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Re: International Cell Phones [Re: DJH] #354583
10/14/09 11:47 AM
10/14/09 11:47 AM
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 3,046
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Peter Jones Offline
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Peter Jones  Offline
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Originally Posted by magoo
So if you own a t-mobile phone it is unlocked already? I was thinking of buying a phone in SP for the 3 months we will be there but if anyone knows if the t-mobile will work and by this I mean I only want it to work on the island by buying minute cards for it.

Thanks
Denise


I don't think you understand what "locked" means. I don't blame you, as it's not explained anywhere and it took me ages to get my own possibly incomplete understanding.

If the phone is "locked", and most new phones sold to work with particular service providers are, then it will work ONLY with a SIM card from that provider. Even while still back home, if you insert a card from another provider it will NOT work.

SO, even if your phone is locked it will still work in another country so long as the original SIM (or another from the same provider) is in it. And provided the phone can physically access the network, which brings us back to operating frequency. Your connection will only be to your SIM's provider, and if that is by then in another country (eg. you have a US-based phone holding a US SIM but you are in Belize) then you WILL pay international rates. As we've seen, these vary drastically from provider to provider.

If your phone is unlocked then you can put another provider's SIM card in and it will work, regardless of where or in what country you are (again subject to the operating frequency limitations). Wherever and in whatever country you are, the charges you pay will be according to the tariff of your SIM's provider. You may well find that it is cheaper to call your home country with a local provider's SIM card (in Belize that would be Digicell) than with your own SIM card, even though that may work as well. Remember that your "phone number" is actually your "SIM's number", so when you change the SIM card you change the number of your phone.

When you are abroad (in a country different from that of your SIM's provider) there may be additional charges raised by the local service provider which will be added to the base charges your provider imposes. Because the only way your phone can access the outside world is via the local service provider (BTL's Digicell in the case of Belize) and they want a cut of the action!

Beware that many services are initiated by your service provider and not by yourself. The base one of knowing where your phone is so the network can contact it is one of these, but there are many others relating to internet and more. The cost of these is always charged to you, but when you're at home these costs may be so low you ignore them. Once you're abroad, however, the cost of some of these services increases dramatically (see examples people have cited above) and you will be charged these as well. The only way to be sure you WON'T be stung for huge amounts is to find out what these services are (not always obvious, but persist) and turn them off WHILE YOU'RE STILL AT HOME. You will find that some services can't be turned off once you're abroad, as I learned once to my great cost.

The last point I can think of for this treatise is that in the US it seems common to pay both to make and to receive a mobile phone call. That also seems to apply to text messages, though to a lesser extent. In many other countries this is NOT so - in the UK for example, and Belize, you pay to make a call but it costs nothing to receive one. When comparing call rates it's useful to remember this.

In the previous paragraph I've fallen into a common trap. When I say "In the UK" or "In Belize" I mean when you are using a domestic provider from one of those countries. If I use my UK SIM card while I'm in Belize the charges I pay will be determined by that UK service provider, not by anyone in Belize. The charges added by the Belize carrier will be added into the UK charges, not charged separately.

This has been an attempt to explain some of the very commonly misunderstood aspects of mobile phones. The few people who do understand all this stuff often assume wrongly that everyone shares their level of understanding - I know that's not so. But if anyone has corrections or useful amplifications to what I've said please feel free to add them.

Re: International Cell Phones [Re: Peter Jones] #354587
10/14/09 01:21 PM
10/14/09 01:21 PM
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 539
Iowa
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JeanH Offline
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JeanH  Offline
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Another thing to remember if you're a person who travels to Belize fairly regularly and you want to purchase a phone to have while there is the sim cards only stay active for 90 days if they aren't used. So, if you only come once or twice a year, you need to find someone to make calls on your phone for you, or buy a new SIM card. With the new SIM card, comes a new phone number.

It also seems that, at times, there aren't any SIM cards available on the island.

Re: International Cell Phones [Re: JeanH] #354588
10/14/09 01:50 PM
10/14/09 01:50 PM
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 3,046
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Peter Jones Offline
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Peter Jones  Offline
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90 days if the last credit you made was for at least Bz$50. Less for lower amounts. They send a text message when your credit is made and I STRONGLY advise you to keep that message on your phone. Save it to your SIM card if you can, in case your phone dies in the meantime. And if you get a paper receipt, KEEP IT somewhere safe.

I recently added Bz$100 to the existing Bz$100-odd the day before I left for an overseas trip, specifically so my credit would remain good (the entire credit expires on the expiry date of your last credit, so you can effectively extend the lifespan of older credit by adding to it). But when I returned, less than two months later, I found my phone wiped of credit. BTL insist I hadn't made a credit for more than three months, and without that message I was unable to prove otherwise. Another reason, I suspect, that they now do everything electronically - few people will trouble themselves to retain evidence of a credit so BTL can cancel "good" credit at will. It's the second time they've done it to me.

