Data Only SIM + SkypeIn

I've been in London all week.

When I arrived at Heathrow I bought a data only SIM in the vending machine in baggage claim.

My friend Simon suggested I set up a new Skype account and get a UK SkypeIn number.

I did that and I have been operating without a voice connection. I use skype for voice, Kik for text, and evrrything else works just fine on data.

It's a pretty sweet lifehack. Give it a try the next time you are on the road out of your home country.

#Blogging On The Road

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I should try this.My networks use whatsapp for sms,video share internationally.Probably not that different from KiK (new2me) but works well.

    1. fredwilson

      Kik is just like whatsapp but you don’t need a phone number to sign up. so its great for people who don’t have a phone number (itouch users and data only sim users)

  2. ayo

    I spent over a year traveling the world once, and was desperately in need of something like this. Shocking that the carriers havent solved this problem by your standard provided SIM card.Probably could provide the basis for a virtual carrier even at home.

  3. Nathan Guo

    How expensive is a data only SIM?

    1. fredwilson

      20 pounds for a gig

      1. Rohan

        Was scrolling down the thread now and I realize you’ve said this about 5 times.’20 pounds for a gig’Quite the salesman.

  4. stegel

    What carrier did you go with? I am leaving for my honeymoon in italy for two weeks and trying to figure out our options. I have a droid phone that I want to use for GPS, tripadvisor, etc.

  5. markslater

    carriers got innovated on….as you and brad predicted.

  6. William Mougayar

    But for the data card, you need an unlocked phone, right? Most iPhones are not. What rate & data limits did you get? I’m trying to get a feel for the cost.I do same when in the US with a $50/ month MiFi from Verizon (4GB), and use a Skype # over WiFi. I don’t use my voice line or it would be very expensive. Even text messages costs can add up at .75-1.25/message. I use Viber or What’s App instead, and Kik for those that are on it.

    1. awaldstein

      Good…another Whatsapp user. Super simple. I’m in London for the weekend and will use it for most inbetween wifi Skype connections.

      1. William Mougayar

        Both Viber and Whatsapp are quite popular internationally, much more than in the US- because they bypass Text messaging via the cariers and Viber has a decent free voice call too (although the quality of voice is much better on Skype and Google Hangout)

        1. Rohan

          Whatsapp is great. Groups of friends use it to stay in touch as well.I have 2 permanent whatsapp groups that serve as a cool way of sharing little things without necessarily sending each other emails among 2 different groups of friends.Really neat.

          1. William Mougayar

            I didn’t know about the group features. I will have to try it out. thx

          2. Guest

            It’s like IM’ing all over again. Do you think they’ll learn and confederate earlier and sooner? Big battles looming on the video OTT front: Apple, Cisco, MSFT, Goog.

          3. Guest

            It’s like IM’ing all over again. Do you think they’ll learn and confederate earlier and sooner? Big battles looming on the video OTT front: Apple, Cisco, MSFT, Goog.

          4. Michael Elling

            It’s like IM’ing all over again. Do you think they’ll learn and confederate earlier and sooner? Big battles looming on the video OTT front: Apple, Cisco, MSFT, Goog.

          5. Michael Elling

            It’s like IM’ing all over again. Do you think they’ll learn and confederate earlier and sooner? Big battles looming on the video OTT front: Apple, Cisco, MSFT, Goog; then all the small-fry

          6. Michael Elling

            It’s like IM’ing all over again. Do you think they’ll learn and confederate earlier and sooner? Big battles looming on the video OTT front: Apple, Cisco, MSFT, Goog; then all the small-fry

        2. Michael Elling

          Texting in US has always been cheaper because of bundles, (relatively affordable) AYCE plans and low cost of voice; in addition to plethora of low-cost wired access solutions (email, IM, etc…). I love watching telecom price arbitrages disappear.

      2. Michael Elling

        These services are in the infancy. Some downsides include how they cull from your existing phone lists, as well as the virtual push to talk features being a little awkward. No reason in the US we are paying $70-$130/month for our smartphone consumption. That’s $2000-3000 over 2 years, where the devices only cost $300-800. Something’s gotta give!

        1. awaldstein

          Yup…amazing that there are still these big chunks of infrastructure and industries that are still rolling forward as same as they’ve been forever.Big changes will come. This and the TV worlds are the biggest yet to be disrupted.

