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Mobile Guru: Ordering pizza from Italy

Mama mia! What's all this about tri-band? Do you need to upgrade your handset to go travelling?

Mobile Guru: Ordering pizza from Italy
Mama mia! What's all this about tri-band? Do you need to upgrade your handset to go travelling?

I will be travelling overseas next year to Europe, specifically Italy, and I was wondering what I will need to consider when buying a new phone. Will I need a triband, or will a dualband suffice. What does all that band stuff mean anyway? --Matt

GSM services operate on four main frequency bands around the world: 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz. Australian GSM networks use the 900 and 1800 bands, similar to European networks. However, American networks are usually networks based around the 850 and 1900 bands instead.

Mobile phones that are advertised as dual-, tri-, or quad-bands can respectively function on two, three, or four or the above GSM bands. So, dual-band phones sold in Australia generally cover the 900 and 1800 MHz bands. Tri-band phones typically cover 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands so they can be jump over to some American networks as well as Australian/European networks. Ideally, globe trekkers would want to carry a quad-band phone that can operate on all these networks (you'll need one of these to roam in Panama or Ecuador, for instance).

Answering your question Matt, according to the GSM Association's Web site, three out of the four Italian networks use the 900/1800 MHz bands so a dual-band phone that works here should do the trick over there. The fourth Italian network, owned by Hutchison, is a 3G network so a phone from 3, such as LG's U8110 or Sony Ericsson's Z1010, are other options.

You can find coverage maps for most countries, details on roaming and Australian network partnerships on the GSM Association's Web site.

Here are some steps you should take before leaving the country to ensure you stay connected:

  1. Check that the country and city you are going to currently has coverage.
  2. Call your local network operator to activate a global roaming service.
  3. Make sure you can make international calls from your mobile phone.

When you arrive and switch on your phone, after about 10 seconds most will automatically select a network that has a partnership with your carrier and the name of the network you are connected to should appear on your phone. If a network isn't automatically selected, you will need to select one manually through the settings on your phone, usually found in the menu under "Manually Select Network" or something to that effect.

To phone home, you'll need to dial +61 (Australia's international access code) then the area code and number. So, say you really wanted to order a pizza in Sydney from overseas, instead of dialling 9892 1111 you'd need to call +61 2 9892 1111. Remember to drop the first digit of the area code or mobile number.

When you are roaming overseas, people generally call you from Australia dialling your usual mobile number as if you were just down the road. However, if you give out your phone number to people you meet overseas, you'll need to provide your international number (eg. if you're mobile phone number is 0410 321 xxx, your international number would be +61 410 321xxx).

When roaming internationally, you'll probably be charged not only for making calls (at a higher rate) but to receive calls as well. Ask your mobile phone provider for overseas charge rates and check whether SMS/MMS messages can be sent on their partner's networks and at what cost.

Have you tried international mobile roaming? Have you considered it? Let me know your thoughts below!

Whatever your question, comment or concern, if you'd just like to know more about a feature or need some advice, we'll offer our insight into these matters every week. Send them along to