Subject: European cellular phones
Hello everybody

Cellular phones are both useful and annoying. I'm not talking about the endless ringing and other people's loud conversations you're forced to listen to in bars, at the beach and on the trains, but because of many phone companies and complicated rules. In Italy there are 3 companies, (TIM, Vodafone Omnitel and Wind), everyone with its net, tariffs and rules. Some of the Best Buy cellular phones on sale at department stores or electronics shops are branded by one of the companies, as the price includes some prepaid traffic. Because they hope you'll spend more, the price of the phone is usually lower than its commercial value, but sometimes you can only use that phone with the company's microchip, because of a software protection. This has nothing to do with manufacturer's brand, just with the tiny logo of phone company printed on the device. I'm not sure if Anne's French phone will work with an Italian microchip; best thing would be e-mail their customer care dept. and ask. So, if you're planning to buy a cell phone in Italy and you want to use it everywhere in Europe, you better buy one of the unmarked ones, for a slightly higher price, and then ask for a prepaid card (microchip) which you will replace if you go to a different country. The price for a cellular phone, excluding fancy new models, starts at 60 euros (now equal to 60 usd). The average price for phone activation and tax is about 50 euro, half of which is prepaid traffic; some paperwork must be signed at the shop. The recharging cards are sold at 10-25-50 euro from tobacconists, newspaper kiosks and even ATMs. One more thing you need to know is the prepaid card is good for calling Italian or foreign numbers, and receiving calls from Italian numbers but, because of the split-charge system, it could have some limitation when receiving calls from abroad or if you are outside Italian net coverage. If you need more detailed informations, just ask.

Bye

Paolo Trieste, Italy