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Using Telephones in London

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Cell Phones in London
Nokia mobile phone
© Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.
If you are used to using your cellphone regularly you may well want to bring it with you to London and the UK but the problem is that most US cellphones are not GSM. You will need a GSM phone that works on both the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands for use in UK and/or Europe. Such phones are often described as "tri-band" or "quad-band".

Check the specification of your phone in the product manual, or with your provider, or at GSM Arena by entering the model number in the 'quick search' box.

Most "3G" handsets (900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and/or 2100 MHz) will work in most urban areas of UK and Europe, giving enhanced web and email access, as well as being usable for normal talk and text services. Do beware of roaming data charges, as internet access will be *very* expensive.

What's GSM?

GSM stands for Global System for Mobile Communication and is used across Europe and many other places around the world. But not in the US. GSM phones can be 'locked' to a network but they can be unlocked to allow you to use all the networks in the UK.

You will also need a SIM card.

What's a SIM card?

SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module. This small piece of plastic (less than the size of a postage stamp) has a chip which holds all the information about your cellphone number, your contacts, security access details, etc. You can move your SIM to a new cellphone so you can keep all your important numbers and don’t have to change your number when you get a new phone.

Cell Phone Options for US Visitors

  1. Contact your phone network provider and check if you can use your phone in Europe. They may have options for you as a current customer.
  2. Consider switching carriers, if you are not on a contract. AT&T appear to be offering GSM technology so speak to them about your requirements. Find your local AT&T store.
  3. If you travel regularly, buy a GSM handset from around $50. If your trip is for more than a few weeks it can be cheaper than renting. Check out the options at Mobal Rental.
  4. You can buy or rent the National Geographic Talk Abroad travel phones and SIM cards (with UK and US numbers). It's a simple phone but it may well be all that you need.

You will still need a SIM card for these phones. Find out more about Pay As You Go cell phones in London.

For smartphone users, find out more about Fonmigo Mobile Wifi rental.

Need mobile wifi rental while in London and the UK? I've tried the Fonmigo mobile wifi rental and would recommend it. My Review | Buy Direct.

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