    2. Cam MacRae

      Thinking back to the conversation the other day I’m pretty sure you mean most iPhones purchased in NA ;)I use pre-pay for everything, even at home – currently paying $50 for 800 txt and 3GB data, but have done data only at $10 for 1GB.Also use WhatsApp, Kik, and Skype/In.(Oh, and the SIMs cost $2).

      1. Rohan

        Agree. Locked iPhones are an North Am thing. 🙂

        1. Michael Elling

          As is our style of football! Have you recovered yet?

          1. Rohan

            What are we talking about? 😉

          2. Michael Elling


          3. Rohan

            Hehe. I know Michael. I’m avoiding it. haha

      2. William Mougayar

        True. $10/1 GB is a good deal.

    3. baba12

      The new iphone 4S when you buy in the U.S with Sprint ( Verizon locks it and wants one to use the international GSM roaming from them) is unlocked for international services i.e. you can’t use the GSM service in the U.S. but outside the U.S. you can get a sim card for it. Also i think unlocking the iphone is pretty trivial and for most folks they know someone who can do it for them.What many people don’t realize is that carriers charge for texting but in essence it costs them nothing for texting ( cell tower to phone communications is a function that is carried out and all text messages piggyback on this communications) and somehow they have gotten away with charging for it.As for using myfi, if you have a unlocked phone, why not use a tethering application on your phone and use it as the modem. I feel that people need to realize when you pay for data then how you consume that data should be the individuals choice.

      1. William Mougayar

        Texting costs are another carriers rip-off, especially for international charges. They charge roaming fees on non-home base texts.

    4. fredwilson

      you can buy unlocked iphones from

  7. Aaron Klein

    Most of my international travel has been Africa, so this hasn’t been a workable strategy for me. Unlocked phone with native SIM for calls, texting and very slow data. Skype over wifi when it appears. And I text key people in the US with my native number so they can call me via Google Voice for 30c/min (free inbound on my end).

    1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      There is a concept called ‘missed call’ in India … U should try that … my wife uses that all the time … whenever she wants to talk to me … she gives a single ring and cuts her call … then i make the call (free inbound for her). She spends $0 on me and I spend double!! :-). 90% of the girls use this concept and get $0 bill every month.

      1. Aaron Klein

        I was first introduced to this concept when my wife (traveling in Eastern Europe) decided to use it to get me to call her. They call it “beeping” someone. I was like “wow, the phones must be really bad there. She can’t keep the call from dropping.” Moral of that story: when initiating a new method of communication, your likelihood of success will rise if both parties (especially the dense male) understand the protocol. 🙂

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          The moral of the story for me is … Husbands are all the same across the world :-).female AVCers please be little nicer in your replies to me today!! 🙂

      2. Michael Elling

        I remember my parents and older sister used to do that in the late 1970s early 1980s with long distance. You would set up a collect call with a “tell” name. The called party would claim the person wasn’t there, hang up and call back. Only a matter of time before competition comes our way again and Fred is definitely shining a spotlight on how to get there. Consistent with the native app first blog the other day, these devices are great input and output devices with many virtual pathways to work around monopoly bottlenecks.

        1. LE

          I remember that also. My dad did that frequently when calling home and away on business. He would “signal” he had landed from a, get this “pay phone”. And imagine just in the last 15 years what has happened to the revenue that hotels used to collect on phone calls.Not sure they do it anymore but when I was on a cruise ship in the early 00’s they blocked the ichat ports so you would have to something like $8 per minute for phone calls.

        2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          That is a perfect definition “Input and output device” i have heard so far about cellphones.

      3. Avi Deitcher

        That is what IDC built its original business on (callbacks), when it was cheaper to call USA-Africa than Africa-USA.

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          Avi you missed the point. It is not about economy. What i am talking about is whose wallet goes empty soon 🙂

  8. BillSeitz

    Using a different SIM means you don’t have any of your contacts, calendar, etc., right?

    1. Cam MacRae

      Most smartphones don’t (or optionally) store data on the SIM, so it’s not a problem.

  9. BillSeitz

    I’m still not clear on why I’d use Kik instead of something like vtok that uses GoogleTalk which is a more-open network…

    1. fredwilson

      there are many options to use for sms alternative. Kik is my favorite.

  10. RichardF

    plus there’s enough free wifi in London to get by on.If GG like shoes there’s a Christian Louboutin exhibition on at the Design Museum!

    1. fredwilson

      damn. she would love that. we are leaving tomorrow first thing.

      1. jason wright

        Back home, or on to….?Have you been to Berlin? Lower down you say that London’s startup and VC scene seems to be five years behind NYC. If you’re in a position to comment how far behind is Berlin?

