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Sang-drax
08-12-2007, 04:08 AM
This tuesday, I'm moving to Urbana, Illinois to study for one year. I probably should have many questions for you, but right now I can only think of one:

I have a cell phone which I know works in the US. I need to buy a SIM card for it as soon as possible though. How/where can I do that? Pre-paid SIM cards like we have in Sweden would be nice, to get rid of bills -- is it possible?

It would be really nice if I had a working cell phone asap, because I going to meet up with a friend to buy his car etc.

EDIT: Is there anyone here who is/has been to UIUC?

matsp
08-12-2007, 05:51 AM
Yes, you can get prepaid sim-cards in the US. You may want to check which system is prevalent in the area, since some areas don't have GSM/3G coverage in the US, which means that you need a US-style CDMA phone - those are usually not what you find in shops in Sweden (or elsewhere in Europe) - the "US capable" phones are GSM-triband phones that can do the 1900MHz that the US market uses. Some areas are covered by both GSM and CDMA based systems, but often the GSM solution is then more expensive, so you may find that a CDMA-based phone "pays for itself".

I tried looking up which network covers that area, but my 2 minutes on google didn't result in any good results. You could of course just see what's what when you get there.

--
Mats

DavidP
08-12-2007, 10:14 AM
This site has a lot of good info on cell phones and their usage in the USA:

http://www.cellphoneinfo.com/

Sang-drax
08-12-2007, 03:42 PM
It seems that Urbana is covered by GSM 1900: http://www.rentcell.com/coverage-map-usa-gsm.htm

Where do I buy a SIM card? In convenient stores or more specialized stores?

whiteflags
08-12-2007, 03:48 PM
It seems that Urbana is covered by GSM 1900: http://www.rentcell.com/coverage-map-usa-gsm.htm

Where do I buy a SIM card? In convenient stores or more specialized stores?

Does this help?

http://www.planetomni.com/FAQ_sim.shtml#13

Sang-drax
08-12-2007, 04:22 PM
Excellent site! I wish I found that a little bit earlier, so I could've recieved my card here in Sweden.

VirtualAce
08-12-2007, 04:43 PM
Going to spend some time at the U OF I eh? Good school.

You cannot just buy a SIM card and hope everything works. I live in IL near Urbana and the only network that is using SIM cards is Cingular or now at&t. Cingular will offer pre-paid minutes but you will have to go into their store and buy them and your phone must support their SIM card. Cingular offers the best plans, best coverage, and the best service around here. The others just um...suck and AFAIK do not use SIM cards. The other main service providers around here are Sprint and Verizon.

And regardless of what that site may say, I live here and trust me you are going to have trouble just buying a SIM to use in your phone. Most of the networks around here are proprietary so that your phone, while still being just a cell phone, will only work on a Cingular or Verizon network. I had a Cingular phone that absolutely would not work on another network.

If you were a super uber elite haxor like on Live Free or Die Hard you could just hack into any network in a couple of minutes. ;)

matsp
08-12-2007, 04:49 PM
Hmm. I think SIM cards are part of the GSM phone standard - but I could be wrong. However, some phones are locked to a particular service provider (e.g. when you buy a "reduced price" phone from Cingular, and they have put a lock on so that the phone will not accept a SIM from another service provider). CDMA may not be using SIM-cards, I don't know much about CDMA. [I used to work on GSM base-stations, so I do know a bit about that]

It's worth looking into which service provider covers the particular area tho', since although other service providers will allow "roaming" (that is, you can use other networks), you will be paying extra for that service. Or it may be "blocked" from your service. Read the fine-print on your subscription contract.

--
Mats

VirtualAce
08-12-2007, 04:57 PM
Then perhaps the only company using GSM here is Cingular. My friends who do not use Cingular do not have SIM cards in their phones. Cingular is the way to go around here. It's easy and their stores are everywhere.

