Using Your Mobile Phone Abroad

You’re used to always having your cell phone on hand when you need it. Whether you want to look up reviews for a new restaurant, text a friend to let them know you’re running late, or use a navigation app to get you where you need to go, these days, having a mobile phone is essential. So, when you’re traveling internationally on business, you might feel intimidated by the idea of not being able to use your phone. Fortunately, enough people are traveling abroad that going overseas doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use your phone, or to do so, you need to pay massive roaming charges. It just means you need to do some planning ahead.

Find Out Your Overseas Compatibility

Before anything else, find out if your phone will work in a foreign country in the first place. Because cell phone companies all work on different frequencies and technologies, their compatibility overseas will vary. There are two types of cell phone networks: GSM and CDMA. These are split into different bands. Most cell phones work on a large range of bands within one type of network. In most countries outside of the U.S., GSM is most prevalent. The U.S. uses both GSM and CDMA.

To determine if your cell phone works overseas, check what bands it uses. You can contact your cell phone provider, or search online for the technical specifications of your particular phone model. Then, look up what bands are used in your destination.

Data works in a similar way, but there are more network technologies in play: HSPA, HSPA+, HSDPA, HSUPA, and LTE. Work backward to determine whether or not you can use data in another country: start by looking up the supported technology in your destination, then find out if your phone supports this.

Unlock Your Phone

You may have heard of the issue of phone locking. U.S. cell phone providers will often network lock the phones they sell, meaning that you are blocked from using your phone outside of its own network. This is especially common if you got a discount for signing a contract, but is often even true for those people who buy their phone outright. When your phone is locked and you travel overseas, it means you are stuck paying roaming charges. If your phone is unlocked, however, you can use it anywhere in the world.

To unlock your phone, contact your carrier and ask them to SIM unlock it. They will give you a code which you input when you replace your SIM card with one from another carrier, allowing your phone to be used on different networks. In most cases, if everything is in line with your account, it shouldn’t be a problem to get an unlock code, but what exactly is required to get one will vary from carrier to carrier.

Alternatively, you can find unlock codes online for around 20 dollars. Carriers often sell these unlock codes in bulk to people who then resell them online. The key is to make sure you’re working with a trusted company, so do your research before paying any money.

Finally, you could use a root or custom ROM. This is essentially running a new software on your phone to unlock it. While this is legal, it is more complicated than using a new SIM to unlock. In general, phone companies are listening to feedback and moving away from locking cell phones, and some carriers, like Sprint, mostly sell phones with unlocked SIMs now. With time, you won’t need to go through this process when traveling internationally.

Invest in a Sapphire MiFi Device

The best way to avoid fees while still being able to keep in touch with your phone is by investing in a wireless internet hotspot you can carry with you everywhere. This way, you can safely connect to the internet without fear of identity theft through free, open WiFi networks. The added bonus is that you will be able to use your cell phone to access the internet anywhere; you don’t need to try to find WiFi wherever you go. Shop Sapphire for our MiFi device today!