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Ciao Tutti,
My wife and I are moving to Italy in November. We both have iPhone 8’s which we bought through AT&T, still paying on contract to AT&T. What is the best way to move the phones, and transfer them to an Italian service? Do we need to pay off what we owe on the phones and buy a new SIM card in Italy? And if we do that will the information on the phones now transfer? Or is it better to buy phones in Italy?

Any advice is helpful.
 

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You would need to unlock the phones. Best to ask AT&T what they'll want for that.

Outside of that you've got one minor issue and one less minor.

Minor is the charger. You will likely want a new charger with an Italian plug on it eventually. Your old charger should work fine but will need an adapter. Sooner or later you'll tire of that. Or you'll lose the adapter.

The other thing is I don't know if your phone supports all the EU frequencies.
 

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You can ask AT&T to unlock your phone, but they most likely will not do so until it is fully paid off.

Other than that, yes, it should work in Italy with a local SIM card and, yes, your data/contacts/etc. should survive the change.

Do not get yourself locked into an Italian carrier until you have tested it fully in whatever area you are settling, as coverage can vary significantly. Typically, Italians do not lock in anyway; you buy a SIM card for a one-time fee (somewhere around €25 or so) that comes with xx number of minutes plus yy MB data. Then, you simply top it off the way you would a prepaid credit card. You can go into most tabacchi and many other locations and purchase a "ricaricard"; it used to be that you would actually get a card with a code hidden under a scratch-off (like a lotto scartch off card), but you may just as likely receive a simple printed receipt with the code visible. You then send a text including that code to actually top off your account.

Generally speaking, if you eventually want to be able to download apps that are designed for the European/Italy market, you will have to register a "local" credit card (that is, one with an Italian billing address) to your Apple account. Otherwise you be locked into only apps/music and so on that are available in the US (I'm presuming here) market.
 

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A quote from a GSM forum " Europe uses GSM 900 and 1800 bands". Another said with AT&T you can request an unlock on-line.
Plus 2100 and 2600.

IIRC Wind in the last auction only bought 2600 to save money. Tim and Vodafone bought the "better" 900 bands plus some of the rest.
 

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you buy a SIM card for a one-time fee (somewhere around €25 or so) that comes with xx number of minutes plus yy MB data. Then, you simply top it off the way you would a prepaid credit card. You can go into most tabacchi and many other locations and purchase a "ricaricard"; it used to be that you would actually get a card with a code hidden under a scratch-off (like a lotto scartch off card), but you may just as likely receive a simple printed receipt with the code visible. You then send a text including that code to actually top off your account.
Just a SIM is €10 including €5 of credit. It'll come with the base plan that is fairly expensive per minute or MB but no fixed monthly fee.

Or you can activate one of the many monthly offers. Much better if you actually use the phone but you're locked into a certain fee every month. OTOH €10 a month will seem like nothing compared to North American rates.

Most of the plans can be billed straight to your Italian bank account these days. Saves the hassle of getting a top up card. Obviously you'd need a bank account
 

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Mighy be worth looking at Iliad here, I know a few people using them and if they cover your area, they rate them high - and they are cheap too.
I use Iliad and they are good. They use the "3" network which might help you to check for coverage.

When I first bought an Italian SIM I went with Vodafone which was comparatively expensive and also had only moderate signal strength where I live. The signal used to drop out in the inner rooms of a stone building! Changed to Iliad and had a stronger signal and cheaper rate with a more generous data bundle.

Since then I have received regular texts from Vodafone offering to match Iliad's plan, but I'm not tempted as the Iliad signal is better.

Getting onto Iliad involves using a self-service kiosk, scanning your passport and so forth. I went through the process and was convinced that it would be a disaster, but was up and working within a couple of hours.
 

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. The signal used to drop out in the inner rooms of a stone building!.

That's a function of the frequency used. The lower bands 800/900 do better with obstacles. But the higher ones 2600 travel further. That means in cities the companies try and use the lower ones but in rural areas the higher ones.

Vodafone and TIM bought more frequencies. The other two (Now one) having less money didn't.
 

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That's a function of the frequency used.
Wasn't much better out in the street in fact. I think I was on the other side of the hill from the Vodafone tower.

In any case, my advice to anyone looking to get a mobile service at an address they will use frequently is to find people who subscribe to different providers and ask them round to your place. Then check the signal on their phones. There are free apps which give you detailed information about the frequency used, signal strength, latency etc, but just looking at the signal strength indicator on the phone would be a reasonable guide.
 

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Getting a SIM is cheap, so just try them all if need be. But I found most of the companies’ coverage (copertura) maps were surprisingly good and quite accurate. Trouble with our place was like most of Italy we’ve experienced – the hills. Both TIM and WIND were very good, but TIM for the internet was more unstable, but better for calls. In the end we were using one for data and the other for calls. Iliad, if the coverage is okay, is by far a better deal than any, hence the other big players are panicking to try to hold on to customers. Of course all things in this are change rapidly and once 5g arrives fully in a year or two – who knows!
 

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By the way, Iliad is actually a French company with presence in several European countries. that may give them greater financial resilience.
 

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The people in your neighbourhood will know who has the best coverage. You'll likely find one company having the majority of the users.

But all this assumes you're in a rural or smaller town. If you're in a bigger area with fibre you'll almost certainly want that. Vodafone and TIM both have offers which include international calls. Then the choice for SIM is much easier.
 
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