Affordable Cell Phone Service in Italy
by Sebastian Harrison

Everyone knows that Italy is renowned for building exquisite sports cars, designing high fashion, producing great food and wine, having spectacular and picturesque cities and so much more.

How To Mail A Letter Like An Italian - Use the Swiss Postal Service

It’s also equally infamous for its awful mail service and its poor telephone system. I’ve lived in Rome for half my life. And when I’m there and I need to mail a letter outside of Italy, I always take the 10-minute journey from my apartment to the Vatican’s post office, who then pass the letter to the Swiss postal service via the Vatican’s own private railroad.

The Vatican knows what every Italian and half the world knows, that although this method isn’t the most convenient way to send a letter abroad from Italy, at least it’s very likely to get to its final destination and not end up in some obscure corner of the Posta Italiana's giant yet archaic distribution structure. Historically, the Italian phone system hasn't been much better.

My early memories regarding the Italian telephone service are equally poignant, back then it was called SIP, today it is Telecom Italia. As a young boy, I remember my father rapidly opening and closing his hand and saying, "Stringi!" meaning, "tighten up the conversation!" – and this was generally before the first 10 seconds of my conversation had elapsed. Not only was this a good lesson in Italian gesticulation, but it was also a good insight into some of Italy's telecom problems. Not until I moved out on my own and started to pay my own outrageous phone bills did I stop thinking that my father was just being kind of cheap.

Even today, l am still "forced" to drive through the park on the Janiculum hill overlooking Rome and past St. Peter's Square in order to get to the Vatican's post office to ensure that my mail gets delivered "this year" as opposed to "in a year" (this has seriously happened to me!).

How To Talk Like An Italian – Use The Italian Cell Phone Service

Luckily, in the area of Italian telecommunications there have been vast improvements thanks to cellular phones. As the well-known saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans." When it comes to cell phones, this is definitely wise advice. Italy, along with Japan, has the highest cell phone use per capita. There are more cell phones than landlines. It’s not uncommon to see children as young as 8-years-old or someone 80 years old on one.

One money-saving way to “do as the Romans do” is to take advantage of Italy’s great cell phone rates by becoming a customer of an Italian cell phone company. This method allows you to pay the low, international and local outgoing rates, and even free receive incoming calls.

It’s a little-known fact that outside the US Italians (and in fact much of the world) don’t pay anything to receive incoming calls on their cell phones. Italian cell phone customers enjoy free unlimited incoming calls, even on incoming international calls.

With outgoing calling rates from Italy to the US of only € 0.35 Euro per minute and calls within Italy for only € 0.09 it definitely pays to talk like an Italian while you’re there. Does this mean adding flair to your conversation by making a flurry of hand gestures as you speak on the phone? Sure, why not?!

Interestingly, Italians also operate their cell phones on a pay-as-you-go basis. This is an ideal set up for travelers visiting Italy for only a short time. Outgoing calls are deducted from the phone’s call credit balance and more Euros can be added to the account by buying a “ricarica” card (Italian for “recharge”) at Carrefour, GB stores, Lottomatica machines (found in bars and cafes) and in the Sisal shops. Since this is how Italians keep their cell phones working, these scratch off vouchers are easy to find and are sold in various denominations. You simply enter the code from the voucher card into the handset and the Euros are applied to the phone’s account balance.

If you compare the low prepaid rates Italians pay to traditional cell phone rentals that charge $1 to $2 a minute – the charges for which are billed to a credit card, sometimes with no way to know the total until the bill arrives – it’s a fantastic way to take part in Italian life. Even US cells phone that have the technical capabilities to roam abroad are subject to the roaming rates for incoming and outgoing calls set by the US carrier.

Technical Details On How To Use A Cell Phone In Italy

There are a few technical details to be aware of in order to access the Italian cell phone company’s service. First, it’s necessary to have an unlocked GSM phone that operates on the 900/1800 MHz cell phone frequencies used outside the US.

GSM phones are a type of cell phone that use a removable SIM card (or “SIM chip”) that functions as the brains of the phone. The SIM determines which cell phone service the phone operates on, and the rates and phone number associated with that account. The SIM itself is a small piece of plastic with electronic circuitry on it that fits in a slot under the battery. In the US, AT&T and T-Mobile customers use GSM phones with SIM chips in them. Verizon and Sprint phones do not have SIM chips and cannot be used outside the US.

Many smart phones from AT&T and T-Mobile do operate on the 900/1800 MHz frequencies used abroad as well as the 850/1900 MHz signals in North America. However, before they can be used in Italy with the Italian SIM card, AT&T or T-Mobile customers will need to call their carrier and ask them to “unlock” their phone. Originally most GSM handsets are set to only function with the AT&T or T-Mobile SIM that they came with. Once the carrier unlocks the phone it will function with a SIM card from an Italian cell phone carrier or any other cell phone company’s SIM card.

A Simple Italian Cell Phone Solution
An easy way to access the low rates and free incoming calls in Italy without having to learn the technical details of GSM phones is to rent or buy a handset and Italian SIM card from Cellular Abroad.

Cellular Abroad provides US travelers with a complete cell phone rental package that includes GSM phone and an Italian SIM card with starting call credit and operating instructions in English explaining how to add credit to the account, check the balance and make and receive international calls.

The rental phone packages are sent to your US address to arrive a few days before your departure and include a battery charger and plug adapters for Europe and a prepaid shipping label to send it back after the trip.

It’s a complete prepackaged system designed to help Americans traveling to Italy save on cellular service overseas. There’s also an international service for trips to multiple countries.

Frequent travelers can purchase an unlocked cell phone and SIM card from Cellular Abroad, and then keep the unlocked phone and simply purchase a new SIM card to access local rates in the next country they visit.

For more information about having a cell phone for Italy visit Cellular Abroad

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