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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Connecting on a cellular level

Have you ever wanted to use your existing mobile phone abroad without racking up all the international charges? I have figured out how to do it—at least in Argentina.

I have a contract with T-Mobile and I received my phone as part of the package. The thing is, most big cell phone companies provide their customers with a locked phone to prevent them from using another service. However, T-Mobile will let you unlock your phone if you’re planning to travel abroad. The unlock code will only work with a foreign SIM card installed.

International SIM cards can be purchased over the internet, but they are expensive. I’ve seen them for around $80. If you wait until you arrive at your destination, it will be a lot cheaper.

Just a couple doors down from the South American Explorers clubhouse in Buenos Aires, I found a mobile phone store. I bought a SIM card for less than $7. I put it in the phone, entered the unlock code that T-Mobile gave me and then waited for 24 hours while my new phone number registered to the local cell phone network called Personal. My number is temporarily 011 (54911) 6461-0640 until my return to the United States when I will reinstate my original SIM card.

The last step in the process was to buy a phone card and charge up the phone with prepaid minutes. Cards can be purchased for 10, 20 or 50 pesos.

The good news is that I can receive calls and text messages for FREE. However, it can be expensive for the caller in the States. If you want to send me a text message, it will cost you about 35 cents, depending on your service.

There is a way around that. On the Personal website, you can send and receive text messages at no cost. Visit to try it out. All instructions are in Spanish, but it’s relatively easy to figure out.

In the boxes with numbers preceding them, type 11 in the first box and 6461-0640 in the second box. Just below that box, type your name. Below that, type your message to me.
When you’re ready to send it to me, click on “ENVIAR.”

Leave the window open, and my response will appear on the left-hand side.

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