Free Cell Phone Calls in London?
If you are off to London - or anywhere in the UK for that matter you will probably as some point consider your options for cellular service. Many people assume that their current non-UK based cell phone will automatically work. While it might, there's only one thing worse than assuming that your cell phone will work in the UK and not having it work, and that is, having it work yet coming home to a huge phone bill. So, what are your options for cellular service in the UK and what are the rates? This guide explores the currently available options so that you can make an informed decision for attaining reliable and affordable cellular service in London as well as the rest of the UK.
Most North American based cell phones do not work overseas at any price. This is particularly true with non GSM services such as Verizon and Sprint. However, if your carrier is Fido (in Canada) or T-Mobile or AT&T in the US, you have a better chance that your phone will work in the UK. If your phone does work in the UK, North American carriers will charge you are $1-1.50 per minute for incoming as well as outgoing calls. However, even if your carrier does use the GSM system, it may still not work outside of North America. The reason is that Europe uses a different frequency of GSM than that used in North America. Still, about half of today's new GSM phones sold in North America have both the European and North American frequency capabilities incorporated within the handset. If your phone is a triband or quadband phone, it will work in the UK. To find out if your phone is a tri or quad band phone, you can call your provider or go online and look for the features of your phone model. If your service does work in London and the rest of the UK, the main reason to "roam", that is, utilize your North American based carrier is because you absolutely need to retain your current number. A second reason is that you are wealthy enough not to care that there are other options available that are literally one-tenth of the price.
If you do not fall into these two categories, there is absolutely no reason to pay a US or Canadian carriers extremely expensive roaming rates to be able to use your phone in the UK when you can pay less than $0.10 per minute for outgoing calls and get free incoming calls.
Here is a breakdown of some other, much more affordable options.
If you find out that your current phone will work in the UK, and this is the best case scenario, ask the carrier for the unlock code for your phone. The unlock code will allow you to put in a different SIM card than the one currently in there. While there has been some controversy in the past regarding unlocking cell phones, it is perfectly legal. Still, some of the carriers have restrictions for unlocking your phone, particularly if you are a new client.
Once you have obtained the unlock code, you are free to put any SIM card you want into your phone, whether it be from the US or any of the other 600+ SIM cards available throughout the world. You can either pick up a SIM card once you are in the UK, or, more convenient, before you depart. SIM cards for the UK and other countries are available online through www.cellularabroad.com. Please note that there are many SIMs available from many different companies and with different rates even for the UK. Cellular Abroad recommends Lebara as the telecom carrier of choice as their service caters specifically to tourists traveling to the UK who are planning on making affordable international and local calls. In fact, the rates to the US and Canada are a low 4 pence per minute and all incoming calls are free! This particular company, although they use the actual physical towers of T-Mobile (so coverage is great), is a relatively small provider and their SIM cards may be difficult to find in the UK which is another reason one should consider purchasing a Lebara SIM card prior to heading for the UK. Other advantages of picking up your SIM card before your departure is that you will have the phone number, which will be a UK phone number, before you leave (and therefore, you can tell are you friends and family what your number will be), not to mention, useable service as soon as you step onto the tarmac.
If you have determined that your phone will not work in the UK, you will need to either rent or purchase a phone that will.You can rent a Tep Wireless phone that will work in the UK and throughout Europe. If your trip is short and you do not see yourself traveling internationally anytime soon, renting a handset makes sense. With that handset, you will need to purchase a SIM card. If your trip is a month or more or if you travel internationally on occasion, it is more cost effective to purchase a phone and UK SIM card package. If you find yourself traveling to another country other than the UK, chances are you will just need to purchase a different SIM card to take advantages of the local rates.
Cellular Abroad offers SIM card sales, cell phone rentals and phone/SIM packages for sale for London and the entire United Kingdom.