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more on now talking about cellular ripoff
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2006 11:30:46 -0500

Begin forwarded message:

From: Craig Partridge <craig () aland bbn com>
Date: November 30, 2006 11:12:46 AM EST
To: dave () farber net
Cc: btm () templetons com
Subject: re: IP] now talking about cellular ripoff
Reply-To: Craig Partridge <craig () aland bbn com>

Hi Dave: [for IP if useful]

Brad Templeton talks about the benefits of having an unlocked cell
phone and getting a SIM card for the country you are in.

I follow this practice too and just want to warn of a few challenges.

There's a startup curve for every SIM card you purchase, and sometimes real
problems.  A few examples:

    * You inevitably have to call some number and deal with a set of
voice menus in the preferred language of the company that sold you the
      SIM (e.g. Italian for an Italian SIM card), to get the system to
talk to you in English and to learn how much money is still in your account. I used to buy my SIMs in advance of travel and then have to ask hotel clerks to help set up my account. Now I've wised up and buy the SIM card on arrival in the country and have the phone shop do it.

    * Sometimes the SIM card and your phone fight.  E.g. my UK provider
      enables the voice mail notification and controls on your phone
      by sending you an SMS message with some embedded instructions
      in it.  My phone would not accept the embedded instructions
and multiple visits to the provider's phone stores in the UK failed to solve the problem. In another case, a SIM caused my phone menus to change to the local language (which, of course, I didn't know --
      more startling, the menu graphics and structure changed too -- so
getting my phone back under control was an exercise in orienteering).

* I've yet to get a SIM to work well outside the country of issue -- despite assertions from the seller that it should. E.g. my Swedish SIM was explicitly labelled to work throughout the Nordic countries, but
      I could receive but not dial out in Finland.  One of my European
friends says that this is universally true. So you potentially need
      a SIM for every country.  In Europe, that's a pain.

Still, the prices usually make the nuisance(s) worth it. I was paying about
15 cents a minute to call the US from Scandinavia last week.


PS: Two travel notes from Europe last week.

    * The EU has just initiated the liquids only in (one liter) plastic
      bag rule.  Enforcement is a bit spotty.  When I started to open
my bag to get out the plastic bag in Amsterdam, the inspector waved his hand and said "don't bother". On the other hand, the implementation was well handled from a customer service side -- there were people handing out liter plastic bags at checkpoints and big signs explaining
      the rules posted throughout the airports I was in.

* The duty-free liquids on plane story is getting most complex. The
      advice now given travellers in European airports [or, at least,
Stockholm and Amsterdam]. You can buy duty-free liquor in the airport
      and take it onto your flight.  If you are going to change planes,
      however, things get interesting.  If you change within Europe,
      you *should* be able to carry the liquor onto your next flight,
but no promises as local airport rules vary (I would imagine Heathrow
      is a no-go and it looked as if flights to the US didn't permit
passenger carried liquids -- the liquor had to be purchased in the transfer airport and delivered by the duty-free folks to the plane).
      If the transfer point is in the US, you have to find some way to
      pack the liquid for the US leg(s).

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