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 Wed 18. October 2017
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Cell Phones in Switzerland

Generally speaking, cellular coverage in Switzerland is exceptional. You will find that even in remote villages or on mountaintops there is usually cell phone coverage. Not only is the coverage exceptional, but so is the quality. In Switzerland, as in most countries in the world, the cell phone standard used is the GSM standard (Global System for Mobile Communications). Unlike the United States, the vast majority of overseas countries has adopted this system in order to provide seamless cell phone service from country to country. The GSM standard has been the standard of choice due to its high digital quality and ability to add different platforms to it, such as GPRS and 3GSM. In fact, only recently have cell phone service providers begun to seriously adopt the GSM standard in the US. Does this mean that you can use your US or Canadian cell phone overseas? Most likely, the answer is no. While the majority of overseas providers use either the 900 and/or the 1800 Mhz network for cellular communication, North American providers use the 1900 Mhz network. However, these providers who do happen to use the GSM network also offer cellular phones that will work on all of the networks. In fact, these phones, known as tri-band cell phones, are becoming more and more prevalent. If your current cell phone does not have this capability, you will need to either rent or purchase a cellphone that will work on the overseas networks. Your current cellular provider can give you what is known as a SIM card, which is the brain of the phone, that you can easily slip into the GSM phone. This way, you will be able to retain your current phone number in the US or Canada even while overseas. Bear in mind that you will be paying high roaming fees so, while it may be convenient to be able to keep your US or Canadian number, you will be paying these high rates for the non-essential calls that you are likely to receive. Roaming with your current provider is usually most suitable for the business traveler who absolutely needs to be reachable at a particular number at any expense.

If you don't currently use a cell phone here, you can also rent one either at the airport prior to your departure or once you land in Switzerland. While both of these options are readily available, they are definitely not the least expensive approach to having cell phone communication whilst in Switzerland - or any other overseas destination for that matter. Cell phone rental companies usually charge a rental fee for the handset, plus on average about $2 per minute for the airtime and usually there are minimum use requirements. You will usually receive a UK phone number through a cell phone rental company.

By far, the least expensive solution, yet also the less known, is to purchase a prepaid Swiss SIM card and to either rent or purchase a GSM cell phone for the US and/or overseas (in other words, a cellphone that uses 900/1800 Mhz at the very least or a tri-band - 900/1800/1900 Mhz if you would like to use the phone in North America as well). Having a Swiss SIM card will allow you to take advantage of the local rates as the Swiss do, which, not only are a fraction of those found through traditional channels as explained above but, will also allow you to receive unlimited free incoming calls from anywhere in the world! Rates to the US are approximately $0.45 and domestic rates are slightly higher. You will get a Swiss cell phone number which means that while you are getting free incoming calls, people calling you from overseas will be paying long distance fees.

Although you will have a different phone number than your domestic one, you can still receive your calls without having to tell everyone in your address book what your phone number is. Simply leave a message on your voice mail with your new Swiss cell phone number and ask people to use that. Also, if you purchase your SIM card prior to your departure, not only will you know your number in advance but you can start using your phone just as soon as you arrive in Switzerland.

In sum, there are 3 options for attaining cell phone service, the first, roaming with your current provider, may be suitable for some businessmen. The second solution, may be viewed mostly as a last minute resort since the main advantage is that there are cell phone rental agencies in most international airports. The third option, allowing you to pay the rates that the locals pay and thanks to the low rates, including unlimited free incoming calls, is for suitable for anyone and leaves you just that much more cash for the Rolex you always wanted.
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