Cell Phones in Europe

This is the information you should be aware of when using an North American cell phone in Europe or buying a mobile phone that is compatible with Europe or North America. Most Europeans prefer to use the phrase “mobile phone” or just simple “mobile.” In German-speaking Europe which includes Austria, Germany, and Switzerland the mobile phone is referred to as an “Handy”. What you really should be aware of is that the European “Handy” may also utilize different frequencies and technological standards than those found by Europe, US, Canada and Mexico. Certain North American cell phones, even those that are fairly new are not compatible in Europe.

In the US in the past, AT&T and T-Mobile USA were the only major mobile phone providers that used the identical GSM/LTE mobile phones system utilized across Europe and more than 200 countries across the globe. Verizon started using the similar LTE standard in 2016 however, it recently announced that it would be delay in the end of its previous 3G CDMA service until 2020’s end. (Note that in March 2020, Sprint was acquired by T-Mobile USA.) While LTE (Long-Term Evolution) technology is employed in both locations but it is made more complicated due to the various frequencies and bands that are that are used in different countries. You require the multi-band “world phone” if you are looking for a mobile phone that can be used in various areas and with different carriers.

With a world phone , you can make calls and send texts within Europe and in other international locations (via the international roaming) regardless of which provider you choose to use. A majority of North American cell phone carriers have multi-band phones that can also function in other countries. It doesn’t mean that there are no possible drawbacks to be concerned about. If you bring with you your US or Canadian mobile handset into Europe using it just as the way you do normally in North America, you could be in for some unpleasant (costly) surprise!

Then continue below…

THE 5G DILEMMA In early 2020, all major mobile phone operators across the US were rolling out 5G networks across North America, but there exist several different versions of 5G as well, and even if one have a phone that supports 5G in the USA however, it will not be compatible in Europe or not even be compatible with different service providers within the US! Samsung launched the first smartphone with 5G that was Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10, in the US in the year 2019, however, it was only compatible with Verizon’s high-band 5G network and cost a price of $1,299. (T-Mobile and AT&T have slower low-band 5G but offer greater coverage.) The month of March, 2020 saw Samsung launched its Galaxy S20 range consisting of three 5G models each of which is connected to both high- and low-band 5G networks. However, the Android Galaxy S20 phones start at $199. The most expensive model, the S20 Ultra costs $1,399, however, it comes with the camera that has a resolution of 108 pixels. Apple is yet to release five-G iPhone models. Our suggestion is to not purchase a phone with 5G capabilities right now. If you don’t want it, then you’re better in waiting for a greater choice of 5G phones at less expensive prices to come out.
5G IN GERMANY In July 2019, Deutsche Telekom (DT) launched the first German 5G network, however, it was only available in 2 cities (Berlin as well as Bonn) and also with the Handy costing EUR900. In addition, there are several cities (Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich, and Cologne), DT plans to provide 5G coverage across 20 cities in Germany before the year’s end. DT uses high-band 5G. It is faster , however it requires more antennas, and is having problems with reception in structures. Vodafone is now offering 5G services in more than 20 German cities. Germany has been lagging behind on 5G but was slow in expanding its 4G LTE networks. This is especially true in rural areas that have poor coverage. Plans for 5G in Germany include 90 percent coverage by 2025.

International Roaming

To avoid any issues to avoid any issues, here are some essential guidelines for roaming around the world using a mobile phone. If you require assistance with the technical terms and abbreviations listed below, check out the Handy Phone Dictionary for assistance.

CDMA versus GSM In the past, the world of mobile phones was split into two distinct major camps, namely CDMA or GSM. (There were also a number of sub-camps but we’ll keep it short and simple.) The two CDMA along with GSM are digital technologies that were developed to facilitate the transmission of calls in a certain bandwidth, which is far greater than what was possible with older analog (1G) cell phone technology. However, the older 3G CDMA standard couldn’t compete with the superior GSM LTE standard that is currently being used all over the world in different varieties.

Although there was a time when the USA, Canada, and Mexico were still fragmented into a variety of technology, both digital and analog, used for phones on mobiles, Europe became much more unifying as part of GSM (Groupe Special Mobile) in 1987 following a technical agreement. Five years later, the first ever modern (2G) GSM mobile phone system was launched within Finland (July 1992) through a network developed through Telenokia (Finland) along with Siemens (Germany). In the year 1992, GSM was also the first phone to use SMS (short message service) technology for texting that then took worldwide by storm. In the next few years, there would be GSM network, as well as just GSM networks all over Europe.

