If you've ever tried using your cell phone beyond U.S. borders, you know that our mixed bag of protocols makes it incompatible with most international networks. You could pick up phones and prepaid packages in destination countries, but you'd have to send business contacts your new number.
SIM cards let you keep your U.S. phone-at least, GSM models. These tiny cards slip into the battery compartment and let you use your regular mobile number. Nextel subscribers can be reached in 80 countries using the company's i2000 GSM phone ($225 street). SIM cards are free, but calls run from $0.29 to $4.99 per minute. AT&T customers pay $1.50 per minute across 120 countries, but are charged an extra $7.99 month. AT&T phones cost $80 to $200, plus $25 for a SIM card.
If you can do without your U.S. mobile number, you can make outgoing calls on your GSM phone at local rates. When you arrive at your destination, pick up a SIM card (about $25) and prepaid minutes. You'll need an access code from your U.S. provider. But cards can be reused during your next visit.
San Francisco-based Erik P. Nelson is a frequent contributor to Entrepreneur.
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