Hints & Tips

International SIM Cards – a guide

Travelling abroad can be stressful enough without having to worry about selecting the right SIM card for you phone. If you have an unlocked cell phone you have the choice of changing the SIM card when you travel abroad to try and lower the costs.

If you take your existing US domestic SIM card then roaming charges (calling on your mobile when in another country) can get very expensive, very quickly. There are several options

1) Buy a local pay-as-you go SIM card when you arrive.

Many airports and newsagents will have prepaid SIM cards that you can buy and put into your phone. It will give your phone a new number – native to the country you’re in – but you’ll be able to make cheap calls within that country e.g. to the taxi company or to restaurants. The downside is that the SIM card will be optimized for local calls – within that country. And chances are, you’ll be wanting it to call back to the US, which could still be expensive.

2) Buy/Rent a SIM card from a US provider

If you are travelling to Italy, for example, if you take an Italian SIM card from a US provider before you leave then the you will get all the benefits of low cost calling in Italy but the chances are the US provider will have negotiated preferential rates for calling back to the USA.

3) Buy/Rent an International SIM card from a US provider

If you are travelling to more than one country or you have many trips and don’t wish to keep swapping SIM cards, then you may consider an “international SIM Card”. The phrase can sometimes be used to simply mean a foreign SIM as we’ve discussed above but normally an International SIM card would be one that gives you reasonable call costs across many countries. In other words, it’s designed as a roaming SIM card.

Once again, if you look to buy from a US provider then the chances are they will have negotiated great rates for the countries that US citizens visit and also the calls back to the US.

International SIM cards can be billed in a prepaid or post-paid fashion. Prepaid is great when you want to control your spend because you put the initial credit on the SIM and then you can’t go beyond that without topping up. However, it can be inconvenient to have to continually top-up because you may need to go online to do so. Post-paid SIMs will charge you at the end of the month for whatever calls you’ve made – much more like your normal phone bill at home. They are more convenient but you need to keep a more watchful eye on your usage and spend levels.


What is a World Phone?

Such a seemingly simple question but one which does not have a universal definition. The simplest definition would describe a world phone as a cell phone that will work anywhere in the world (for the purposes of this discussion we will ignore satellite phones which work where there is no cell phone network coverage). However, the phrase “work anywhere in the world” is somewhat vague and in need of further consideration.

Firstly we have to consider that a cell phone is in fact a combination of the phone itself (or handset) and the SIM card inside. For a phone to work everywhere it must operate on a frequency that is supported by networks around the world. In the US, the CDMA network and frequencies are common but in the rest of the world it is the rival GSM frequencies that are most commonly supported. For a phone to be genuinely worldwide it ought to be at least tri-band (supports 3 frequencies and typically these would be 900/1800/1900 Mhz).

We must then consider the SIM card. The SIM card gives the phone a number and belongs to a single phone network from one country. Most SIM cards are designed primarily to be used in their country of origin. So a Sprint or Verizon SIM card will work well in the US and provide good low cost calls. It is possible to take the handset and SIM abroad and in most cases this will continue to work. The phone is now “roaming” and it will connect to foreign networks to allow calls, SMS and data. Some providers may bar roaming by default and require this bar lifting and the reason for this is the same reason an iPhone has the “Data Roaming Off” switch – roamed calls and data can get very expensive very quickly.

So where does a World Phone come in? What magic property does it have to make it ideal for a global traveler? We’ve already established that the handset must be compatible with the world’s networks but what really makes a world phone a world phone is the SIM and tariff provided by the network. A number of networks around the world produce a SIM card which is designed specifically to be used in many other countries. The SIM still comes from a single country (e.g. the UK), and still has a single phone number (e.g . a +44 number for a UK SIM card). However, the costs for roamed calls and data are much-reduced making it a cost-effective card to use around the world.

This solution typically comes with a small monthly fee and it won’t be as cheap as using a domestic SIM card in each country (e.g. a Spanish SIM in Spain then a German SIM in Germany) but it will be considerably cheaper than using a US SIM in those countries whilst roaming.

