In a previous post I talked about bringing your unlocked GSM phone to use in Italy and Codice Fiscale. Now it’s time to look at the different options available to travellers.
For our trip we’re planning on bringing two phones with us so that my wife and I can call each other if we get separated from each other (i.e. she is shopping for clothes, shoes, or stationary).
Prepaid sim cards seem to be common for use by locals as well as tourists and the websites of each carrier seem geared towards local users with little or no English available. There are 4 primary GSM providers in Italy: Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), Vodafone, Wind Telecomunicazioni, and Hutchison 3G Italia (H3G, 3 ITA, or 3). PrepaidGSM.net has a great page describing the operators and their plans. Also be sure to read through their Europe forums.
From what I can gather you can typically pick up these cards at dedicated storefronts for around 10 euros and get 10 euros worth of credits. Rates for calls within Italy range from about 9 to 20 cents per minute and per-call fees of 0-16 cents, depending on which prepaid package you choose.
The following calculations are based on the information provided by the Italy page at PrepaidGSM.net. Vodaphone was left our because their plans re a bit complicated. Assuming that we call each other 25 times on our trip, each call lasts exactly 2 minutes, and we send 25 texts, our costs would as follows on a sample of the various plans:
Wind 12: 13.75 euros
Wind 5: 14 euros
Tim Welcome Home: 12.25 euros
3 Power 10: 7.5 euros
3 Senzascatto: 12:75 euros
The voice plans across all of the carriers seem more or less equivalent. In terms of coverage, TIM seems to have complete coverage of Italy, Wind is only missing small pockets of coverage, and H3G has pretty good coverage in northern Italy but spotty coverage around Tuscany.
Other key factors in choosing between carriers are the options and bundles for messaging, unlimited calls to specific numbers, international dialing, and international roaming. Assuming that I might make ten 5 minute calls to Canada, for the following packages I would pay:
Wind Call your Country: 12 euros
TIM Welcome Home: 8.45 euros
H3G International 3: 15 euros
Given that I’m not planning to phone home or work very often, right now it looks like the TIM Welcome Home package might work best for me. The only other things left to think about are the Data Plans and high speed data coverage areas.
See Part 3 of this series: Mobile Data