Setting Up Telephone and Cell Phone Service

Setting up phone service when you moved out of the country used to be a lot more complex. With the Internet and voice-over-ip services, everything is pretty simple.

Telephone: Vonage
I’ve had a Vonage phone number in the NYC (212) area code for almost four years now and it’s moved wherever I’ve gone. I’m keeping this number in Buenos Aires so that friends and family can contact me by dialing a US number, and I can make unlimited calls to the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. I signed up for a year of service in advance for $239.99 (about $20 per month). With Vonage, I can also add unlimited calling to a number of other countries including Argentina for $6/month. Unfortunately, this does not apply to cell phone numbers, which mostly operate on the calling party pays system. Calls to cell phones cost $.21/minute, so I won’t be forwarding my missed Vonage calls to my cell phone as I did in the US.

I’ve also read that a number of people have used Skype, so you may want to check that out. I’ve been a long time Vonage subscriber and have been happy with the service. If you decide to sign up for service, contact me for a referral and we’ll both get up to 2 months of free service.

Cell Phone: T-Mobile
I have read that electronics can be expensive and outdated in Argentina and the best thing to do is to bring your US cell phone with you (provided it is quad-band). Then, buy a pre-paid local SIM card to use in your existing phone. Since I have a Blackberry Pearl and have been pretty happy with it, that’s what I’m doing. The first thing I needed to do was call T-Mobile and get the unlock code for my phone. The unlock code is needed to allow your phone to work on a different network than the one where you purchased your phone.  They were surprisingly helpful and told me that I would have the unlock code and instructions in an email within 24 hours. Sure enough, by the next morning I had the code and instructions for unlocking my phone.

Luckily, my T-mobile phone was out of contract, so there were no termination fees for me to pay.  I was very attached to my (917) number though and wanted to keep it.  I had three options:

  1. Transfer it over to Vonage and tie it into my exisitng account as a virtual phone number for $4.99 per month
  2. Transfer it over to Vonage as a new account or a second line on my existing account for $14.99 – $24.99 per month
  3. Switch it with T-Mobile from a monthly account to a pre-paid account and only pay for what I used

I decided that Option 3 worked best for me. I could keep my number and also have a SIM card and phone to use when I take trips back to the US, plus there is no monthly fee to pay. I can also set my voicemail message to let people know what my Vonage number is if they want to reach me. Unfortunately, you cannot set up your pre-paid numbers to forward to your Vonage phone number as you can with a regular cell phone plan.

For some more reading, Wikipedia has a good article on telephone numbers in Argentina.