|Cellular Service and Coverage in Austria
Cellphone service and coverage in Austria is much better than it is in the US or Canada.
As with most countries in the world, Austria has opted to utilize the GSM standard for their cellular service. GSM offers digital service that is so crystal clear that it is difficult to discern if you are on a cellphone or not. Unless you are in a very remote area, you will most likely have coverage. In Austria, as in many other countries nowadays, many people rely exclusively on cell phones for communication and do not even have a landline at home.
If you are traveling to Austria and want to use your current cell phone, you most likely will not be able to do so. Unless you have a GSM "world phone", you will need to make special arrangements with your current carrier. They will rent you a handset with what is called a SIM chip (Subscriber Information Module) inserted into the phone. The SIM chip is the brain of the phone, containing such information as the cell phone number, voice mail and call logs. Getting set up in this manner with your current service provider will allow you to retain your US phone number and receive and make calls anywhere in the world. Usually there is a monthly fee for being able to use the service internationally plus high roaming rates (call rates) and other applicable charges such as renting the handset and having it delivered to you.
Another alternative is to rent a cell phone with service. You can often rent a cell phone at the airport or through many of the traditional channels such as the yellow pages. Rates are generally $25-$50 per week for the handset rental plus charges for actually placing and receiving calls. There are usually minimum per-day or per-week usage rates, regardless of whether you use the service or not.
Alternatively—and this is by far the least expensive alternative—you can use an Austrian prepaid service. You will be paying local rates which are inexpensive and include unlimited, free incoming calls from anywhere in the world. In order to take advantage of paying local cellular rates you must obtain a GSM cell phone compatible with the Austrian system and also an Austrian SIM card. Austria, like most countries in the world, uses the 900 and 1800 MHz GSM bands, so you will need to obtain a compatible phone, and you must make sure that it is unlocked.
GSM phones come from the manufacturer unlocked—it is the carrier that locks them. Unlocked cellphones are available through vendors other than the service providers. You will also need to obtain a prepaid Austria SIM card. A prepaid Austria SIM card slips into your GSM phone and gives your phone a local Austrian number. Since it is prepaid, you will not have any restricting contracts or minimum-use requirements.
You should obtain your SIM card and cell phone prior to your trip for a number of reasons. First, if you have it prior to your trip you can give out your phone number immediately. Also, it is very convenient to be able to make a call as soon as you land (your first call with usually be no notify family of your arrival). Thirdly, it may not be an easy task obtaining a SIM card in Austria anyway since you are supposed to have residency in that country to buy one.
With an Austria phone rental from Cellular Abroad, you'll get your choice of standard or deluxe rental phone plus a local Austria prepaid SIM card. Frequent travelers or those going on an extended trip might want to consider an Austria package, consisting of an unlocked tri-band GSM cell phone bundled with an Austria SIM card. If you already have an unlocked GSM phone (with at least an 1800 MHz band), you'll simply need to purchase an Austria SIM card, pop it in your phone, and you'll have an Austria phone! Group rentals or group purchases for Austria travelers are also available at significant discounts. Finally, a multi-country solution, known as the Talk Abroad™ is a popular alternative for those traveling to multiple countries.
With all of these options, you'll enjoy excellent rates and have your Austria phone number available to give out to friends, family and business colleagues before you travel.