        1. fredwilson

          Less. Berlin is evolving faster.

    2. ShanaC

      I wish I was there to see that

    3. Robert Holtz

      Great suggestion. As far as I know, EVERY woman LOVES shoes. It is kind of a universal constant if you will.

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        You can call ‘foot wear’ as universal and may not be shoes … many part of the world don’t use shoes at all.A colleague of mine has 28 (so many colors) pairs of foot wear and none of them is a shoe.

  11. Cam MacRae

    Have you tried Skype WiFi? (I haven’t).

    1. RichardF

      I have it’s great

      1. Cam MacRae

        I’ll take that as a recommendation!

    2. fredwilson

      not me

  12. jason wright

    What handset are you using Fred? Unlocked, yes?

    1. fredwilson

      unlocked android.galaxy nexusbut i am interested in the HTC One.the great thing about being on android is there is a cool new phone to get about every couple months.

      1. K_Berger

        That’s also one of the annoying things about android, your phone gets old fast. 🙂

        1. ShanaC

          Too true, but it makes ebay buys all the more fun!

          1. jason wright

            I get very mixed messages about android. Many in the webtech/ VC scene crucify it for the UX, the app store experience, and updating the OS to the latest release.

          2. fredwilson

            I love it

  13. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    If you are in London why follow U.S. timings for the post? When you are in Rome be a Roman :-).Is there going to be a AVCers meet in London.

    1. jason wright

      Yes, I would have expected posts to be up and ready to read before breakfast. Cornflakes and a hearty dollop of avc. Yummy.

    2. fredwilson

      i was posting earlier. but to be honest i have been sleeping until late here. sort of half way between NYC and London time.

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        Have a good week in London … had been to Heathrow 7-8 times but never seen London … anyways i have not traveled abroad almost for a decade now so I can’t speak anything about travel anymore.

  14. erlichson

    can folks who are not on Kik text you? that is, can kik provide you a true PSTN endpoint phone number?

    1. fredwilson

      nope. but i only text with a few people. texting is my “batphone”. and the folks who i text with are on kik.there are some apps that do what you are describing. i forget their names though

      1. erlichson

        ok, so this is not that different than using facebook messaging or iOS messaging.So this replaces BBM for you, which, If i remember, you used to use as the family batphone before everyone switched away from blackberry?We use iMessage for this in my house (yes, everyone needs apple hw). and iMessage now has a desktop app too.

        1. fredwilson

          yes, kik is my new BBM.

    2. Ryan Frew

      I think you could do what you’re describing with Google Voice, although it appears that GVoice might only be available in the US at the moment.

  15. Riaz Kanani

    neat approach – are you able to see how data intensive it was to keep skype online all day and night?

    1. fredwilson

      hmm. i will check that.

  16. Ronnie Rendel

    BS”D”I’ve been in London all week.” Snap, and I was upset you weren’t getting back to me.Let me pose my question to the entire AVC community:We are running an experimental youth program in my community (Crown Heights, Brooklyn) that combines practical management/tech education with “startup incubator”.Our curriculum includes MBA Mondays, Lynda tech and media courses, and Kabbalah.Our students are all “at risk youth”, high school drop outs etc. We selected the top creative/tech talent from a large pool, working with a local youth program. We have been doing this for 6 months and it’s catching momentum.I see a lot of people in the AVC community (AWaldstein, Shana, Robot dude, etc.) that have amazing ideas and practical experience. I need help growing this thing, I don’t know how to build companies, equity, contracts, etc. I know how to sell and I know how to manage development. And I’m a good teacher.This is a model for something revolutionary. Please look at what we are up to here, and let me know if you want to help. We can work virtually, all of our academics are already web/video based.Please forgive me if you consider this spam, I won’t mention it again, but I do hope this community rallies around this cause. All ideas welcome. Moshiach Now.

    1. fredwilson

      why do they have to learn religion at the same time as life skills?

