Cell phones in the UK: The good, the bad and the cheap
Some countries drive on the other side of the road. Some countries use different TV systems (remember this when
buying videos and DVDs internationally). And, unfortunately, most countries, including the United Kingdom use a
different type of cell phone service, too.
What type cell phone do I need for the UK (and why!)?
Just so you know the names, in the US our cell phone service is most likely to be the CDMA type (Verizon and
Sprint), or perhaps TDMA or even iDEN (Nextel) or AMPS (you don’t want to know what these acronyms stand for and
you don’t need to know).
Internationally, most countries (England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland are no exception) – more than 205
at last count - use GSM wireless service. So if you plan to go travel in Great Britain and want the convenience
of carrying a cellular phone, then you’re going to need a GSM cell phone.
Can I rent a cell phone for Great Britain?
GSM cell phones can be rented for typically $29-$59/week with per minute charges ranging from $1.50-$5/minute,
for incoming and outgoing calls. If you travel infrequently (once every 2 years) and your stay is less then a
week then this may be the best option even with the outrageous per minute costs. With most study abroad programs
lasting 3-months or longer this is usually not the most economical solution.
Will my US cell phone work in the UK?
T-Mobile and Cingular operate GSM networks in the United States and as a subscriber on one of these networks
you may already have a GSM world phone. In this case you can simply take your current phone overseas and start
calling. However be advised that while roaming in another country you can expect to pay $1 to $5/minute in
roaming surcharges for all of your calls. These charges can add up especially when you use your phone abroad
as much as you do at home.
How can I travel to the UK with a cell phone on the cheap?
To really use a cell phone abroad like you do at home and not need the salary of an investment banker, you will
want to purchase your own GSM cell phone and a local UK prepaid SIM card for use in England, Scotland, Wales
and N. Ireland (the same SIM will work throughout the UK). Unlike typical cell phones in the US, GSM world cell
phones do not come with phone numbers programmed into them
and the actual service is not even tied to the phone itself. Instead customers activate their mobile phones by
popping in so-called SIM cards, little thumbnail sized devices that determine your cell phone number and any
additional services like voicemail.
With a local UK prepaid SIM card you get a local phone number, pay 25 cents/minute for local calls and ONLY 37
cents/minute to the US. Best of all, your incoming calls are FREE, regardless of where they originate, even
from the US. The SIM cards for the UK can be purchased before you leave. They cost about $40 and include some
starter credit (remember: your incoming calls are always free) and can be ‘topped-up’ with additional airtime
in the UK at most newsstands and convenience stores.
Swapping out the SIM cards (they usually snap or slide into the back of the GSM phone – no engineering degree
required) is a snap, literally and as they are prepaid you never have a monthly bill, or contract.
For additional information you may go to www.telestial.com or call +1-(858)274-2686