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Need phone for vacation in Belgium

Discussion in 'International Wireless Forum (Including Canada and' started by NJ_Pubcrawler, May 17, 2007.

  1. NJ_Pubcrawler

    NJ_Pubcrawler Junior Member
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    My girlfriend and I are considering taking a vacation in Europe this summer, specifically in the area of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. I may be able to get my hands on a used GSM phone (Cingular) from a friend, but would like to know what my best option would be as far as purchasing a SIM card to use while traveling. Anyone have any suggestions or personal experience traveling in these areas? Any help is appreciated.
     
  2. ZaphodB

    ZaphodB Signal Go Down De Hole...
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    Buy one when you get there, trust me it's the cheapest option. Bring your passport with you, and prepare to pay cash if need be (it shouldn't cost more than E30, E50 if it comes with some time already on it). All the Benelux countries require full coverage as a condition of the spectrum lease, so choose based on your requirements.

    I haven't been to Belgium but if my experiences in France, Spain, Switzerland, Andorra, the Netherlands and Italy are any guide it will be pretty painful. France was the easiest -- SIMs are sold at tobacconists' shops, no proof of identity required, which is astounding given the French love of paperwork and rubber-stamps -- and Spain was the cheapest and easiest to set up, but I bought the SIM at FNAC.
     
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  3. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    I take my United-Mobile (formerly Riiing) SIM when I go to Europe. Fairly reasonable rates, unless you want to buy a local one in every place you go.
     
  4. scotsboyuk

    scotsboyuk Senior Member
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    Buying one SIM card may be problematic if you plan on visiting more than one country. If you buy a SIM card in Belgium and then use it in Germany or the Netherlands you will be roaming and hence charged roaming rates. The obvious way to get around this is to buy a SIM card in each country you visit. A SIM card usually costs around 10 or 20 euros (and usually comes with some credit).

    I believe Vodafone operates in all three countries so you may wish to consider a Vodafone SIM card. Vodafone operate a roaming tariff called 'Vodafone Passport', which allows you to make calls at the cost of your home network plus a flat rate charge at the start of each call. For example, if I bought a Vodafone UK SIM card and activated Passport I could make a call on Vodafone's German network and be charged the same rate (or use up my free minutes) as I would be in the UK plus a 75p charge at the start of the call. The 75p charge means that this probably isn't a good deal if you don't plan on making many calls, but if you are going to be using your mobile a lot it might save you some money.

    If you don't plan on making very many calls then you might be able to use one SIM card without incurring heavy costs.
     
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  5. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    If you're bringing a GSM phone from the US, also check what frequencies it works on. In the USA it's 850 and 1900, while in all of Europe it's 900 and 1800.

    if it's an old phone it may not be capable of 900/1800. Or maybe 1800 only.

    The 1800 coverage in Europe isn't usually as good as the 900, but if you just stay inside major cities it should be ok.
     
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  6. NJ_Pubcrawler

    NJ_Pubcrawler Junior Member
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    Thanks for the feedback. I will check in to the Vodafone SIM as an option if I end up going this route.

    It is unlikely that we would make very many calls while traveling, so depending on the roaming rates it might be easier to just purchase 1 SIM and keep a tight control on how often we used the phone.
     
  7. NJ_Pubcrawler

    NJ_Pubcrawler Junior Member
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    The phone my friend may give me is probably no more than a year and a half old, so hopefully it will be suitable for where I want to take it. I will have to find out what make and model it is and do some checking to see which frequency ranges it works on.

    Thanks for the info!
     
  8. scotsboyuk

    scotsboyuk Senior Member
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    In the UK two networks (Orange and T-Mobile) use 1800 MHz exclusively for their GSM coverage. Both networks have comparable coverage to O2 and Vodafone, which both use 900 and 1800 MHz for their GSM coverage. In fact 3, which only has 2100 MHz UMTS coverage of its own, uses Orange's 1800 MHz GSM network for GSM coverage.

    A network that has an 1800 MHz only network will likely still provide coverage as good as a network using 900 and 1800 MHz.
     
