSM is the popular one and the CDMA is the red headed step child (simply put).
The vast majority of countries around the world use GSM and CDMA is mainly popular in North America and some parts of Asia. If you have a “world phone” that simply means that your cell phone is equipped to work in most countries around the world.
If you have a smart phone (Android, Iphone, or Blackberry) and are on a CDMA connection, those phones are still going to work on GSM, you just have to get them unlocked (GSM uses sim cards, CDMA does not).
United States Carriers:
Verizon Wireless: CDMA ATTWS: GSM
Sprint Wireless: CDMA TMOBILE: GSM
The second thing you need to know is that in the United States most phones “are locked” to the carrier and need to be unlocked so that you won’t get charged roaming fees and ridiculous extra charges for “international roaming”. T-mobile is the best in terms of unlocking phones for customers while Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint are bit more difficult.
In many cases all you have to tell them is that you want your phone unlocked so that you can use it overseas. They will try to pitch you the “international roaming” sale but tell them no that you want it unlocked since you are opening an account overseas.
Unlocking an Iphone is a bit more difficult but there are vendors out there that are able to unlock them. In Canada, Roger’s wireless actually sells the new Iphone 4 unlocked (I am not an Iphone expert). Blackberry’s and Android’s can be unlocked with various vendors as well (search on Ebay or on crackberry.com) and you can find someone to do it for pennies if your carrier won’t do it for you.
The real issue comes with data, specifically 3g. If you don’t have the same 3g frequency then you will be limited by the dreaded EDGE speeds which are grandmother slow. If you don’t plan on opening a data plan then you can just use WI-FI for the internet.
If you are going to a specific country just Google the name of the wireless operators and 3g frequency together (if you’re going to South America for example you would search Claro 3g frequency and make sure they match). If they match you are good to go, if they don’t then I regretfully inform you that you are out of luck. (Click here to see a brief list of 3g frequencies around world)
BLACKBERRY BBM WIFI OVERSEAS
Many people ask can I use BBM on Wi-fi? The answer is no… if you dont have a data plan (I’ll explain). When it comes to data there are two different types of data, internet data and bbm data.
You can use the internet on your blackberry from any Wi-Fi connection around the world but not your BBM. You have to have an active data connection with your wireless carrier in order to use BBM over Wi-Fi.
If you take your phone overseas and you don’t want to get nailed with overage charges you can turn off you’r wireless network and turn on your Wi-Fi. This means that you will be able to use your BBM over Wi-FI with no overage charges, because your mobile network is off. The key to this is having a data plan with your wireless plan. No data plan means no BBM over Wi-Fi. (Click here for a quick video showing how to use BBM over Wi-Fi with no roaming charges)