2G technology for digital cell phones first came into North America several years after GSM was established in Europe. Initial CDMA networks were launched within the United States and South Korea in the year 1996. It was in 1996 that the CDMA standards were later used throughout Canada, China, Japan and Latin America. The most recent CDMA systems operating in North America began to be eliminated in 2016 and to be replaced by LTE which is a kind of 4G lite and LTE-Advanced which is similar to 4G in real. In the present, 5G is rolling out (slowly) throughout the globe. There’s plenty of hype surrounding LTE or 5G. But we’ll keep this for a later article.

GSM and LTE Presently, GSM has taken over dominance across the globe in wireless telephone systems, with more than 3 billion users across more than 200 countries, comprising that of the United States. For Europe, Africa, and large parts across Asia it is believed that the GSM technology is often the sole technology that is used by mobile phones. That means GSM is used by more people in the world (about 85 percent) than all other wireless networks combined. CDMA is dying out due to the fact that it isn’t able to match GSM’s speed. GSM technology. GSM is constantly evolving and offers speedier data transmission speeds as well as higher quality. As the majority of carriers upgrade to 4G/LTE and then 5G, it doesn’t mean that all smartphones will soon be compatible with all phones around the world. It’s actually getting more complicated rather than simpler.

No SIM Card, No Service One feature that is a hallmark of GSM phone technology, which dates to the very beginning of its development was its SIM card. This “Subscriber Identity Module” card is a tiny microprocessor chip which is put into a phone is a distinct feature in every GSM phones. The interchangeable SIM card gives users something CDMA phones could not provide that is the ability to switch between various mobile phone providers. The SIM card helps to authenticate the subscriber and guarantees that the subscriber is correctly charged. The SIM card also stores the personal directories of your phone, phone messages and information about roaming on various networks, as well as other information. The eSIM is an upgraded embedded device that is used on Apple Watches, Apple Watch and newer iPhones. It is required to be switched by electronic means.

The basic rule for international roaming is that you require a SIM card phone. Without a SIM, there is or mobile service within Europe and the rest all over the globe.

Locked versus Unlocked The benefit of the SIM card lies in the fact that it permits users move from one service to another. (Verizon in it’s CDMA time, became famous for locking its customers in to Verizon. Even now, it’s not as accessible like T-Mobile USA and other US carriers.) You must however have a unlocked phone in order in order to make use of the switch to SIM cards. Phones that are unlocked have become more widespread while the standard 24-month contract for mobile phones is becoming less common.

Cell Phone Options for Travelers and Expats

If you’re North Americans going to German-speaking Europe or the reverse There are many possible solutions to the issue of mobile phone standards that differ across the globe. standards. However, which one is the best for you is contingent on a variety of aspects, such as:

  • How many days will you be away from your home computer? (Days, weeks, months, years?)
  • How often do you plan to be away from your home computer? (Rarely? Frequently?)
  • Which service do you currently do you currently
  • Does your mobile phone currently locked or locked?

The answers to the following questions can decide whether you should utilize your provider’s international roaming plan purchase or lease an iPhone, purchase an “travel” phone, use an old one, or buy one with an international SIM card that you can use on the phone. (unlocked) handset. These are the options you have:

Use Your Current Carrier’s International Roaming Most of the time this type of option is only sense for trips that are short or frequently traveled. It typically costs more for calls and data over other options. There is one exception: T-Mobile USA’s no-cost data and calling plans that are available for Europe, Canada, and Mexico. For more details, read the iPhone available in Germany or the GW Expat Blog article: Cell Phone Tips for International Travelers and Road Warriors Dual SIMs, unlocked phones, and free roaming.

Buy – With a Contract Purchase an multi-band phone which can work with the various versions in the GSM system within Europe as well as North America. They are produced by all major cell phone makers and available – with the option of a contract by all major wireless companies within the US. A majority (but but not every) phones from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon’s phones come with multi-band capabilities and include the required bands that are suitable for use for use in Germany as well as Europe. You can “roam” in Germany with your current provider and pay for their roaming charges. (Make sure you’re aware of the terms! Some have lower prices if you sign-up prior to your travel.) This is a benefit because you’ll be able to keep your US number. The downside could be that someone who knows the number (unknowingly) contacts you from overseas could raise your cell cost by more than $1.00 each minute but this is not the case If you are planning ahead.

