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There has been some talk about using your cellular phone while traveling to out of country hunting destinations. So I thought I would share some basic information. This is only about voice communications, not internet, high speed data , mobile faxing or a variety of other options. Most of us at least want to feel that we can contact some one in case of an emergency or just to let family or friends know we arrived safely.

To use your cell phone outside of your home country, a couple of things are needed.

1.) You should be using a GSM tri-band or quad-band cell phone
2.) You must inform you cellular provider that you will be roaming outside your home country.

What is GSM? It is a method ( or series of protocols ) for your cell phone ( really a small radio ) to talk to the cell site. From the cell site, your call is routed to the switch ( a very specialized computer ).

It has become the de facto world standard for cellular phone protocols. It is currently in use in over 150 countries. The only major countries that do not have GSM networks in place are Japan and South Korea.

How do I know if my phone uses GSM? The simplest way is call your provider. I know, I would love to have list that you could look it up on, but the equipment / models change too often.

While you are on the phone with your provider, you need to ask a couple of more questions. Here they are:

1.) Do I have a GSM phone?
2.) I will be traveling to XXX, will my phone work there? (Also check the URL below)
3.) Do I need to have international roaming enabled?
4.) What is the pricing of making and receiving calls while out of my home country?
5.) Will my voice mail, call forwarding, etc work while I am traveling?
6.) (If you got a yes to 1 and 2 above) Is my phone locked?

Ok, you now have some decisions to make. If you don’t have a GSM multi-band phone, do you really want to invest in one now? If you do, I suggest you shop around. Cellular is a highly competitive market, there are always deals.

If your phone is a GSM multi-band phone and you are happy with the rates, then go for it.

If your phone is a GSM multi-band phone and you are NOT happy with the rates, then you have some options.

GSM technology is built up around the concept that a user can be identified to the network have all their services follow them, where ever they are. This is done though a small memory chip called a SIM. The SIM tells the phone what its telephone number is, and which provider to use. Some providers “lock†the phone, so you can not change providers by inserting a different SIM. This is a highly controversial practice. In essence, the phone is yours. You are committed to paying them every month for the length of the contract, so what do they care? There are services which will unlock you phone for a small fee.

It does mean that if your phone is unlocked, you can purchase a SIM from any provider. So, it is possible to go to South Africa, take out your cell phone, insert a prepaid SIM from a local provider , turn your phone on and magically, you have a local number. The beauty of this is that if you need to place many local calls, you are not paying international roaming rates. Also, in many cases, for incoming calls, the calling party pays. In fact, it is possible to insert a device in your phone that allows it use 2 SIMS, but that is much more complicated to explain.

The GSM Band plan.
850 MHz (824.2 - 848.8 MHz Tx; 869.2 - 893.8 MHz Rx)
900 MHz (880-2 - 914.8 MHz Tx; 925.2 - 959.8 MHz Rx)
1800 MHz (1710.2 - 1784.8 MHz Tx; 1805.2 - 1879.8 MHz Rx)
1900 MHz (1850.2 - 1909.8 MHz Tx; 1930.2 - 1989.8 MHz Rx)

For maps of GSM coverage through out the world by country:
http://www.gsmworld.com/roaming/gsminfo/index.shtml


SOME OTHER OPTIONS.

Phone Cards
Even in some western countries, coverage can get a little difficult. There are large sections of the US, Canada and Mexico where coverage is spotty or non-existent. I suggest you purchase a prepaid phone card. This allows you to use any land based telephone to call home relatively cheaply. Just be careful while staying in a hotel. Be sure the prepaid card has local access numbers. Otherwise, the hotel may impose fees.

Again, shop around. Do not be fooled by the advertised minute rate. Many cards advertise a cheap rate but stack up connect fees, daily fees, etc. Some even go so far as round out the minutes to every 5 minutes. So a 30 second call, costs the same as 4 minute call.

Also, check with your home telephone company and cellular provider. They may be able to offer a competitive calling plan.

Satellite Phones
There have been some very good posts here. It is possible today to rent a phone for a week, month, etc. I suggest you discuss coverage with a rental company. They are not married to a single provider and have the experience to know what will or will not work.
 
Posts: 253 | Registered: 04 January 2005Reply With Quote
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Thanks for the information. Where were you a couple of weeks ago, you could have saved me a bunch of time educating myself? Wink

Regards,

Terry



Msasi haogopi mwiba [A hunter is not afraid of thorns]
 
Posts: 5338 | Location: A Texan in the Missouri Ozarks | Registered: 02 February 2001Reply With Quote
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WOW! I'm impressed,Thank you for taking the time to post that for guys like me that are still watching the 12:00 blink on our old VCR
 
Posts: 142 | Registered: 19 April 2005Reply With Quote
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I think alot of the outfitters who are out in the true boonies have sat phones in camp and will let you use them and just track the minutes and pay when you settle up. I know last year Vaughan had a sat phone and he was kind enough to allow me to make use of it. If you are on a ranch phone cards are the easy, just remember the time usaage is about 10 times greater than in the states.
 
Posts: 5338 | Location: Bedford, Pa. USA | Registered: 23 February 2002Reply With Quote
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One thing nice about having your own cell phone is that you can call if your travel plans go haywire while in the states (as ours did in 2003 when our plane lost an engine). Or if you are waiting in the airport at JNB and your PH is nowhere to be seen.

