Can I buy just a SIM card? (requirements and compatibility)
Your current phone may be compatible for use in Italy. Whereas a couple of years ago, there were very few phones that worked in North America as well as Europe, many of the newer phones on today’s markets, particularly the more expensive phones, will work in Italy. The basic requirements are that your phone is unlocked and has the 900 and 1800 GSM frequencies. If your phone has a SIM card, that means that it is using the GSM service. In the US, T-Mobile and AT&T use the GSM technology. Still, if you have an older AT&T phone, you might be on their older technology. In any event, in order to determine if your phone does have the 900 and (you need both) 1800 GSM standards, either check you original instruction guide for the specs or call your carrier and ask. If you don’t know what model phone you have, your best bet is to bring it to a cell phone store and have them determine if your phone has the proper networks to function in Italy.
Even if your phone is GSM and has the 900/1800 networks, it will need to be unlocked in order to be able to accept a different SIM card. If you bought your phone from a major US or Canadian provider, 9 out of 10 it is locked. That means that your phone has been blocked from accepting different SIM cards other than the current providers. The reason they do this is that they would prefer that you used “their” phone with their services, including, paying the expensive roaming fees. The good news is that they will provide you with the unlock code in order to use other SIMs with your phone. Our viewpoint is that since the phone is yours, you should be able to use whatever SIM card you want! Imagine only being able to use Microsoft branded software on your Microsoft computer.
Once you have the unlock code, all you need to do is to enter the proper sequence onto the handset. The only way to know for sure if your phone is locked or unlocked is to put a SIM card that is different from the current one into your handset. If it is locked it will say, “enter subsidy code” or similar. If it is not locked, it will not say anything and will search for the network (which it may or may not find, depending on if your SIM has been activated or not).
Therefore, please ascertain if your phone has the 900/1800 GSM bands and, if it is locked, ask your provider for the unlock code. If your phone isn’t compatible with overseas networks, you may consider either renting or buying a cell phone – we have both options available.