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An Overview of Global Roaming Phone and Data Options

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An Overview of Global Roaming Phone and Data Options

by BWR » Sun May 20, 2018 12:35 pm

The article associated with this topic was submitted by Sherry McCampbell and was published on 5/20/2018. It may be found on the Cruisers' Workshop page on the SSCA website's Publications Menu, under the topic "Miscellaneous."

Please feel free to add your comments on this article by Sherry McCampbell to this thread.
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Re: An Overview of Global Roaming Phone and Data Options

by HartleyGardner » Sun May 20, 2018 6:28 pm

Hello Sherry!

An interesting overview of what is a very confusing (and, I fear, constantly-changing) situation. Just one nit to pick - you talked about T-Mobile plans, then referred to AT&T as "the other major cellular carrier" - but the biggest carrier of all didn't make the cut? We have Verizon, and they are a lot like AT&T - great for a short vacation abroad, not for full-time cruising (though they have a great deal for Mexico now). Their coverage in the US is, in our estimation, unmatched.

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Re: An Overview of Global Roaming Phone and Data Options

by Soggy Paws USA » Mon May 21, 2018 6:38 pm


Sorry about the omission of any mention about Verizon. I've never had Verizon service and the last time I was in touch (2007? when I was full time living and working in the U.S.) a Verizon phone was no good overseas because they were not GSM compatible.

Do all Verizon phones come with a GSM sim card slot? or at least GSM capabities in addition to the normal Verizon frequencies?

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Re: An Overview of Global Roaming Phone and Data Options

by skipmac » Sat Jun 09, 2018 9:47 pm

Not all Verizon phones are but with just a little research you can get a global, quad band phone that will work on CDMA (Verizon, Sprint) or GSM (ATT, T-Mobile and most of the rest of the world).

Having tried all except T-Mobile in my experience Verizon does by far have the best coverage in the US and the best customer service, but their overseas and roaming plans are highway robbery.
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Re: An Overview of Global Roaming Phone and Data Options

by hellosailor » Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:40 pm

Verizon was a CDMA network, then a CDMA and CDMA2000 network. Then they dropped the older CDMA and today they support CDMA2000, which is going to be phased out in favor of "4G" and "4G LTE" and "5G".

In the US, however, "4G" is really 3G GSM with a high speed backbone. The ITU gave the US carriers special permission to use the term 4G for this, even though it is NOT the same as real 4G in the rest of the world. (Which is also GSM"ish", but not the 3G GSM that it is in the US). Confused yet?

Since Verizon's CDMA/2000 users could not take their paperweight out of the US, Verizon started selling *some* phones with SIM chips and the ability to use GSM outside of the US. Those were sold as "international" phones. For perhaps the last five years, pretty much all of the Verizon phones have had SIM cards (at least, all the high end ones) so that they could be used outside of the US-- and more importantly, on the "4G" networks and the US "LTE" networks, which AFAIK are the same as the "4G LTE" that the rest of the world simply calls 4G.

So any recent Verizon phone should be able to go 3G GSM or $G LTE outside of the US, although you may need to enable that with Verizon. They're still the #1 carrier in the US.

While all the carriers talk about 5G now, and T-Mobile and AT&T both claim they will have it deployed in a limited number of major cities (like 8) by or in 2019, there are some serious speedbumps to 5G deployment in the US. Among other things it will require older systems (CDMA2000, 2G, 3G) to all be physically removed from systems, in order to make space for the new 5G hardware. T-Mobile plans to do this as part of their merger with Sprint, killing off the oddball CDMA equipment that Sprint uses--which is not the same as Verizon's CDMA systems.

And 5G is rumoured to need a great many, perhaps 100,000-250,000 new tower sites in order to deploy nationally in the strength that the carriers are talking about. Since no one is very happy to see new antennas pop up in their yards....5G is still a pipe dream in the US. Overseas? Like GSM, it may simply be the new standard, shared nicely by all the kids in the sandbox.

But of course, there are no 5G phones on the market yet, so it is a moot point. Whether they will require SIM cards, or simply have a "ID" card built into each phone, will depend on how nicely the carriers decide to squabble about things.

And even if you buy a universal factory unlocked phone (Apple, Google, Samsung, HTC, LG, all make them, same model compatible with ALL modes and carriers) there are many carriers who will still refuse to "provision" service to those phones, requiring you to buy a phone directly from them, locked to them, only.

Phones that are with an MVNO (Cricket, Xfinity, anyone who is reselling time from a prime carrier) can be even more complicated, as you DO NOT normally get the same priority service, roaming terms, and other full use of the prime carrier's service.

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