Cellular Service and Coverage in Germany

Germany utilizes the GSM cell phone standard, which is by far the predominant cellular communication standard. In fact, the GSM standard is used in over 190 countries. So, you are probably wondering if you can use your American cellphone in Germany. The answer is probably not. Although some carriers in the US and Canada do use GSM, they have opted to use a different frequency, one that is incompatible with the vast majority of other countries using GSM. If you do happen to have a GSM phone and it does happen to support the European standards, you could use your cell in Germany by roaming with your current carrier. In order to do this, your phone has to be a tri-band GSM phone. Even if you can use your current phone to roam, you may not want to do this since roaming can be very expensive. By far the most economical solution would be to have a GSM phone suitable for overseas that accepts the local SIM card, also card the smart card (the SIM card is the brain of the phone and easily slips in the phone, usually underneath the battery). This way you would take advantage of the local rates of Germany which are far less than those that your North American carrier can provide (eg. All incoming cellular calls in Germany are free if you have a German SIM card). US carriers know that they can't compete with these rates so what they do is to "lock" your phone. That means that even if you do have a tri-band phone you cannot take out your US chip and slip in a German chip. North American carriers have manipulated the cell phones that they sell so that they will only accept their own SIM chips. You can however purchase an unlocked GSM tri-band phone through vendors other than the major carriers. Then all you need to do is to insert a German SIM card into this phone and you can take advantage of the local rates. You can purchase a prepaid German SIM card with call credit already incorporated, and if necessary, you can easily add more talk time to the SIM card. One caveat is that if you want to purchase a German SIM card in Germany, they will ask you for proof of residency. For that reason, you should either have a friend or relative in German purchase a SIM card for you or better yet, and if you want to know your phone number and be ready to go as soon as you land in Germany, buy one in North America before your departure.

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