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 Global Wireless Roaming Questions:
Q & A about foreign roaming using your own US-based phone

Q: What is Global Roaming?
A: Cellular Roaming allows mobile wireless customers to automatically receive service when they are outside of the area covered by their "home" provider's network. Mobile wireless service providers enter into roaming agreements with each other so that their customers will be able roam and receive service automatically, regardless of their location. While there are agreements between carriers based in the US with those in foreign countries, those agreements are not as favorable as they are within the US.

Q: How do I call someone who is roaming in another country?
A: You just call their normal cell number. If their phone is on while roaming, their cellular carrier will have a record of where they are and route your call appropriately. In a foreign country you need to add a "+" before the phone number and the proper country code, the country code for US numbers is "1".

Q: My phone says I'm Roaming. How do I know what network it's using?
A: The roaming carrier's name should show on the top of your screen.  You can also check among your Display options. There should be a menu selection for "Network" or "Other Information".

Q. How do I call back to the US when roaming outside the country?
A: Normally, you enter the same sequence of numbers the locals use to make international calls. In some cases you add a "01" or a "001" before the US Area Code and number. There is a short cut for most users with newer phones by entering a "+" before your number. The foreign system figures out the roaming codes automatically, but you still must enter a "1" before all US numbers. Unless you have these codes programmed into your phone book, none of your entries, including the voice mail button, will work.

Q. Will I be charged long distance in addition to the per-minute roaming rate?
A: Normally, calls you make or receive while roaming internationally are charged at the per-minute voice roaming rate, with no additional long distance charges.

Q. How am I charged for voice mail calls while roaming internationally?
A. Voice mail calls are charged the same as calls to the US. With a GSM phone, incoming calls that try to ring your phone but are not answered, are normally charged as an international roaming incoming call to your device, even if the caller does not leave a message. You may also incur a charge for and outbound call back to your home voice mail system. If your device is turned off or in flight mode, the network does not try to deliver the call to you in a foreign country, so there are no international roaming charges.

Q. Can I make and receive calls while on a cruise ship?
A. Yes, most cruise lines offer roaming service for their passengers, but since the connection is satellite-based, it is not cheap. You need to be careful in port that you call is being delivered by the right roaming carrier, and not the ship's.

Q. Can I access data services while traveling abroad?
A. In most developed countries the answer is Yes, however your phone must be compatible to the data frequencies of the foreign carriers. Text Messaging is typically available in all countries. Picture, video messaging and GPRS data services are available in fewer countries. While data is now more universally available, some systems may only be available at 2G or 3G speeds.

Q. Do I still have unlimited data usage when I travel outside the US?
A. Most likely, no. However, unlimited data use may be available in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.  While there are plans that do include "unlimited" data, most of them are at a slower (2G) speed.

Q. How do I minimize my charges when I use Cellular Data outside the U.S.?
A. Smart phones have many robust applications, so it's natural for users to transfer more data on their smart phones than they would using other handsets or PDA devices. AT&T offers the following tips to keep your bill predictable:
  • Turn Data Roaming “OFF”
  • Use "Wi-Fi" instead of "Cellular Data"
  • Turn "Fetch New Data" “OFF”
  • Consider purchasing an international data package
  • Reset the usage tracker to zero
Q. How do I contact Customer Service from abroad?
A: First, try calling "611". In many cases the roaming carrier forwards your call to your home system without charge. Failing that, your home carrier also has regular (non-800) numbers that do not incur any per-minute charges. Look these up before you leave. For example, the number for Verizon Wireless is (908) 559 4899.

Q. Got a Question not Answered Here?
A: You can ask your carrier, or you can ask the Wireless Roamer.
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