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  9. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    The United Mobile SIM I mentioned is a "global roaming" SIM, which means it has the world divided in several zones with flat rates within the zones. Most of Europe is in the zone with free incoming calls and outgoing calls charged at a rate of 39 cents (Euro)/min + 25 cents setup fee per call.
     
  10. ZaphodB

    ZaphodB Signal Go Down De Hole...
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    I have 3 in Hong Kong and they are a mix but mostly 1800 MHz.
     
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  11. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    Go to www.prepaidgsm.net and go to national operators and choose European Union and then choose Belgium. It will show you all the regular and virtual operators there. Generally you should be able to pick up just about any prepaid starter pack for €10 or less with some included time to start. You'll need a dual band GSM (900/1800) at minimum there. A tri-band phone either 850/1800/1900 or 900/1800/1900 will also work.
     
  12. Bugwart

    Bugwart Bronze Senior Member
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    NJ Pubcrawler,

    Several posters have said that a tri-band phone "will work" in the Benelux countries. Although this is technically true, the real question is whether you want a handset which only covers part of the GSM spectrum in these countries. For the most flexibility in your choice of carriers and coverage your handset must be unlocked (only some Cingular handsets come that way) and it should be a Quad band handset (850/900/1800/1900).

    Tri-band handsets sold by Cingular will have either 900 or 1800 MHz, but not both of the frequencies used in European and Asian GSM networks. If you take one of these, you may find that the best pre-paid SIM card for cost and coverage works only on the band that you don't have. (Come to think of it, Murphy's Law will virtually guarantee that this will happen.)
     
  13. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    If you had gone to http://www.prepaidgsm.net/en/belgium.html you'd see that all the operators in Belgium do both 900 and 1800. So, either a tri-band that will do 850/1800/1900 or 900/1800/1900 will do just fine. There are some countries that do not have 1800 carriers and in that case a 900 capable phone is an absolute necessity. Belgium however is not one of those countries. Too many people put an emphasis on quad band phones when the truth of the matter is that most tribands whether 900/1800/1900 or 850/1800/1900 or a dual band phone that will do 900 and 1800 will work just fine.
     
  14. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Well, I went to PrePaidGSM: Ireland (EIRE) and I also went to Ireland. While all operators do show coverage on both 900 and 1800 bands, the footprint is very different — no 1800 outside bigger cities. I haven't been to Belgium, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be the same, so the 850/1800/1900 may very well be insufficient.
     
  15. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    On the operators referred to at prepaidgsm.net if you go to the coverage maps you'll see two out of the three operators listed show virtually entire country coverage. The situation may be different in Eire. It all depends on how each network is laid out. It will also probably be a factor where someone goes in a country how well things are covered. I'd expect no problems in Bruxelle or Nemours. Smaller towns may be different.
     
  16. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Not according to map layout — unless there is a way to look at 1800-only coverage that I can't figure out.
     
  17. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    Let's be real here. Unless either of us travels to Belgium and tries all networks with both 900 and 1800 capable phones with the ability to determine whether the network is 900 or 1800 we cannot make any absolute judgment and then too we'd have to be in every square centimetre of the country to make any kind of absolute statement. From the maps and from supposed coverage we can reasonably assume that there's coverage where they say that there's coverage.
     
  18. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    Yes, but all that coverage looks to be color of 900 — wouldn't it be reasonable to suggest that a phone supporting 900 is needed?
     
  19. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    You're the expert. Make whatever assumptions you please. Be sure to let us know what you find out when you land in Brussels. Be sure and report back what you find!
     
  20. charlyee

    charlyee Ultimate Insanity
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    Since I travel to 900/1800 countries also, I have been diligently following this thread. You lost me completely with this post however, where did dmapr say he was an expert on Belgium or is going to Belgium? The only thing I could find was he having been to Ireland but not to Beligium. What am I missing? Please explain. :)
     
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  21. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    Did you look at the first post to this thread? It doesn't say anything about Eire. Mentioning experience in Eire does not help someone who's not going to go there. It mentions Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

    900 and 1800 are preferred in Europe, but if your handset only does 1800 it should do OK for most situations. Unlike in the states GSM coverage usually is pretty ubiquitous in Europe even with 1800 operators. I was in the Netherlands with an 1800 only handset with zero problems and full coverage everywhere I went.
     
