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U.S. Cellular coverage in Germany, NL, Austria?

Hi all,

Asking a question for my mother-in-law. Both of us are heading to Europe in the next couple months, on different trips. I plan to activate an international data package with T-Mobile before I go. I've read that T-Mobile has great coverage in Europe (but please correct me if that's wrong!)

She has US Cellular. She recently went to a store and asked about activating international coverage, and the sales lady quietly mentioned that a SIM card purchased overseas would be a better bet. Although a generation younger than her, I don't feel confident enough to help her navigate this, although I told her I knew about it, and I also know she could purchase one on Amazon and set it up either right before she leaves or when she arrives. She has VERY limited time to spend at the airport upon arrival.

Would her US Cellular international coverage be okay for occasional use? She will be on a cruise along the Rhine. Thank you for any help you can provide us both :)

Posted by
531 posts

So I've done two trips to Europe (UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, NL, Switzerland), two weeks each, over the past five years. I've had Sprint the entire time, which was recently acquired by T-Mobile. I've also heard great things about T-Mobile's international service.

Here's how my experience went, upon arrival in each country, I would get a text message from Sprint asking me if I wanted to upgrade to 3G data package (default was 2G), which was $25 per week. Came out to $50 total for my trip, which I thought was pretty good. Never had any issues and was able to use all my usual apps and email as normal.

I don't know anything about US cellular coverage, but based on what I've read from Rick, he doesn't recommend getting a European SIM card unless you're staying for a longer amount of time (my memory may not be correct on this.) How long is she planning to stay? Is she a heavy data user? Does she text a lot? Does she does she plan to make a lot of phone calls during the trip? Those are other things to consider.

Posted by
2547 posts

Strictly speaking, there's no US cellular coverage in Europe. What happens is your US data plan will use a local European network. For example, a US T-moble plan will piggyback onto the German T-Mobile network and be charged accordingly.

Alternatively, you could buy a local German SIM for the same T-Mobile network and pay a lot less. So it's less about the network coverage but more about cost and convenience. Pay more to stick with your own provider or save and buy a local SIM.

Posted by
18504 posts

My TMobile has worked flawlessly from Istanbul to Scotland (including Austria, Germany) for the last 10 years.

International service is now part of the basic plan, so if you have TMobile, why mess with anything else?

Posted by
8586 posts

T-mobile is fine, its just the US Cellular that is the problem. I'll just note that if you put a European SIM in your mother's phone, she now has a European phone number, and all her contacts dont necessarily transfer. Thats would be confusing to me. How much does she really expect to use that phone while traveling, and for what uses? If it were me, I'd just buy a local burner phone for the temporary local use (data, maps) during the trip. A lot of communication can be done via wifi.

Posted by
81 posts

@James — I myself am not thinking of switching away from T-Mobile, as it seems to be a great option (even though my plan is so old that I do have to pay extra for international use), but my mother-in-law who has US Cellular is worried her phone coverage may not be great while she is overseas. She was hoping to use the same strategy I am using, but due to her service provider, maybe it’s not a great plan. I came here to see if anyone has had luck with US Cellular, or what else might be a good option for someone on a time crunch upon arrival, and with limited tech knowledge.

I did mention the possibility of a “burner” phone to her, too. I’m not sure how much time she’ll have to get one before she needs to meet up with her cruise group. She lands in to Frankfurt and says she only has 45 minutes of wiggle room at the airport.

@Jill — she won’t be using her phone much. Less than two weeks.

Posted by
81 posts

@ramblin on — So for the convenience of not having to get a new number or hassle with a SIM card, would US Cellular provide my mother-in-law with adequate coverage? She has little time on arrival to get new tech purchased and situated.

Posted by
5687 posts

As someone else explained, US Cellular doesn't have service in Germany at all. Neither does T-Mobile or Verizon. Instead, if your US carrier offers an international roaming plan, then you might be able to roam on one of the German mobile networks. (Strictly speaking, the German T-Mobile isn't the same company as the US T-Mobile, though they have common ownership.)

In addition, the PHONE itself has to have the capabilities to work in Germany. (Same applies whether you are using your US plan and roaming or buying a German SIM card - either way, you're still using German mobile networks.) They use different mobile frequencies in Europe than in the US. An old phone that works as LTE in the US may not work as LTE (4G) in Europe at all, because they use different LTE frequencies over there. Really new phones probably have all the required cellular frequencies to work well in Germany, but older phones may not. Older phones probably support slower 3G or 2G networks, but some of those have been phased out in Europe, so an old phone may barely work in Germany with any service plan.

T-Mobile offers seamless international roaming (though they slow down the speed - "throttle" it - from the fast speeds you are used to in the US). It works great for many people - so do the roaming options from Verizon and AT&T. But, in my opinion T-Mobile is really expensive for my phone use in the US. I pay only $15/month with Tello (or Mint Mobile previously), for unlimited talk and text and a few GB of data, and it works on the T-Mobile network anyway. T-Mobile proper would cost me hundreds of dollars a year extra for the "free" international roaming for my occasional trip overseas. This might be a big benefit to frequent travelers, but to me, it's not worth several hundred dollars a year just for that. It's easier to buy a SIM card for my occasional trip abroad..

Posted by
18504 posts

But the OP had TMobile, my service is about $20 a line and:


T-Mobile says that Magenta Max customers (and Business Unlimited
Ultimate customers) will get 5GB of high-speed data each month in over
210 countries. Previously, Magenta Max subscribers could expect speeds
around 256kbps in most countries. Now, they’ll get “the highest speed
data available, including 5G,” according to T-Mobile’s announcement
video. Obviously, this is describing the best-case scenario; your
speeds will depend on the coverage wherever you’re visiting.

Regular Magenta customers are getting that same deal, but it’s limited
to 11 European countries: Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany,
Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
In the approximately 199 other countries, Magenta customers and most
other T-Mobile subscribers can expect to get around 256kbps speeds.
That is, however, an upgrade. Before now, non-Max customers were
getting around half that when traveling internationally.

And if it does slow down, its $5 a day, $30 a week or $50 a month.

Posted by
33 posts

I would not rely on US Cellular. We just returned from the BOE 14 tour (Italy, Germany, Switzerland and France) and my husband's US Cellular phone did not work unless on wi-fi. We were given a series of actions to follow including repeatedly turning the phone on/off/on but it never had service over our 17 days in Europe. US Cell did give us a number to call if we couldn't get it to work, however we didn't want to spend our vacation time talking to the phone company so we never called. My Verizon phone, on the other hand, worked fine and we got by with just my phone.