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Mobile telephones adopted earlier in the European Union

Anno 2001 —

Mobile telephones are very popular in Europe, with inexpensive text-messaging a runaway, unexpected hit.

In the United States, the telephone systems have a couple of differences that prevent the equal popularity of cell phones — as they are called there. One is the matter of standards, of which I know too little to comment upon. I do know that European mobile 'phones are more mobile.

Note: This page is annecdotal. It's part of an account of the experience of an American living for 11 years in the EU.

Another principal difference is pricing. One reason that European "mobiles" are affordable is that land-line telephones are expensive. A customer has to pay even for a local call. The fee will not be as great as with a mobile, but it is an added detraction from the appeal of the landline, adding to the appeal of a mobile.

The mobile itself can be purchased cheaply, and without a contract. For about $70, one can get a basic model including maybe $25 of credit. This credit is charged at between 18 cents/minute and 60 cents/minute (in Ireland, 2002,) depending on the plan and the time of day/week.

And — significantly — on a European mobile telephone, one is not assessed for incoming calls. In America — at least it was true when I left, in 2000 — cell-phone users are charged for airtime, even to receive a call. Strange, but true.

Maybe the biggest difference, America to Europe, is the text message. Apparently, the standards in the U.S. are not yet so standardized as to allow these data to operate between systems — in other words, between carriers. One might not imagine it too grand of a feature; typing on a telephone keypad configuration is a bit of a bother. But it's immensely popular in Europe; not least of all for the carriers, who transmit these tiny packets of data along unused gaps in their bandwidth. They transmit a lot of them, and it's extremely lucrative.

And, in spite of the typing protocol — (press once for A, twice for B... ) — txt msgs r incrdbly facile. As a tool, that is. Sometimes, the message is all you want to transmit. A telephone call is different. And texting is cheap, just a few cents. Text messages are useful, and thatís why people send billions of them annually.

In any case, mobile telephones are ubiquitous in Europe. Almost everybody has one.

The U.S. clearly has the lead in internet communications — not least, I think, because the initial growth occured on telephone lines where local land-line calls are free within a flat monthly rate. But Europe has the mobiles.

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