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Cell Phones in Great Britain - Will Your Cell Phone Work?

Sep 8, 2008
As the international business world continues to become smaller, many people are traveling to various countries much more often than they have in the past. If you are planning to visit Great Britain and wish to have the use of your cellular phone, there are a few factors that may determine if it will work or not.

Like most other European countries, Great Britain's cellular phone system operates under the Global System for Media Communications, also known as GMS. This system is the second generation of cellular technology. Unfortunately, most cellular phones that are purchased in the United States operate under the Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA), which is third generation cellular phone technology. So if your cell phone is not a GMS model, it will not be compatible with the British operating system.

If you do have a GMS style cell phone, this factor may not guarantee that it will work in Great Britain. As well as the difference in the cellular technology, European cellular phones also operate on frequencies that are different than those found in North America. While our cell phones operate at frequencies of 850 and 1900, European devices operate at 900 and 1800 frequencies. If you do have a GMS phone, you will need to check with your service provider to discover if it will function with the European frequencies.

Once you have found a GMS cellular phone with the proper frequency capabilities, you may still have problems with it once you arrive in Great Britain. While your phone may work in urban areas such as London and Edinburgh, you may have trouble finding a signal in the more rural areas of the country. In actuality, no cellular phones will work in the most remote areas of Great Britain. So if you are planning to travel into these regions, you may have to depend on using landline phones anyway.

The best way to ensure that you will have a cellular phone that will work while you are in the country is to purchase an unlocked GMS phone with compatible frequencies and an SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card. The cellular phones themselves are much more expensive if they are purchased in Great Britain so you will probably want to buy one of these devices here. The cost of a SIM card runs about 9.99 (US $18). These cards come with a very small amount of minutes, however. You will then have the option to add more minutes as you need them.

There are also a number of prepaid cellular phones available to purchase in Great Britain. If you would like to buy one of these devices, the cost can run any where from 29.99 to 129.99 (approximately $57 US to $247 US). Due to the expense, this option may not be worth it if you are only planning to stay in the country for a short amount of time.

Traveling to Great Britain can be a wonderful experience. Again, the best way to ensure that you have the use of a cellular phone during your visit is to purchase a GMS phone before you leave and a SIM card once you arrive. You should also remember that in the most remote areas of this country, you may have to live without one.
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