Phones and standards

So my wife is off to Europe -London for a friends 40th and then Rome for apartment shopping with a (different) friend who will live there next year for a year.
They have simple needs: to be able to call home – and be called – using their US cellphones. We are all smart enough to have moved to GSM phones through large carriers (after all, the male halves of the couples were born in Europe and have worked in the standards industry for many years) exactly because we do travel and a world standard is very useful. So it should be easy right?
Except that most (all?) US carriers now lock the phones they sell, enabling them to be used only on their own network. There’s a real customer service. I want to be able to use my UK number in Europe and not have to either a) carry a separate phone or b) have people in the next city in Europe call a US number to get me – many organizations ban international calling for staff. I want single handset that carries my synchronized information, so that I can dial anyone in my database irrespective of which number my phone is using – at any time.
A whole industry has grown up around unlocking such phones, but then you are effectively on your own. Good for them, but it should not be necessary. When, oh when will companies understand that making it hard for me to switch is not the way to keep me as a customer.
In the end, Jeanne (my friend’s wife) bought a pay as you go phone in Italy and we all (her family and mine) called that single number. And the phone companies wonder why we are so keen to explore alternatives such as Gizmo. As soon as these services mature – and they are rapidly getting there – I’ll be on them like a ton of bricks. And why do I say Gizmo rather than Skype? Guess which one is standards based and which is not?
As I am in the process of setting up my own business, I have looked at using only Gizmo as my primary number, especially as my new office Internet connection is from a cable provider. I may trial it over the next few months (before I print business cards!) and see if it is dependable.
I plan to keep my existing cell phone number – I shall report back on how easy it really is to move my number from my company to a personal number………

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