Finally, the US is starting to catch up with the rest of the world. My girlfriend flew out of San Francisco to Malaysia (via Hong Kong) yesterday. She took her T-Mobile GSM cell phone with her, and actually managed to send me a text message from Hong Kong airport when she arrived there, and then later on another one from Kuala Lumpur confirming that she received my text messages.

Seven years ago I was lucky enough to take a cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore. Most of the Europeans on the ship at that time were checking their text messages, voice mail and even making calls on their GSM phones every time we docked. A year after that I arrived here in the US to find that GSM was still new technology, and that it operated on a different frequency making the handsets incompatible with the rest of the world. Doh!

At last the handsets are mostly multi-band, so American residents can start to discover the joys of taking their phone with them on trips. And slowly the networks are linking up so text messages can be sent to anyone from anywhere. Why send text messages? They are much, much cheaper than the international roaming per minute charges! You can let friends and family know you are safe, or ask them simple questions for just a few cents. The message also waits in their phone for when they wake up (handy when you are in a time zone 8 or 9 hours away from them).

I’d give it another year or so and the US will have finally caught up with the rest of the world. Now if only they’d get over the whole NIH syndrome thing around CDMA (you know, the phones that still need a mile long antenna to work) and accept that GSM is the technology that works we’d all be better off. Verizon’s network may be better in the US, but I guarantee my little Nokia GSM handset will work in more places in the world than any Verizon one will!

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