Many American cellular phone users planning to travel abroad wonder whether their cell phones will work while they are overseas. Unfortunately, the world of international roaming often seems intentionally designed to confuse consumers. For example, customers of Verizon Wireless and Sprint-Nextel will likely find that their phones will not work at all in most countries since they work on the CDMA and PCS/iDEN standards, respectively, and most of the rest of the world operates on the GSM standard. T-Mobile and AT&T Mobility customers are in more luck since both companies? networks operate on the GSM standard.
Beyond operational worries, pricing is also likely to be an expensive headache. International roaming (i.e. using an unmodified U.S. cell phone to make calls overseas) is likely to cost $1.50-$2.00 per minute or more, depending on location. In many instances, customers can buy a replacement SIM card (the card in all GSM phones that holds network and customer information) in their destination country and use a prepaid service. Many U.S. carriers also offer overseas phone rental options and special roaming rates to customers that purchase international plans.
Unfortunately, the end result of all these options is likely to be consumer confusion. However, the always useful Consumerist.com blog is ready with an easy-to-understand consumer guide to international roaming. The guide includes recommendations for the cheapest roaming options, depending on type of travel (infrequent, frequent, multiple countries, etc.), lists of U.S. phone models that will work in Japan and the pro's and con's of various international roaming options.
Source: Telecommunications Research and Action Center. http://www.trac.org