Regards,

Terry



Msasi haogopi mwiba [A hunter is not afraid of thorns]
 
Posts: 5338 | Location: A Texan in the Missouri Ozarks | Registered: 02 February 2001Reply With Quote
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Terry,

Yeah, I should have posted it then. Actually, it caused me to think about it for awhile. I am connected to the industry, so it is easy for me to get too deep into the "techno speak". Took a bit to thought so I could condense the info in a way that most every one could understand it. By the way, it was your great posts on questions to ask, etc that got me to do it.

wynwood,

You are welcome. I was hoping to put in a way where every one could follow.

Die Ou Jagter,

Great point. It is something to ask up front anytime you are using a guide. "How can I call home." I know the folks back home always get excited when I call, especially with good news.
 
Posts: 253 | Registered: 04 January 2005Reply With Quote
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Good info indeed. Thank you for taking the time to put this together.

Terry - Could we possibly have this linked to the packing list info or in some way keep it towards the top? Given that June-August are big safari months, there may be more folks looking now.
 
Posts: 472 | Location: Virginia | Registered: 26 January 2003Reply With Quote
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Will link it to the Packing List.

Thanks,

Terry



Msasi haogopi mwiba [A hunter is not afraid of thorns]
 
Posts: 5338 | Location: A Texan in the Missouri Ozarks | Registered: 02 February 2001Reply With Quote
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I must be the "strange" one, as I only call home on Mother's day, but never any other calls.

(They never have good news anyway if I do call).


Remember, forgivness is easier to get than permission.
 
Posts: 3893 | Location: Hudsonville MI USA | Registered: 08 June 2000Reply With Quote
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I don't want to be getting calls while on safari. If there is an emergency someone will know how to get in touch with the safari comapny and most outfits now have a satphone in camp. I can see the handy part of having one while traveling but if you are cellularly connected to your life at home while on safari don't you think it kind of takes away from the experience?

Mark


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Posts: 12120 | Location: LAS VEGAS, NV USA | Registered: 04 August 2002Reply With Quote
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Mark,

I'm not going to turn mine on unless I want to make a call. Best of both worlds - no incoming calls and in case of emergency then I will have access to a phone.

I know from experience that having one (or not having one as was my case) when travel plans go haywire is necessary. I was able to borrow a fellow passenger's phone (who graciously offered the use for free) while we were running through the Atlanta airport trying to get on a flight to New York to connect with SAA. Our Atlanta-JNB flight lost an engine shortly after takeoff.

If, God forbid, there was an illness or death in the family during safari, then I have left instructions on how to contact the safari company (cell phone won't work in Dande anyway). In case of emergency, it will be nice being able to call home and talk to your family while your are en route.

Regards,

Terry



Msasi haogopi mwiba [A hunter is not afraid of thorns]
 
Posts: 5338 | Location: A Texan in the Missouri Ozarks | Registered: 02 February 2001Reply With Quote
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The only major part of hunt that went wrong was the comms aspect.

I have a GSM phone from the UK and contacted my service provider ahead of time to get international roaming enabled as suggested.

However when I arrived in RSA, I found although I had i/c service for voice and SMS, but I had no o/g service for either. Further investigations revelated the phone itself had a "block" on it of some sort and I needed a code number to remove the international block. Of course I had no idea what that code was...

After much head scratching I decided to buy a Vodacom SIM card locally to replace my British one. This would effectively put me on the RSA cellphone network as a "local" complete with new cellphone number. This cost about $10..However service providers have a way of blocking this too and so it might not work for everyone...The final blow was that in my hunting area cell phone coverage turned out to be very marginal to say the least. It was not a big issue for me (no emergencies) but I had promised to stay in touch with loved ones.

Another problem i had was with hotmail. A couple of times I was in Joburgh I had limited access to PC's and I thought it would be nice to send an email or two. For some reason or other I could not reliably get into my hotmail account at all. Sometimes it would let me in and sometimes not, but every time it "locked up" at some point in the process and i sat just watching the hourglass timer do-hicky...I mention this so people don't assume these things will work like they do back home...

Regards,

Pete
 
Posts: 5684 | Location: North Wales UK | Registered: 22 May 2002Reply With Quote
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quote:
I had i/c service for voice and SMS I had no o/g service for either.


Huh??

Cheers,
Canuck
 
Posts: 7117 | Location: The Rock (southern V.I.) | Registered: 27 February 2001Reply With Quote
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I bought an Iridium sat phone from a person on Ebay. The phone is " Unlocked " so all I did was to buy a sim card and I can use the phone anywhere in the world. It works great and I am happy with the unit.
 
Posts: 50 | Location: South America | Registered: 06 August 2004Reply With Quote
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I had very good success by using the following phone card company:

http://www.iDPhoneCard.com/

They charge me approximately $.14 per minute to call RSA, and $.16 per minute to call Namibia from the US.

What I did was buy a few phone cards in Namibia (at a convenience store, and at the telecom office in Windhoek) called home and had the wife or my business partner call me back using the iDPhonecard.

The cool thing about this card is you can pre-register up to 8 numbers that can call you "pin free" which makes it easier and faster.

There are a few drawbacks:
1) You need to be near a landline or cell in the country you are in. Won't work out in the bush. But for a ranch hunt it's great.
2) In Windhoek I had to look around to find a pay phone downtown that had a number posted on it for a call back.

Just my 2 cents.


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Posts: 66 | Location: Tucson | Registered: 08 May 2003Reply With Quote
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Great info! Thanks!
 
Posts: 26 | Registered: 15 May 2005Reply With Quote
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While on safari, taking calls is not my cup of tea. However, having the option of calling home at my leasure is highly desirable. Iridium is a cost effective option in the bush.
 
Posts: 34 | Registered: 13 August 2005Reply With Quote
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