      1. ShanaC

        Same reason you were sent to Catholic school (if I remember correctly)

      2. Ronnie Rendel

        BS”D “Religion” is a loaded term, we focus specifically on Kabbalah. Kabbalistic wisdom is universal, these are the esoteric teachings of the prophets, teaching a path to enlightenment and knowledge of G-d.Yehoshua the Christian, was a student of Kabbalah, and its teachings are a key to the perfection of mankind. We have been going through a unique cosmic experience for the past 20 years, reaching a climax in these months.The Internet was born 20 years ago! Social networks and the new economics of Knowledge are the manifestation of the Age of Aquarius (which we are entering in a few months following a 2160 year process…)The “Nations of the East” had received mystical teachings from Abraham which lay root to most of the wisdom in their traditions.These principles which we study in Yeshiva Ventures form a new perspective on the student’s role in society. We teach them that “the material” is a means to a greater manifestation of G-dliness, not an ends to itself. We teach them that they will only succeed through collaboration, never all by themselves.We also teach a new perspective on economics, reading startup news (and AVC) – we point out examples in the Internet economy where cooperation is more productive then competition.This is the heart of the program. The tech and creative skills are meant to complement the core being of our student – mainly a leader in business and society.Thanks for the question, you know I’m looking to say these things, and I think I found a community that will listen. It’s very frustrating when you have a message and can’t get out…

  17. Chris Mottes

    I use Skype on all my devices – Mac, Windows, iPhone 3GS, iPad 1 on both wifi and 3G very successfully. Data-usage is low as the SILK Codec is very light and high performance. of course I attempt to find a free wifi connection or use paid hotspots in airports etc, but my experience is that often these are so low-bandwidth that it is better to use 3G. I find that the Codecs used by Viber, GoogleTalk and others cannot compete on efficiency and quality with SILK. In fact, we are currently implementing an AoIP solution for broadcasters using SILK (open source) in our recorder/editing app (… instead of developing our own as a result.

  18. gorbachev

    You don’t need an unlocked phone to use a data-only sim?If so, that is a very nice lifehack.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t own locked phones.

    2. gregorylent

      only unlock iphones/ipads, available in uk, hong kong, etc … don’t buy in america

  19. Elia Freedman

    My brother did something similar but used Skype with free wifi access points on an iPhone when he traveled through Europe last year. He just turned off the data service.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s been my approach until now. i saw the data only sim while walking by the vending machine and said “oh hell yeah”. it was the best 20 pounds i’ve spent on this trip.

      1. Elia Freedman

        The beauty of Android. Pop out the old sim, pop in the new one. Nice!

  20. PrasannaKrishnamoorthy

    Fred,I’m taking a trip there myself – which provider are you using? This will save us money too!

    1. fredwilson

      the data only sim i bought is from some reason i don’t see the data only sim on their websiteit was in the vending machine in the baggage claim in the main terminal at heathrow

      1. PrasannaKrishnamoorthy

        These might be what you bought…similar incl voice –…Nice plans!

      2. CJ

        Thanks Fred, I’m just back from London a few weeks ago and would have loved to have known this then. It’ll be in my arsenal for my next trip in a few months though.

  21. davidu

    Any chance of getting a data-only SIM card in the USA? I’ve never been able to find a reasonably priced one.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      Yes, absolutely, looking for that. I live in Israel, spend 1-2 weeks per month in the USA on business. Historically I just got the AT&T prepaid $2/day plan and bought a data package. Royal pain to remember to refill all the time, but it worked. Now AT&T removed data packages for $2/day plans, would love to do Fred’s solution.Any ideas?

      1. ShanaC

        T- mobile apparently. So it came up recently that I need to send about $300 to Israel. What is the best way of doing that? (apparently you can’t connect paypal to israeli bank accounts, dwolla is us only….and bitcoins are just a no go)

        1. Avi Deitcher

          Yeah $2/day for unlimited voice/text/EDGE, $3/day for unlimited voice/text/3G/4G. Except T-Mobile runs on 1700/2100, incompatible with the iPhone 3G. Story is they will have full iPhone-compatible 3G (and LTE for the iPad/next-gen iPhone) by end of year.I was thinking of using an iPad $15/month 250MB plan, then just talkatone or Skype over WiFi/3G, like Fred’s UK setup. Thoughts?

        2. Avi Deitcher

          I think you *can* connected PayPal to Israeli accounts, but it is a separate system from PayPal US.I can help you, but whether or not you trust me is your call. Reach out to me at avi [at] atomicinc [dot] com.

    2. fredwilson

      i haven’t seen one. but i don’t look for them either.

    3. Ryan from GroupTweet

      If you want a monthly data service in the US, the best deal is “Tmobile Monthly 4G”.Bonus of 100 voice minutes and unlimited texts. Includes 5GB of 4g data for only 30 bucks a month. Tried to post link, but apparently it thought I was spamming 🙂

      1. ShanaC

        that happens, sorry!

