Cell Phones in Italy

Will my cell phone work in Italy?

This is a question I have received numerous times from people preparing to PCS to Caserma Ederle.

The answer is… it depends.

What kind of cell phone do you have? In the United States, most cell phones work on a different frequency than in Europe. If you have a typical American cell phone, it likely will not work in Italy. However, certain phones will work in Italy, but you will have to change the SIM card.

A Short Lesson on Cell Phone Frequency

In the United States, cell phones operate on a variety of frequencies determined by the cell phone carrier. These frequencies are all over the place, which is why you can not use any phone for any carrier. In Europe and Asia, the cell phones use GSM (Global System for Mobile communication). This means that the frequency of cell phones are much more consistent.  In Europe, cell phones typically operate on the 900-1800 band.

How do I know if MY cell phone will work?

If you have a dual or quad band cell phone, your phone will work in Italy. You will have to purchase a SIM card, which is pretty easy to do. Typically, AT&T and T-Mobile phones will work in Italy.  If you have a Verizon or Sprint phone, you are likely out of luck. Check your manual or bother ask the local customer service rep from your cellular phone carrier to find out if your phone is dual or quad band. Your phone must be unlocked to use it in Europe. Usually your carrier will help you unlock it if they know you are heading overseas. There are websites that can give you the information if your cell phone carrier is less than helpful.

Can I use my current cell carrier?

Some cell phone carriers in the United States do have international plans. I found these plans  excessively expensive and most had features I did not want. It may work for your family, though. Make sure you check it out.

Where can I get a cell phone once I am in Italy?

Go to the PX and visit the phone center there. Some of the staff speak better English than others, but overall they will understand what you need. I chose a very basic plan, because I don’t have a smart phone. I am happy with my WIND basic pay-as-I-go package for my cell phone, but other packages and carriers are available if you choose them.

Italian Cell Phone Carriers

As in the United States, you can choose from a variety of cell phone companies. The three big carriers are WIND, TIM and Vodaphone. The phone center at the PX can help you with any of these carriers. I have been told that Vodaphone does have English-speaking customer service reps, in case this is important to you.

No matter which phone or carrier you select, cell phone service in Italy is good. I have never had a problem with my phone. Once  you arrive, get a phone as soon as possible. It will make coordinating your housing search much easier!


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