International Cell Phone Rental
When you travel abroad you may find that your trusty cell phone does not work in foreign countries, or extremely remote locations if you're that adventurous. Savvy travelers take advantage of international cell phone rentals to temporarily serve their needs in different countries. There are even satellite phone rentals that can keep you connected in the Sahara desert or the Amazon River basin. Read on...
Cell and Satellite Phone Rentals
There are two main reasons why cell phones may not work abroad. First, cell phone companies cover finite geographic regions. Your Verizon phone stops working where Verizon's coverage ends. That problem is solved partially by international roaming agreements between different carriers. When you pass out of a U.S. cell company's coverage area, a foreign carrier may pick up your service for you -- for a pretty steep roaming price. But it may be technologically impossible to roam due to incompatible cellular transmission technologies.
All of Europe and most of Asia use the GSM cellular standard. But United States carriers are split between GSM and CDMA; the latter won't work in GSM countries. Verizon uses CDMA, while AT&T and T-mobile use GSM.
If your phone is incompatible with GSM or you don't want to pay for international roaming, then you can rent a phone that works in the area you'll be visiting. Rental fees vary but in Europe they are in the $50 to $100 per week range. There are lots of Web sites where you can arrange an international cell phone rental prior to your trip.
Phones 4 U is a very popular online store located in the United Kingdom where you can rent a phone by the month or purchase an inexpensive "disposable" prepaid phone.
National Geographic (yes, the magazine publisher) has an international cell phone rental site called CellularAbroad.com. It rents phones with free incoming calling from over 70 countries. If you have a GSM-based phone, you can also buy just the SIM card for a specific country or one that works throughout a region. Cellular phone rentals for specific countries start as low as $18 a week (for a small country).
Mobal is a US-based company that offers international cell phone rentals. Just tell them where you're going and it will recommend a phone and rental plan to you. The bigger the area you'll be traveling the higher the rental fee will be.
Satellite Phone Rentals
Satellite phones, or "sat phones", have virtually no geographical limitations and work where there is no cellular phone coverage. Satellite phone connect to orbiting satellites instead of terrestrial cellular towers. A single satellite may cover half of the Earth while a network of cellular towers covers only heavily populated and traveled segments of a single country. A satellite phone is what you need if you plan a backpacking vacation or want to call home from your sailboat in the middle of the ocean.
The Iridium and Inmarsat companies dominate the satellite phone market, although there are smaller satellite phone operators that provide service to specific countries from a single satellite, e.g., Thuraya (United Arab Emirates) and ACeS (East Asia). Satellite phone rentals start as low as $32 a week including the phone.
If you plan to travel, I recommend that you start by calling your mobile phone service provider to see what they recommend, what it will cost, and the specific geographic location(s) where you will be able to use your phone. This might be the easiest solution, and might enble you to use your existing phone number globally, but will probably not be the most cost effective. So check out the rental options above and compare with the offerings from your current provider.
Have you rented a cell phone or satellite phone for travel? Tell us about your experience, or post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 10 Dec 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- International Cell Phone Rental (Posted: 10 Dec 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved