Cell Phone Info



Note:  The following was posted in July, 2005.  With changes in the cell phone market, this information may not be current.


Does Lithuania have Cell Phone coverage?

You BET, and it should be quite good.  According to the CIA's Factbook, the country's population is 3.6 million, and there are over 2.1 million cell phones in use in the country.   Also, the major hotels all seem to advertise Wi-Fi internet connection.   Lithuania is pretty high tech!


Will my cell phone work in Lithuania?  Maybe.....

I did some checking to see which cell phone companies might have international roaming in Lithuania.  There was some conflicting information, but this is what I THINK that I have learned so far.


There are 3 major carriers in Lithuania.  All use GSM technology.  These carriers are:

  • OMNITEL              GSM 900mhz

  • UAB Bite GSM      GSM 900mhz

  • UAB TELE2           GSM 900/1800mhz

The above is important, because most Tri-Band US phones do not have 900mhz, so you are stuck to Tele2, and not all areas are covered by 1800 mhz.  Your coverage will be very limited.

What we found...

Just to close this topic, here is what we discovered after we arrived. First, if you really want good coverage, you really need a QUAD band cell phone, or at least a phone with both the 900 and 1800 frequencies.  With just one of the frequencies as most tri-band US phones have, coverage will be spotty. 

Second, you CAN use Cingular or T-Mobil roaming.  But, it will be expensive, and coverage may not be the best. 

The VERY simple and relatively inexpensive solution is to just get a local SIM card for a quad band phone.  Motorola sells several models with this.  Calls are under 20cents per minute, incoming calls are FREE, and calls to the US are less than 50 cents per minute.  (at least here in Lithuania)  Just pop in a card (about $1, and buy minutes as you need them.  You buy a card at any local store cash register, scratch the numbers on the back, and call a number on the phone to reload minutes using the card number and security number.  Simple!

When you dial, just dial +1000 000 00000.  The "+" is usually just holding the 0 key down.

If you get an inexpensive calling card before you leave, you can call TO the cell phone with no charge for incoming calls, and cost as low as 14 cents a minute using the calling card. 

Below is a map of typical cell phone coverage for Lithuania.  Check with your carrier to be sure that they have agreements with the local carriers and that you have the correct equipment for their market.

Map source:  www.gsmworld.com

Click on the map to zoom in



Typical SIM card locations in phones - under the battery.

Note:  not all cell phones use SIM cards. 

Using a U.S. Carrier, what does this mean?

First, you will need to have a GSM phone.  In the US, Cingular and T-Mobil use GSM for most of their phones, but not all are on the correct frequency.  (see below)   Verizon is not GSM, but they do have two somewhat expensive "global" phones, or they can rent you a phone just for your trip. (The local office just said "NO", but I did find the global info on their web site.  NexTel is not GSM, but they will also rent you a GSM phone to use while you are out of the country.  Between the rental fees and the per-minute fees, a rental phone can get a bit pricy.

Second, your phone has to be on the frequencies used in the country.  Most US GSM phones work on the 850 and 1900mhz frequencies.  Europe is on 900 and 1800mhz.  But, many of the GSM phones are Tri-Band and cover just the 1800mhz frequency.  Some are quad band and have both the 900 and 1800mhz frequencies.  From what I have been told, if you have both the 900 and 1800 frequencies AND go to an international plan while you travel (see below), you are covered, but if you only have one of the frequencies as on a tri-band phone, service may be less reliable.

International Roaming

If you find that you have a GSM phone that operates on the 900 and/or 1800 frequencies, you're almost there.  You need to go to your carrier and sign up for their international plans.  According to Cingular, you pay about $6.00 / month while you travel, and you can make calls to the US for as low as $.99 / minute. (but, they do not have an agreement in Lithuania so it is still $1.99/min.) Nextel and T-Mobil also have international coverage plans.  Check with your carrier and they will set you up.  Note, some may have other requirements, so be sure to check with your carrier soon.  In the end, to go to activate basic international calling on Cingular was free, and since we didn't get any discounts on their higher end plan it didn't make any sense to pay for that.

Most Important, before you decide, double check with your carrier.  I did get some conflicting information and all cell phone carriers are different.  It seems that even the carriers weren't sure. 

To make a call in the Cingular phone, dial +1 area code and phone number.  To get a +, hold the "0" key until a "+" appears.  Very convenient this way.


