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Best Cell Phone Plan Options for International Jetsetters

written by: Regina Woodard•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 3/31/2011

International jetsetters and business travelers need to look at their cell phone plan in a different way than a local business professional will. What types of international cell phone plans are there? What makes these plans different? Find out here.

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    As a business professional, you may find yourself needing to go out of town for business meetings, lunches, and conferences. The growth of technology has allowed many workers to keep in contact with their offices, their co-workers, and even their families by way of texting, e-mailing, and the use of social networks.

    However, what about those business travelers who travel outside of their country? For frequents flyers, finding good international cell phone plans requires a bit more research than it will for their local counterparts, who only have to worry about getting a signal in a different building.

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    The Difference a Country Makes

    If you haven't fully gotten into international traveling or if this is the first time you will be needing a cell phone or smartphone, you should be aware of the differences between the American cellular frequencies and the European, African, and Asian cellular frequencies. The United States has four major cell organizations - Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile - and those four networks work on either one or both of the cell frequencies, CDMA or GSM.

    CDMA

    CDMA stands for code division multiple access and is the technology behind 3G (or 3rd generation) network speeds offered here in the US. 3G, despite the emergence of the 4G technology, is still a fairly popular function and feature for many cell and smartphone users, especially those who get a data plan that involves e-mail or social networking. 3G (or 4G where available) offers the fastest connection speed when there's no Wi-Fi.

    GSM

    GSM stands for global system mobile and is the standard in most European countries. GSM allows for the switching of SIM cards from one phone to another; for instance, many international travelers may pick up pre-paid SIM cards and use those while away and then switch back to their normal card with they return home.

    So what's the big deal about the two? They aren't compatible, meaning that if you currently own a device that is CDMA, you won't be able to use it if you need to travel to Great Britain.

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    International Cell Phone Plans

    When looking for international cell phone plans, the best thing to do is to check out the phone to make sure that it can use both CDMA andBest Cell Phone Plan Options for International Jetsetters  GSM technologies. This is easily done on the company of choice's website by selecting the option for 'international phones' or by asking a salesman in a local retail store which phones allow for both frequencies.

    Verizon and Sprint both use CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Depending on the frequency in which you travel, choosing either AT&T or T-Mobile may work better than Verizon or Sprint.

    Customers and reviewers have stated that T-Mobile by far has the best GSM network, as well as reasonable prices for international cell phone plans. The company offers a $10/month international talk and text plan that can be added to any existing one (if already a T-Mobile customer); for example, if you are using their unlimited plan at $99.99/month, the added ten dollars now allows for unlimited international talk and texting.

    The main website also has a listing of international cell phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy T featured on the right.

    On the other side, Verizon has the more expensive plans, though they do offer a global phone program for any traveler staying abroad for less than 21 days. Many of their BlackBerry and Motorola Droid offerings are available for overseas use. Data plans for Verizon international start at $30/month for only 75MB while in Canada or Mexico and only 25MB while in Europe.

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    Conclusion

    International cell phone plans are indeed offered at the major US retailers, as you can see they can run up a normal cell phone bill, especially if doing business overseas. T-Mobile has the best plan so far, with it's $10/monthly addition to any plan and large listing of international phones, which can work for current T-Mobile users.

    In the case that you don't want to use your US minutes, there is the cheaper solution of either buying or having your current phone unlocked if it's a GSM phone. Unlocked phones have a greater range of abilities, but one of the major downsides is that features or the warranty and/or support are null and void due to unlocking.

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    References

    • T-Mobile International Services, http://www.t-mobile.com/International/LongDistanceOverview.aspx?tp=Inl_Tab_CallWorldwide
    • T-Mobile International Phones, http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/phones/
    • Verizon Global Phone, http://b2b.vzw.com/international/Global_Phone/plans_coverage.html
    • Consumer Search, http://www.consumersearch.com/cell-phone-plans/international-cell-phones
    • Image content via T-Mobile