Unlocked GSM Camera Cell Phones: When You�re Off To See The World
If you are a cell phone user from the US who intends to travel in Europe, and want to carry a camera cell phone with you on your journey, the first thing you should do is find out if you have an unlocked GSM camera cell phone. What exactly is that, and why do you need one?
GSM is the standard cellular technology for European countries, while in the US, the T-Mobile and AT&T (formerly Cingular) cellular networks are GSN based, but both the Verizon and Sprint Nextel networks use CDMA technology. So if you are going to be traveling in Europe, in Africa, and in many Asian countries, and expect to be placing frequent calls on your camera cell phone, you need to make sure that it is an unlocked GSM camera cell phone, and not tied to any particular carrier.
Non-GSM phone service is based on the serial number in your phone, which your wireless provider uses to identify you. Your provider connects your phone's serial number with the number people dial when they are trying to reach you, and is able to connect their calls to your phone.
A GSM phone is not directly linked to you; it is designed with a removable account chip, also called a SIM or subscriber information module. Your serial number is encoded on your SIM, and you can remove you SIM from your GSM phone.
The big advantage of a GSM camera cell phone for US cell phone users traveling internationally is that they can buy a prepaid SIM chip wherever they are, insert it into their unlocked GSM camera cell phone, and make their calls from local numbers, thereby circumventing the huge international roaming charges they would be charged by their US carriers.
Both T-Mobile and AT&T (formerly Cingular) have carrier partners in Europe, and their GSM phones will be able to detect the local carriers as soon as they are turned on. But as long as you are using your US SIM chip in them, you will be charged as if you were calling from US soil. That's where using an unlocked GSM camera cell phone comes in.
You can simply buy an unlocked GSM camera cell phone, like the Nokia N95 Quad Band, when you sign up with your wireless carrier. But, because most of the global GSM networks run on the 900 and 1800 MHz bands, the Nokia N95 comes with a specially designed handset which allows its user to operate it on the 1900MHz frequency used in both the US and Canada. While both Verizon and Sprint Nextel offer their customers rentals of locked GSM phones for use abroad, they charge hefty per-minute fees for both incoming and outgoing calls on top of a daily rental fee.
And when you take the Nokia 95 unlocked camera cell phone abroad, you will simply remove the SIM with you US account information and replace it with a prepaid SIM from the country you are visiting. Just don't lose your personal SIM, because it not only has your unlocked GSM camera cell phone number; it has your phone book and your registration information!