Internet, Phone, and TV: PCS Italy

Helpful Pages


Phones

Cell Phones

  • You have two options for being able to use a cell phone in Europe:
  1. You can purchase a European cell phone when you arrive in Europe. Keep in mind cell phones are not cheap. OR
  2. You can have your phone “unlocked” by your current cell phone service provider BEFORE you leave the U.S. (some phones may already be unlocked).  Having your phone unlocked allows your phone to to work with different cell phone carriers and European SIM cards. <– most choose this option!  
  • Note: Even if you do have your phone unlocked, do your own research and make sure your phone has GSM (global network) capability. Verizon assured me that my phone was unlocked, but they failed to mention that my phone did not have GSM capability, so I came to Italy with a phone for paperweight.

Getting Service

  • You can sign up for cell phone service with the cell phone store on post (usually at the PX) or other stores off-post. Stores on post might be more expensive than off post, but some feel more secure going through the store on post and the representatives speak English if you ever need help.
  • AVOID signing a  cell phone contract! They can be difficult to get out of and there may be no such thing as a  military clause overseas, even when using a company located on post.

Phone Service Providers in Italy

  • WIND (located in the PX)
    • WIND is a major cell phone company in Europe. Almost everyone on military bases in Europe will have WIND cell phones. WIND has two types of plans:
    • Pay as you Go Plan: you won’t receive a bill in the mail, but they will deduct money from your SIM card every month on the day you opened the account. You must always keep a positive balance for your phone to work. <- most choose this option!
      • Cost: 10 euro ($13) a month (unlimited call/text to other WIND phones in country, 100 minutes and 100 texts to other phones in Italy, and 1 GB data)
      • You can add money to your SIM card online at Rechargemysim.net.The website uses Paypal, so you can use your credit or debit card.
      • You can check your balance by dialing *123# or downloading the MyWIND app.
    • Contract: a bill arrives every other month. Most suggest not signing a contract and instead choose pay as you go.
    • Calling Internationally 
      • You can buy phone cards from WIND to call the U.S. for €5 each (40 minutes).
      • If calling internationally, you will pay by the minute, unless you have an international plan.
      • Wind has an international plan for Europe that includes 30 text messages and 30 minutes of talk each day. The cost is 2€ for activation (valid for 30 days) and 2.50€ per day of use. You only pay if you use it! This may be useful if your spouse is going to another European country for training, rather than buying a new SIM card in that country.
        • What counts as use? Turning on your cell phone (regular mode) or taking it off airplane mode in another country will charge usage each day when it connects to a satellite. Remember: you can use Wi-fi in airplane mode, but you won’t be able to use GPS.
  •  Telecom
    • If you sign up for a land-line with Telecom, you can sign up for unlimited calls to stateside land lines for about €10 per month
  • Vonage
    • Cost: $30//month
    • You can have a stateside number and you can call any stateside number,
    • You can also call international numbers for an additional fee
    • Phone messages can be e-mailed to you when you are traveling.

International Calling Apps/Programs

Unless you have an international calling plan or SIM card, you will not be able to make a normal phone call/text back to the states even if it is an 1-800 number. Here are a list of popular apps and programs used to keep in contact:

  • Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
    • Converts analog signals from a phone into digital data that can be transmitted over the internet
    • Some VoIP software is free. Others use providers such as Vonage
    • Sometimes you can even keep a U.S. phone number.
  • Magic Jack
    • Free app for calling the U.S.
    • You can call any stateside number (cell or land-line)
    • When calling, the caller ID will show a random number.
    • Uses Wi-Fi or use data
    • I love this app for making phone calls to businesses back in the states like my dental insurance company.
    • Paid version of Magic Jack
      • You will be assigned a phone number
      • Voicemails can be e-mailed to you while traveling.
      • Magic Jack plus version does not require the computer to be on to use the phone.
  •  Skype
    • Allows video calling. It is free to use if you are calling other Skype users.
    • Can be downloaded as a phone app or used on the computer.
    • You can buy credits very cheap to call land lines and cell phones.
    • You can pay to have a phone number that people can call you at.
    • My skype video call quality in Italy is actually better than when I was in the states
  • Tango
    • Free call and messaging app
    • Video calling
    • Group chats
  • Viber
    • smartphone app that must be downloaded by both parties wishing to text each other.
    • You only need a good cell phone signal.
    • Great call quality
  • WhatsApp
    • Free texting app
  • Facebook Messenger
    • free app that must be downloaded by both parties wishing to call each other.
    • Works like a normal phone call.
    • Press the telephone symbol when messaging someone.
    • Very easy to use.
    • Great call quality
  •  FaceTime
    • For iPhone users to communicate with other iPhone users
  • Google Hangouts
    • Cost: FREE
    • Windows and Mac compatible

Travel Outside of Italy

  • During training outside of Italy, such as Germany, you can purchase a prepaid SIM card for Germany and add minutes to it at the shopette. It’s 5€ and unlimited plans are around 10-15€ through t-mobile. If you can’t make it to the shoppette to put more euro on the phone, have someone back in Italy o it for you, either at the Wind store or by calling a certain number that allows you to recharge any number.
  • Wind has an international plan for Europe that includes 30 text messages, 30 minutes of talk, and 100 MB data each day. The cost is 2€ for start up and 2.50€ a day. You only pay if you use it! This may be a good option for those that can’t make it to the shopette in Germany to purchase a SIM card.

Internet

Signing Up

  • Once you have a house you can sign up for home phone service and internet through the WIND store on post, or through other companies on the Italian economy.
  • WIND will be able to assist you in finding out what internet service providers are available in your area and make appointments to set up your internet. Appointments to set up internet are often booked two weeks out, so make an appointment as soon as you sign your lease.
  • Telecom seems to be what most have for internet.
    • Activation Fee: 96 euro (on the first bill or split into different ones)
    • Internet Without Limits: 76 euro every two months
    • Tutto (home phone plan): 90 euro every two months. Internet and unlimited calls to land lines and cellphones in Italy. Another 20 euro for unlimited calls to Western Europe and the U.S. land lines.
    • Closing fee: 35 euro on the last bill when you close the line
  • To sign up:
    1. Driver’s License (no military ID’s) or Passport (they will make a copy of it)
    2. Codice Fiscale
    3. Home Address
    4. Cell Phone Number
  • For Telecom you will need to purchase an ADSL modem or ADSL modem/router combination. These can sometimes be purchased at the WIND store or at MediaWorld in Palladio Mall.

Wi-Fi


TV

American vs. European TV Systems

  • Europe uses a different TV system (PAL) than in America (NTSC), so your American TV will not pick up European signals.
  • If you only have an NTSC system, you will still get some basic American channels, but you won’t get any of the British or European channels through PAL.

Accessing American TV Networks

  • The Army will loan the sponsor an AFN decoder so Families can receive Armed Forces Network television, which features news and various American programs.
  • You can access AFN by using an AFN decoder and satellite dish (if you live off-post) or through a cable system they supply on post.
  • When accessing TV from mobile devices (phone, computer) you may get a message that says “this video is not currently available in your country or region”. Basically the network detects that you are trying to access it from a foreign IP address. Ways around this involve “masking your IP address”, so that they cannot tell where you are accessing their site from.
  • Different methods of accessing American TV are described here: American TV and Movie Choices While Overseas
  • You can also look at: 5 Websites to Watch American TV in Italy (For Free)
  • Personally, I use Hola Better Internet to unblock/watch Netflix, Hulu, and all of my other shows on ABC, etc.

Purchasing a TV

  • The PX on post sells TVs that can run on both systems and that are dual voltage, enabling you to use them both in Europe and the U.S. without any modifications
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