Re: International Cell Phones [Re: Peter Jones] #354590
10/14/09 01:54 PM
10/14/09 01:54 PM
Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 72
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R.P. McMurphy Offline OP
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R.P. McMurphy  Offline OP
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Peter, I do have a phone I purchased in Belize, locally in San Pedro. On my last visit, which was six months after originally buying the phone, it would not work. I can't remember the problem, however it seemed my sim card did expire. I can't recal what the rep said at the phone store. I ended up using a friends.

So.. to make a long story short, can I have that old sim card reactivated? It has been about a year now. It is a nice phone, and it did work on the island since I purchased it in SP. I guess it is cheapest to just use this to call the States and not have an international phone. This way I can use my other cell when I am in the States. It is a cheap Net 10 phone. Having two phones is not a problem. I just need to know if I can get my SP purchased phone reactivated without buying a new sim card. Last two times I was there there were no cards available.

Thanks!

Re: International Cell Phones [Re: R.P. McMurphy] #354593
10/14/09 02:30 PM
10/14/09 02:30 PM
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 3,046
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Peter Jones Offline
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Peter Jones  Offline
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Assuming you're talking about Digicell, which does use SIM cards, and not Smart which doesn't, the answer is still probably that you've left it too long and you'll have to buy another SIM card (and of course get a new number).

After a maximum of three months they expire your credit and your phone will only work to receive calls. After a further indeterminate period (I haven't been able to get a clear answer from BTL) they cancel your SIM card altogether. From that point that card will never again work. I suspect you've reached that point, though you can check by putting your card into your functioning and charged phone and see if someone else can phone it. If they can't it's probably dead, though I would take the card to a Digicell office when you're next here and get them to confirm that.

You shouldn't have a problem buying a new SIM card, though they do run out from time to time. Try BTL first, then all the cellphone shops. Alternatively, see if you can buy one at the international airport on your way in - I have seen them for sale there.

I don't know whether they re-use the phone number from a deceased SIM card. If they don't I don't see any reason to kill it, but no doubt there's some commercial reason.

If you're happy to buy and use another phone then you might consider SMART anyway. Most people who have made the change say they prefer it.

Re: International Cell Phones [Re: Peter Jones] #354594
10/14/09 02:34 PM
10/14/09 02:34 PM
Joined: Jan 2009
Posts: 72
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R.P. McMurphy Offline OP
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R.P. McMurphy  Offline OP
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Thanks for the info. We'll be arriving in aa couple weeks. Can't wait to be back!

Re: International Cell Phones [Re: R.P. McMurphy] #354601
10/14/09 04:25 PM
10/14/09 04:25 PM
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 222
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GBZ39 Offline
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GBZ39  Offline
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I have an unlocked T-Mobile phone. I have been able to keep my BTL number for years and sometimes have had the number cancelled. Fortunately I have been able to recoup the old number.

Everything is exciting in SP. MAYBE I'll have the same number in January????

Re: International Cell Phones [Re: GBZ39] #354622
10/14/09 09:51 PM
10/14/09 09:51 PM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 480
San Pedro, Belize
hazzyy Offline
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hazzyy  Offline
Here's the easiest solution:

If you are traveling to Belize from the States and have a GSM Tri/Quad Band phone (Just see if it has a SIM card), then call your service provider (ATT, T-Moblie, etc...) and tell them you are going to be out of the country for some time and that you need the unlock code for your phone. Most phones (minus the really high tech/smart phones) will ask you for a SIM unlock code when an unrecognized SIM is put in. So just call your provider, insist that you need the unlock code and save the info. When you come to Belize go to BTL across the street from Harmouch's Hardware Center, purchase a SIM for $50, put it in your phone, power it on, and put in the afore mentioned unlock code given by your service provider.

Note: Most service providers will tell you they can't do this, but just be persistent, you own the phone, they own the contract and the U.S. phone number....it's the phone you want to take with you so be persistent and they should give it to you. What they want is for you to travel using your existing U.S. cell plan so they can rip you a new one when you receive your bill. Also, if you do get a Digicell SIM instead of a Smart phone here in San Pedro, you can call the States cheaper by dialing 10-10-199-1-(U.S. area code)-phone number, (example 10-10-199-1-504-555-1234). This is a cheaper way to call the States.

Hope this helps,

Re: International Cell Phones [Re: R.P. McMurphy] #354628
10/15/09 05:07 AM
10/15/09 05:07 AM
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 163
Cottage Grove MN
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DJH Offline
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DJH  Offline
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so why is it a smart card might be better. I want a phone that will work year after year for 3 months each year without buying a new phone.
Thanks for all the info
Denise

Re: International Cell Phones [Re: DJH] #354643
10/15/09 10:06 AM
10/15/09 10:06 AM
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 3,046
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Peter Jones Offline
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Peter Jones  Offline
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If you read what I wrote above, a SMART phone doesn't have a SIM card. The phone itself "contains" the number. I'm not sure what rules they apply to credit and number lapsing, but it's comparable to Digicell - credit WILL expire and the number also WILL ultimately expire. So it's no more suitable for being left unused for 9 months of the year.

Some people prefer SMART to Digicell, claiming it gives better reception and is cheaper. Maybe. My own experience with SMART was less than good and cost me a lot of money, so for the time being I'll stick with Digicell and hope they sort out their various problems.

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