I'm not saying Cingular is perfect and do not believe the hype of the network with the fewest dropped calls because it's pure crapola. Driving from Springfield to Champaign you will lose the call at least 6 times.

matsp
08-12-2007, 05:07 PM
I can't honestly remember the GSM and non-GSM areas in the US - I know most of the really densely populated area operators prefer GSM (New York, Washington D.C., West Coast), whilst he less densely populated areas prefer CDMA (it's longer reach for one base-station, but less "compact" bandwidht usage - so GSM is better if you expect lots of usage in a small area, CDMA is better if you want use few base-stations to cover a larger area - say Texas or some such).

I also know that since the original "purchase" of GSM/CDMA technology licenses, "third party" service providers that provide the alternative service have cropped up, so I was for example able to use a GSM phone in the rural parts of Minnesota, which isn't exactly "prime territory for GSM" - but not in Wyoming.

Texas is OK too for the areas around Dallas, Austin and Houston that I've been to.

But I have a UK Vodafone contract - I've not spent enough time in the US to "need" local contract.

--
Mats

jwenting
08-13-2007, 01:19 AM
GSM is a worldwide standard (with the standardised bands being now 3 standards to cover for different usage patterns in different areas), and so are the SIM cards supporting it.

A GSM phone should therefore work with a card from any network provider (provided the phone isn't SIM-locked to a specific card or network which many phones now are).

As Mats said, don't expect universal GSM coverage in the US. Once you go outside major urban areas it quickly becomes spotty or disappears altogether. And with the very short range of the GSM1900 stations that can be as little as a few kilometers outside a city.

Sang-drax
08-13-2007, 03:26 AM
I guess I'll have to find a Cingular store (are they the same as AT&T?) and ask them.

Hmmm, I was told that there'd be absolutely no problem finding a working SIM card when I bought this phone here in Sweden. :)

matsp
08-13-2007, 06:28 AM
I guess I'll have to find a Cingular store (are they the same as AT&T?) and ask them.

Hmmm, I was told that there'd be absolutely no problem finding a working SIM card when I bought this phone here in Sweden. :)

I don't think Cingular and AT&T are the same thing, but it may be that Cingular "related" to AT&T - I don't know that. It shouldn't be too hard to find a shop tho'. There's two listed with maps in google.

--
Mats

jwenting
08-13-2007, 07:41 AM
Either Cingular split from AT&T and/or the same people own both. Whichever, there's a close relationship between them.

JaWiB
08-13-2007, 01:03 PM
Cingular is the new AT&T. Just type in Cingular on wikipedia and see what you get :)

VirtualAce
08-13-2007, 11:12 PM
Cingular is at&t and SBC is also now at&t. So SBC is now also Cingular. Hehe. If a=b and b=c then a=c.

SBC bought out AT&T but changed the name to at&t because the SBC name had gotten a bad rap due to past poor customer service and also because the at&t name was more widely known. Since the new at&t also wanted to get into the mobile market they then bought out Cingular. This now makes SBC Yahoo DSL now at&t DSL (not sure if they are still Yahoo or what relation at&t has to Yahoo!) and makes Cingular at&t even though they have not officially changed the name. But my billing for both has changed to 1 bill under the name at&t. This now makes at&t one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the world and poised to make the other companies shake in their boots.

I have a brother in law that works for SBC or the new at&t. Notice the new lower case letters. The folks at SBC got a kick out of this I guess.

You should be able to find a Cingular store in Champaign quite easily. Either go to the mall or Sam's club (requires membership) and talk to the people at the kiosk's or go to a Cingular store. The one thing Cingular has over all other cell phone companies is roll-over minutes. No other company can mimic roll-overs because Cingular not only invented it, they also patented and copyrighted it.

axon
08-18-2007, 06:11 AM
awesome - I went to U of I - chicago campus, and spent a semester at the urbana campus. It is a good school, and I know you'll enjoy urbana/champaign. Let me know when you're coming.

Sang-drax
08-18-2007, 08:19 AM
I'm here now and settling down. I was able to call with my phone using my Swedish provider when I arrived, but it is really expensive. It picks up the Cingular network though, so I'll probably get that soon. We'll see.

I haven't seen much yet, but so far the campus has been quite impressive.

VirtualAce
08-18-2007, 07:58 PM
The campus is huuuuuuuuuuuge. Hehe. And Illini basketball and football will be starting up soon.