There’s uncertain talk of a European trip coming up, so I’m making nonspecific preparations for it. One of the questions I have is how to avoid hefty roaming charges from AT&T.
In previous trips abroad I’d purchased overseas voice and data add-ons so I could use my iPhone. That works, up to a point. On my return home from a trip to Taiwan a few years ago I got a call from AT&T informing me that I’d gone over my data limit and was facing a $1500 charge for the usage. They were kind enough to slot me into a new plan that saved me from paying that full amount. AT&T earned my respect for that.
Earlier this year AT&T started unlocking out of contract iPhones. The process starts by completing a request form. I’m not entirely clear what happens after that, but it apparently takes 5-7 days to get to the next step. This would seem to make it difficult to unlock the rumored iPhone 5, at least in the short term, but it does mean I can use my current–and hopefully soon to be old–iPhone abroad.
Unlocking your iPhone is only the first step however. Finding service provider with a prepaid SIM plan is another matter. Ironically, if you want to use your iPhone across Europe without difficulty as you cross borders, you’re probably better off just suffering the roaming charges on AT&T. But if you’re willing to spend the time figuring out local plans you can save some money with a local provider.
Googling for information can be difficult for non-native speakers, as the pages with the correct information are not SEOed for English search terms, but once you find the right site and learn the terms for the product you’re looking for, new opportunities emerge. The following list of carriers in three countries is incomplete and probably erroneous, but it’s what I’ve found so far:
- UK: Orange UK offers a pay as you go SIM plan titled “Dolphin” that offers 1GB of data and unlimited SMS, though no voice minutes, for £30.
- France: Orange FR offers a rechargement mobicarte 3G plan with 975MB of data, but no voice minutes or SMS for €50.
- Netherlands: T-Mobile NL offers the iSmart Sim Only plan with 1.5GB of data, 300 voice minutes, and unlimited SMS for €31.5.