Mobile Phones in La Tania
Update Winter 2023:
O2 are now the only one of the main providers allowing free roaming out of your allowances to new customers (subject to the usual fair play / 12GB limits). Three were the last ones to introduce charges and they seem to be gradually forcing people on to new tariffs - which of course means people leave straight away if they've any sense! The Roam at Home was the big Three USP and for years ex pats used their service rather than having a local SIM as well - they surely must have lost loads of customers.
While there are many smaller companies that piggy-back on to the main networks - so called Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) - some are actually owned by the main networks (Giffgaff are owned by O2 and Tesco Mobile use the O2 Network for example).
Smarty is is actually directly owned by Three and INCLUDES roaming where new contracts on Three don't! Their 60GB for £10 month and up to 12GB roaming is pretty hard to beat in January 2023. Another example of providers trying to trick customers in to paying more than they need.
With MVNOs always check that Switzerland is included as they're non-EU and you'll get hammered if flying from Geneva! Also check if WiFi Calling, 5G, Speed Caps or Tethering is included if you need them.
One other thing - turn off roaming on ferries! The charges on DFDS Newcastle to Amsterdam service for example are very expensive. Rather than Wifi (or as well as) they have a 4G type of service your phone may log on to automatically and will almost certainly not be included in any Roam at Home tariff.
Update Winter 2020:
Finally in April 2019 Three started to allow 4G Roaming in France - the 3G service was being seriously throttled back and becoming practically unusable. More here
While Three, EE, Vodafone and O2 now include Switzerland with their included roaming service (and some providers have plenty of other countries outside of the EU too) some do not - especially the Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) such as Dixons/Carphone Warehouse iD Mobile (that uses the Three Network), Virgin Mobile (EE), Giffgaff (O2) and Sky Mobile (O2).
Be aware of this when travelling via Geneva Airport and switch your roaming off until you're well across the border in France (and remember on the way back). You can get an hour free WiFi access at Geneva Airport and can renew it immediately for free too.
There is of course the "Fair Usage Policy" with the threat if you're obviously living abroad you will be capped (or disconnected) at some point - haven't heard of disconnections being enforced though. Three pay monthly have a 19GB data limit which then renews when you power on back in the UK.
Update Winter 2017:
Quite interesting to read the bottom of this page some 10 years on now... With "free" roaming (included in your minutes) from Three.co.uk and other operators only charging a couple of quid a day for internet access having a UK phone is not so bad anymore (and free roaming is coming - see below).
It can actually can be better value than getting a local SIM card in certain cases (especially for the USA) but depends on how much internet access and the number of calls / texts you need to make to either local (French) or UK mobiles too.
Of course using WhatsApp, Messenger, Viber or a Skype account to dial real numbers can avoid or keep costs down if you've enough internet data available.
Check for Swiss access being included (it is on Three) for those trips to Geneva too. Bare in mind that Three throttle the bandwidth and only give you 3G roaming - never 4G in France, even though we have a shiny new phone mast in La Tania disguised as a tree! Fair use policies and restrictions on tethering devices (hotspots) are also in place.
Capping of roaming charges in Europe started in July 2014 and the complete scrapping of roaming charges across Europe took place in June 2017 but remember that although there is no roaming charge for calls within your allowance for dialling a UK to UK phone, dialling a French number from a UK phone can still be up to £1.50 a minute on some tariffs.
La Tania's new mobile phone mast - November 2016
Further information on 3G / 4G reception in La Tania - November 2016
This from 2007....
Introduction - Why?
You're in the mountains and want to get away from all that city life stuff so a mobile phone seems a bad idea? It can be in-valuable in a ski resort however, especially if you're out here working for the season - being able to contact friends for a ski when you finish work (or wake them up to catch first lift), family & friends from the UK can contact you, you can arrange to meet friends for lunch (and book tables), find people when you all get lost at the bottom of a run, contact everyone when transfers & flights are massively delayed and also in emergency situations - though never think of it as a substitute for being properly prepared for off-piste skiing or riding. There is also some strong evidence that mobile phones interfere with avalanche transceivers - a transmitting unit may not function correctly due to a mobile phone being switched on next to it.
The use of txting is a great improvement as messages can be left and read at your convenience - try answering a mobile whilst on a snowboard on an awkward drag lift whilst smoking a fag and it's windy, snowing and freezing... Alternatively you don't have to stop, fumble with your gloves, rip open your jacket and just miss that call when you've been hurtling down an empty powder field! Roaming Txts work seem to work on all networks across most countries now but some strange delays still happen - we've noticed some problems on the Three network sending texts for example.
As you pay all the call charges to receive calls on a UK phone whilst in France it's worth thinking about getting a French mobile. Even if you're only out here for a week but are expecting calls from the UK it may be worth it - definitely worth it if you're here for the season. The best bet if you've got a mobile phone in the UK is to simply buy a new French sim card. You can get a UK pay as you go phone un-locked for £10 at a car boot and for around £30 you'll have a French number using pay as you go vouchers and calls from family & friends (or work) in the UK won't cost you a penny! Top up vouchers are available from The Tabac in La Tania and plenty of places around The Three Valleys.
I used to recommend Mobicarte (now Orange France who were France Telecom and Wanadoo who in turn bought Freeserve) because you could select English voice menus when crediting your phone. These are now in French although still fairly easy to understand. The Tabac in La Tania never seemed to run out of Mobicarte vouchers either.
SFR is also a popular choice and has slightly better reception in The Ski Lodge and there are others . Boygues Telecom is the other main operator which many people use without problems.
Currently the strongest signal seems to be SFR - this works right to the back of the Ski Lodge - you generally need to be near a window with Orange! When you're outside, reception almost anywhere in The Three Valleys is not a problem and it seems to be improving all the time.
Tariffs / Roaming
Like the UK, tariffs are constantly changing but seem to be about the same between suppliers. The French pay as you go phones finally started roaming abroad in 2012 so you can use that last bit of credit when you get home! The small phone shop in the foyer area at Hyper Champion in Moûtiers seems as good a place as any to buy a French phone or SIM card - they cut keys too!