This is a short, general guide to mobile phones. Most people in the UK now have at least one mobile phone but 'SIM free' phones are now more widely available and are very useful if you want a particular phone to replace an older version or if you want to buy a new model to use its more up-to-date facilities. We won't however go into all the details of what is avaialable, as there are now many models, from cheap & cheerful, to quite sophistcated PDA versions giving access to the Internet, streaming video, TV, MP3 etc. All these "bells & whistles" are described on the various mobile phone brands' websites.
SIM Free Mobile Phones
Any mobile phone that is not "badged" with the name of a telecoms airtime provider, e.g. O2, Orange, Vodaphone etc., can normally be operated using a SIM card of the user's choice, on any UK network. Thes will be branded with the name of Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and so on, who are the main manufacturers of Mobile phones. All the SIM free mobile phones we sell, are "unlocked", which means that the user can insert a SIM card of choice and register with the relevant network. As an Example, ASDA sells a range of mobiles that are unlocked already and can be used on any network (excluding '3' unless the phone is capable of using the 3G network that '3' operates on). The phones retailed by ASDA will of course take their own brand of SIM card, as well as the other airtime networks. They also sell mobile phones that are 'tied' to other networks. Currently, ASDA is the least restrictive and cheapest Pay As You Go service in the UK and, because their airtime provider is Vodaphone, using your mobile outside of the UK is generally much simpler than with some of the other networks.
However, just because a mobile phone can operate in different regions of the world, it does not mean that the user can just go ahead and do so. Many subscribers to the various networks are on "Pay as you go" tariffs and some airtime providers restrict users' ability to make and receive calls, messages & texts whilst out of the UK. THere may be a requirement to "pre-pay" or sign up to a direct debit prior to travelling, so that the airtime provider either has the money up front, or can extract it from your Bank Account when required.
Although many users will be on a "Pay Monthly" contract, it is well worthwhile calling your customer service number in advance of travel, in order to discover what needs to be done to allow full use of the mobile phone whilst abroad.
Don't forget also the significant increase in call and text messaging costs whilst abroad. Even though the EU has indicated that "roaming" charges (what other networks charge your provider for use of their network - which of course they pass on to the customer), should not exceed 0.38gbp/min, with the onset of data usage for internet access, there could still be some hefty costs involved.
In the UK, there has been a lot of regulation and competition to assist mobile phone users in cutting their costs but these changes have not yet been reflected in othe regions. It will be sensible to check what the bills are likely to be, rather than return home to an unexpected shocker.
E & OE
(c) MPRC 2006-11 Revised 03 May 2011