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cellphone sim card unblocking
8 apr 2003
well, i finally got a cellphone, a sony ericsson t68i gsm phone, after
the at&t salescreature told me it would work fine in europe with other
sim cards... 

in europe through the back door, rick steves writes:

   many travelers now buy cheap cell phones in europe to make both local
   and international calls... for about $70 you can get a phone with
   a local number and $20 worth of calls...

   typical american cell phones don't work in europe. (and american phones
   that do work have horrendous per-minute costs.) european cellphones
   generally work throughout europe but require a different "chip" for 
   each country. buy your phone in europe at the now-ubiquitous corner
   phone mart or cell-phone counters in big department stores... i get
   the basic fixed rate: a straight 30 cents per minute to the united
   states and 15 cents per minute to any fixed or cell phone in the
   home country at any hour. receiving calls is generally free.
   confirm that your phone takes chips from other companies and in
   other countries (many are "locked" for only that companies chips.)

i called at&t to verify that the phone would work with other sim cards
(aka "chips"?), and they said i would need to unblock the phone using
a secret code so it would accept sim cards other than at&t's. they gave
me ericsson's number, who told me that at&t did the blocking themselves
and ericsson had no idea what unblocking code was required. the woman
i spoke with said at&t was reluctant to provide this code to their
customers, since they would rather have them pay at&t $1-2 per minute
for calls in europe, but they would eventually provide the code to any
customer "making a large enough stink" and had done so multiple times
in the past.

so i called at&t back and pushed harder. after a large delay, i was
transferred to a "resolution consultant" who flatly told me that at&t
had never provided any unblocking codes for phones sold in the us, as
a matter of policy, and would never do so. i explained to this death
star lady that the salesperson lied to me, and she said "un huh, un huh,
un huh, yes we lied, and wasted your time and gave you a runaround, but
you can always return the phone, since you only bought it 4 days ago,
and you have a month to return it. thank you so much for calling
the customer care department." 

meanwhilst, i ran into some french people who said "just take the phone
to a specialty store to debloque', and they will do that for about e5."
it will be more than a month before i can try this experiment, and i'm
concerned that i may end up having to keep this $24.99 phone with its
$240 yearly contract, even though it won't work in europe as rick steves
describes. would anyone have an opinion as to this deblocking store story? 

can i buy a cheap cellphone in europe that will also work frugally in the us?

i've heard that t-mobile will actually give you the unblocking code for
their t68i phone. i'm going to try them next.

nick




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