  22. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    I have quoted your previous reply for your convenience. You made a statement solely by looking at the frequencies used by operators and the coverage map that 1800-only support is sufficient. I pointed out that if I used the same determination criteria when I went to Ireland I'd be without coverage 95% of the time. Had you said "I've been to Belgium and they have 1800 everywhere" you wouldn't have heard a peep from me, but just looking and maps and specs can be misleading.
     
  23. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    Unless you know people who have been to Belgium it's only your speculation or mine that 1800 will be or will not be sufficient. I don't know that either. I do know though that in one of the other countries mentioned the Netherlands 900 or 1800 are both pretty much all over the country. Of course you might have problems in any country since by the very nature of wireless it's not a 100% guarantee of service aeverywhere. Terrain as well as other factors make for no absolutes.
     
  24. ZaphodB

    ZaphodB Signal Go Down De Hole...
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    From the maps at gsmworld.com:

    Belgium: All carriers mostly 900, with Mobistar having the most 1800 in the south of the country.

    Netherlands: KPN and Vodafone mostly 900. Orange, Telfort and T-Mobile 1800 only.

    Luxembourg: all carriers mixed 900/1800.

    Germany: E-Plus and O2 1800 only. Vodafone and T-Mobile (D2) mostly 900.

    Seems like you will be best off with a phone that does 900 MHz.
     
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  25. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    To make a long story short, you'd probably be ok with an 1800 (or 900) phone only. But it's always nice to have both, just in case.

    Operators who have 1800 only can rival coverage of 900 operators, but have to build a much denser network to do so, and that can be difficult and costly to do. I've seen alot of cases when 1800 only operators take up roaming agreements with 900 operators in the same country because they can't afford to build a ton of sites, especially in rural areas.

    If you're just going for a short vacation and staying in major European cities, you should be fine with an 1800 only phone. If you live in Europe I'd really reccomend a phone capable of both 900/1800 (almost all phones sold in Europe are capable of both).
     
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  26. RadioRaiders

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  27. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    You also may not appreciate the "reality" of the US that the USA is a big country with many areas that are extremely rural. It's not easy to nor is it likely that every square centimetre of the country is covered. It's just not going to happen even on "America's most reliable network" (catch slogan of Verizon Wireless.) You're not likely to get service everywhere in Switzerland or in large parts of Australia either for the very same reason.

    Ideally, you'd have a phone that is capable of any frequencies in use where you are. Having a tri-band that doesn't have one of the predominant frequencies may be a disadvantage for you depending on your situation either in North America or in Europe.
     
  28. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    I was just pointing out that 1900 service areas can be much worse than 850, and that having a quad band phone when travelling has it's advantages.

    I don't expect to have full coverage everywhere I go. However with a phone that works on only one frequency band, you really limit your reception, because alot of operators build thier networks on a dual-band assumption.

    On Long Island (Nassau/Suffolk..which is not exactly "rural" like NH) my reception was about 50% on 1900 only (while people with 850/1900 had about 90% coverage). Also going up I-95 between NY to Boston coverage was also intermittant and bad on 1900 only. Again 850/1900 phones generally had no problems. I'm sure if I travelled around Switzerland (or Netherlands) with a 1800 only phone, I'd run into some problems too.
     
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  29. ZaphodB

    ZaphodB Signal Go Down De Hole...
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    Actually every square centimetre of Switzerland is covered by one or another of the three major carriers. There are dead spots for each carrier (mostly in remoter parts of the Alps) but there is no outdoor place in Switzerland that is without GSM coverage -- the government subsidises the buildout in areas that wouldn't be cost-effective to cover, with funds from search & rescue budgets -- when you check in for hikes you're told to turn on your phone's GPS signaller.
     
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  30. dmapr

    dmapr Silver Senior Member
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    I just noticed another global roaming sim in One SIM Card. At first it appeared to be a rebranding of the TravelSIM, but it looks like they're different, at least with some rates, as well as terms of use — One SIM requires annual recharges, while Travel SIM requires bi-annual balance change (seems that both recharging and billable activity will work). Anyway, One SIM hasn't made it's way onto Prepaid GSM yet, so I figured I'd throw it out there.
     

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