An alternative is to request your provider to unlock your phone in order to accept an German SIM. There are many German SIM card options to choose from. Find out more about them below.

Buy – Without a Contract

In this way, you’ll receive a phone that is unlocked that is compatible by anyone with every SIM card. The iPhone can be accessible unlocked, however it is much more affordable to purchase it in the US as opposed to Europe. You can purchase the unlocked iPhone directly through Apple’s online store however, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon are now allowing you to purchase an unlocked device with monthly payment. It is also possible to purchase an European mobile phone that’s unlocked, which means you are able to make use of every SIM (even ones from US) using it. An unlocked, decent plain-Jane GSM phone can cost between $200-300 across Europe. (Smartphones cost more.) If it’s not a multi-band model, it will only be utilized within Europe. But multi-band models are readily available. This is a great alternative for those who plan to be traveling to Europe often. Although a decent unlocked phone is priced between $550 and $1000 It’s less expensive than an unsubsidized phone that comes with a contract of two years. There are phones that are less expensive (under $100) in the event that you’re willing to take a smaller number of options and slower speeds. Look below for.

Buy – Prepaid

Purchase an GSM pre-paid wireless phone or SIM card in Europe and Germany that has call time. You can purchase a good “Handy” in Germany for less than $100, which includes the prepaid minutes as well as an “refillable” SIM card that you can top up when required. (See “New SIM Card Legalities” below.) The rate per minute of the typical mobile phone that is pay-as-you go for Germany is different from provider to carrier, however, it’s generally less expensive when compared to international roaming. A different option would be to purchase an all-band phone prior to leaving. It’s cheaper than a phone purchased in Germany. Be sure to ensure that the phone will function in Europe.

New SIM Card Legalities In June of 2017, Germany passed a new anti-terrorism law, which adds an additional wrinkle for those looking to purchase the prepaid SIM. You will need to present the ID of a person and supply an acceptable German address to purchase a pre-paid SIM account in Germany. The SIM card will be sent at the address you have provided. In the past, it was easier. It was easy to purchase an account and bring it along to use with the GSM phone. As roaming in the EU is completely free, many users purchase an SIM card from another EU country to use to roam in Germany. Be aware that this is an interim solution which will only work for a few weeks because roaming times are limited. TIP: Purchase the international SIM card on the internet prior to your travel. Look up “SIM card Germany” or similar terms to locate the provider.

Buy or Use a “Travel” Phone

Are you able to find an older iPhone 7 or 8 lying around? If it’s locked it could be an perfect travel phone. You’ll only need an EU/German SIM card. If you’re not equipped with another phone to choose from, you might consider purchasing a cheap GSM cellphone that you can use to travel. There are refurbished older and unlocked iPhone at less than half the price of an updated iPhone model. Another intriguing option is a dual-SIM device. Find out more about this dual-phones choice within cell phone tips that are geared towards International Travelers and Road Warriors Dual SIMs, Unlocked Phones and free roaming. ( Note that this article requires being updated.)

Use Wi-Fi ( Wlan) and Free Apps

This isn’t a replacement for alternatives but making use of Wi-Fi every day will help you save a significant amount of cash. This may not be an issue in your home, but when you’re on the road downloading data can be costly. Even browsing your email or looking at a website on your smartphone counts against your data limit. Make use of your hotel’s Wi-Fi and Internet hotspots as often as feasible. Many cafes and restaurants across Europe provide free Wi-Fi to paying customers. (Ask you server to provide the login.) Be cautious about online banking, or any other situation in which someone may be able to gain access to your information via an unsecure connection.

Free video conferencing or messaging applications like What’sApp, Messenger, FaceTime (iOS), iMessage (iOS, Mac), Skype, Google, or others are a great method to reduce data or texting or talk charges.

Have a Good Trip – and Stay in Touch! Now you’re aware of how to travel with ease and not give up the connection you’re used to return home. Any of the suggestions above could help you save money while you make the most of your trips abroad. Gute Reise! Bon voyage!

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