There is one further consideration – an international SIM card of this nature may be optimized for calls back to one country. So, for instance, a solution intended for the US market may make calls back to the US better value than calls to, say, China. A solution intended for a UK market would make calls back to the UK as cost-effective as possible at the expense of calls to other countries.

So to summarise, to be genuinely termed a “World Phone” a cell phone must have

  • A handset that supports GSM and ideally is tri-band or quad-band (frequencies)
  • A SIM card with a tariff/plan designed to be used roaming across the world at reasonable cost
  • A SIM card that has call costs optimised for outgoing calls back to your country of origin

To buy a World Phone click here

UK News

Australian prepaid SIM card for Ashes tour

Cellhire, the international mobile communications specialist has launched an Australian prepaid SIM card for the upcoming Ashes cricket tour in Australia through their prepaid arm SIMsmart prepaid. The Australian SIM card offers the lowest Australia wide call rates, with calls back to the UK costing just £0.27 per min and texts costing only £0.11 per message. The Australian prepaid SIM card is both cost effective and essential to even the most devoted cricket fan, best of all incoming calls are completely FREE…now that’s cricket.

SIMsmart prepaid is unique compared to all other travel phone providers due to its unique low call rates, carrier-grade call quality and superior delivery of direct connections. Free lifetime email support is provided to all active SIM cards for their lifespan entirety.

Fast, mobile internet access in Australia just got easier. Cellhire has recently launched the Australia MiFi mobile hotspot capable of sharing one data connection with multiple devices; it comes with a huge 5GB data bundle and 24 hour global support. Ultra-efficient, the Australian MiFi offers the latest in mobile internet technology.

Cellhire has been a superior global telecommunications provider for over 25 years conceiving SIMsmart prepaid as a result of its global presence and unique international relationships with over 100 networks worldwide.

US News

Cellhire European Cell Phone Rental

Cellhire offers blanket coverage across Europe with a unique European SIM card designed to save you money. Customers can take advantage of one phone, one number and one rate anywhere in Europe.  Cellhire’s European cell phone is specifically designed for low cost calls across Europe and offers calls back to the US from only $0.75 per minute, a saving of 40% compared to roaming with major US carriers. The European cell phone boasts of FREE incoming calls while in the UK and reduced call rates.

With 10.8 million Americans visiting Europe in 2012 the European cell phone places Cellhire ahead of traditional European roaming from US carriers. With the European cell phone call rates are as much as 100% cheaper than US carriers.

The Cellhire European cell phone arrives fully tested, charged and ready for use. With the added benefit of 24 hour global support, the European cell phone is the essential solution for any traveller.

Looking for Data? Cellhire’s European MiFi travel router now includes a huge 1 GB data bundle. The ultra-compact MiFi device allows multiple devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones and iPhones a shared high speed data connection throughout Europe. For only $59 per month Cellhire’s European MiFi is more cost effective than the equivalent prepaid data solution.


CDMA vs. GSM: What’s the difference?

What is CDMA?

CDMA which stands for Code Division Multiple Access is primarily used in the U.S. and small regions of Asia. Each handset is tied to a particular network (such as Sprint or Verizon).

What is GSM?

GSM which stands for Global System for Mobile [communications] and is the world’s most widely used phone technology. Approximately 80% of the world uses GSM technology when making wireless calls, this equates to almost 3 billion people using the technology.

GSM has the advantage of using a SIM card which is tied to a particular network (such as T-Mobile or AT&T) rather than the handset being tied to the network. This allows users to move networks with their existing handset by swapping the SIM. Some handsets are ‘locked’ by the network on a post-pay contract, but can almost always be unlocked on request.

International Cell Phones

For practicality GSM offers the widest international roaming capabilities. GSM can be used in over 138 countries worldwide, compared to CDMA which can only be used in 2 countries worldwide. This makes GSM the perfect technology for traveling.

With CDMA the user would need to purchase a separate GSM European cell phone or international cell phone specifically for traveling as CDMA handsets work only in limited countries. With a GSM handset no additional purchase is necessary, it is possible to continue using it while roaming internationally in most countries. However, this can be expensive and a much cheaper alternative is local SIM card rental. Simply swap the U.S. SIM for an international SIM rental and a user can carry on using their handset as normal at greatly reduced call rates.