Using a Lithuania or Third Party carrier


Pre-Paid SIM Cards

for GSM SIM-card phones

An alternative to International Roaming through your US carrier is to purchase a pre-paid SIM card from the local carrier when you arrive.  The SIM card is a little card about the size of a postage stamp that tells your phone what your phone number is, what company provides service, and if you are on a pre-pay plan or on a monthly subscription.   IF you have a GSM phone, and if it is "unlocked" (see below) you can simply purchase a pre-paid card from the local carrier in Lithuania when you arrive or an international company in the US before you go and pop it in your SIM-card equipped GSM phone.  Pre-paid SIM cards should be easily available in Litnuania, much like we purchase pre-paid long distance cards here.  Telestial in San Diego sells them here.

Unlocking your GSM phone to use another SIM card

BUT, your Cell phone provider in the US doesn't want you buy air time from someone else, they want to be sure that only SIM cards they sell you can be used in your phone.  So, they lock the phone so that it can only use their SIM card.  You will need to have a phone that is unlocked, or have yours unlocked before you leave.  TechniCom in Santa Ana will unlock your phone for $30.00 so you can use any SIM card.  If nothing else, this will give you an option of using service from any GSM company at any time.  Check with them to see if there are any "side effects"  You, of course, must have an appropriate phone. Call them at 714-444-3663.  They are at MacArthur and Harbor behind Carls Jr.  Also, when you purchase the international sim card, you also purchase a new phone number. 

Why use a Pre-Paid SIM card?  Cost

1) Cost According to Telestial.com, the cost to call the US from Europe is less than $0.20 cents per minute!   Compared to $0.99 / minute for the Verizon international plan!!   And - according to Telestial, all incoming calls are free.  But, remember that the SIM card will have it's own phone number, which may be an advantage since it will prevent middle of the night calls from those in the US that don't know you are out of the country. 2) Service.  When you purchase a SIM card locally, you are putting your cell phone on their system.  If you rely on a SIM card from your US carrier, you are assuming that their roaming agreement with the foreign carrier will work as planned.

Cell Phone Rental

We can also assume that some local international carriers will offer phones and plans at the airport. It would be a lot more convenient if you  could just use the same phone number as we use at home.

Should you keep your US phone service and number?

1.  Others can call you by just calling your regular cell number.  This might make it easier for family, but others may not know you are traveling.  Nice that they just call your local number, but then all your calls may or may not be roaming, and the best plans are still a bit pricy.

2.  "Local" calls in Lithuania will be long distance.

Should you get a local SIM card and local number?

1.  Calling plans back home seem to be MUCH less expensive.  But, those calling from the US will have to know your Lithuania number and their calls will all be long distance.

2.  Your local calls in Lithuania will now be local to you, just like picking up the phone here and calling across Irvine.

There is a web site with some great f.a.q. information at:

http://www.telestial.com/faq_gsmphone.htm#14  They sell multi-band phones, and will configure a phone for use overseas. (Kind of expensive to buy a new phone just for the trip though.)  If you have a SIM-card GSM phone, they will sell you a pre-paid SIM card to use while you are overseas.  (See below on SIM cards and unlocking phones.   But they are probably just buying and re-selling the SIM cards at a mark up, so it should be less expensive to buy locally.

All of the info here is what I THINK that I have learned from talking to some of the cell phone providers and some web sites.  I am sure that I have missed some items and I may be wrong about some, so please check with your carrier before you sign-up for any specific service.  PLEASE let me know if you find any other info!!




Don't forget, you'll need an charger or adapter for the different power in Lithuania!!


In Summary

I guess that the summary is that there are a number of ways you can get international coverage.  Prices can vary A LOT though.  I saw per minute rates from under 20 cents to over $2.00!!   In some cases you can use your existing phone, in some you must rent a GSM compatible phone.  Be sure to check around before you commit!  So, here are the options I found:

1.  Use your own multi-band GSM phone or rent one through your carrier if they will provide one.  You may or may not be able to keep your current phone number which me be good or bad, and roaming prices can be high.

2.  Use your carrier's international calling plan if they offer one.  Prices are a lot lower and you get to use your existing phone number.  Just make sure that you turn off your phone at night, because you may get a call from the U.S.!!

3.  If you have a GSM phone on the correct frequency and if you can get it unlocked to use other SIM cards, you can get a pre-paid card before you leave or after you arrive.  You will get a DIFFERENT phone number, which may be good or bad.




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Last modified: January 08, 2006