21 May Never Pay For International Cell Service Again!
Why International Calling Used to Be Expensive
International cell phone service can cost a fortune.
Back when “cell” phones were the size of small suitcases, the US made an important decision – they opted to establish a network protocol suitable for the topography and geography of the US but independent of the rest of the world. The result of that was that while your phone may have worked brilliantly in Austin, it was no better than a paperweight in Australia. Over time, using your phone overseas became a bit easier. But boy, did they sock it to your bank account! Text a few pictures, answer a few calls, check your e-mail once in a while and you’d come home to a $400 (or more) bill, even if you’d set up service beforehand.
Fortunately, we’ve entered a brilliant new era — say “bonjour” to wifi calling.
I’m not talking about FaceTime or Skype – those work well too — but this is different. When you’re connected to wifi, your phone works just as it does everywhere else — you can make and receive calls on your regular number (no app required) and texts works just as they do at home. This is particularly helpful in areas where there’s limited to no cell coverage — something that frequently can occur overseas and in more remote areas domestically.
Here are a few examples:
- The rustic fishing lodge where you’ve escaped for the weekend has satellite wifi but you’re only getting 1 bar of cell service. You can now still make and receive calls, etc. by turning on your wifi calling.
- You’re in a European airport when your flight is cancelled – lines are huge. Instead of waiting, use the airport wifi to call the airline and get your new flight before everyone else (and better yet, call the international call centers!)
All the major carriers now offer this and it’s a built-in part of your existing service — some providers just make you turn it on and cycle the phone back on again. It works with reasonably current phones – probably no more more than 3 years old.
Cell service overseas has gotten much less expensive in the past five years however it’s almost always still an added cost — and, really, who isn’t using their phones when traveling these days? It’s worth checking out the new options with your provider — in the case of T-Mobile, you may have international coverage built in for free. I’m about to test out T-Mobile’s service in Germany so I’ll report back on how it worked.