  22. Jake Lewis

    Another advantage of SkypeIn is that the local number they provide is a ‘UK landline’ (starting with 01 or 02) number, as opposed to a ‘UK mobile’ number (starting with 07). Incoming rates to mobile numbers are about 10 times the rate of landlines in the UK ( a result of the user not paying for incoming calls), so people calling you, especially from overseas, will find it much more affordable.

    1. fredwilson

      i didn’t know that. pretty cool.

    2. kenberger

      woah– huge point. I’m headed to London myself next week, have been calling people in advance of the trip and noticing 57cents/minute charges when it’s going to a mobile, vs about 3cents to landline (calling from my OnSip phone).PS: my plan will be to just use data, and use a combo of an OnSip client and a UK skypein num, like the method Fred’s talking about.

  23. aweissman

    Clearly time to move away from iphone with this type of hack being available . . .

    1. Avi Deitcher

      @aweissman, why is this more or less relevant on iPhone vs any other? Isn’t it for any device that has a SIM card slot, us unlocked, and can run Skype?

      1. aweissman

        that’s exactly the point – my iphone here is locked

        1. Avi Deitcher

          Oh, right. Missed that.I just buy the unlocked iPhone straight from Apple. Used to buy in Canada, now can get it in the US. That way, I can pop in and out local SIMs.

        2. fredwilson

          you can buy unlocked iphones at more expensive but they are great options for international travelers who want to move sim cards in and out of their phone

          1. Avi Deitcher

            Which is what I do. But I really want a soft-SIM so I can do it without swapping cards, or a multi-carrier SIM (technically possible; the SIM card is actually a smart card with, I believe, 12 app slots, only one of which is used for the main carrier’s SIM; that is how Truphone does US/UK/Australia on a single card).

        3. Amol Sarva

          You can unlock the iphone 4s on verizon for example. I called VZ via Skype over wifi and they do it remotely (no unlock codes… ). I did the same as Fred in London recently using an iphone. The micro SIM for Orange was L20 and the 1 GB adequate for my couple of days

    2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      I thought i am the one going to get maximum reply for making that gender comment…. now you going to get from i-fanboys.

  24. gregorylent

    cool … in london i just buy a vodaphone sim and a 3 sim, iphone and ipad .. and life is sweet

    1. fredwilson

      the sim i got is a 3 sim

  25. amishshah

    What rates do you pay? You mentioned 20 pounds in one of the comments… how much data did you get for that?

    1. fredwilson

      one gig

      1. amishshah

        Not sure how much data a skype call consumes but that seems like a great deal!

      2. ShanaC

        how much is an upgrade for the data if you run out?

        1. fredwilson

          No idea

  26. BengtNilsen

    Slightly off topic, but your last in-depth update on the London VC scene was in August 2010, or so a quick search tells me. Somewhat presumptuous, but I think it would be great to hear more about your on-the-clock, and even off-the-clock, impressions of London.

    1. fredwilson

      i only met with portfolio companies of mine and some of gotham gal’s angel investments here. i was here for board meetings. i didn’t get out and about and sample the london scene. but my take from what i hear is that it is thriving but still at least five years behind NYC and maybe a bit more

      1. BengtNilsen

        Ah, shucks! Well, hopefully you managed to at least grab some good food? Strangely, most New Yorkers gripe about the poor food offering in London. Nothing could be further from the truth! A trip to Soho would confirm as much.I presume your portfolio companies are clustered in and around the Old Street Roundabout? Hopefully, next time you’ll have an opportunity to venture further into Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, London’s unique answer to Brooklyn — I realize how corny that sounds, but couldn’t think of a better comparison.

        1. fredwilson

          i am hearing brixton is where i need to head to find the really innovative stuff. do you agree?

          1. BengtNilsen

            Brixton is certainly less well-traveled than its hip, northern counterparts, namely Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. Should you ever find yourself in Brixton, I would recommend stopping by Brixton Market. If African or Caribbean food is your thing, this is THE place in London.Speaking of which, where can you find good, authentic African cuisine in New York?

          2. Riaz Kanani

            Yes that’s a good point – good authentic African Carribbean food down there (and parts of Notting Hill). There is great Indian food down near Aldgate (Commercial Road rather than Brick Lane) or Wembley if you go a bit further out.

          3. BengtNilsen

            Totally agree on Commercial Road vs. Brick Lane. Lahore Kebab House and Tayyabs (although closer to Whitechapel than Commercial Road) are legendary.Haven’t tried Wembley, although am incidentally playing in a PE-sponsored football tournament there tomorrow. Any place I should check out?

          4. fredwilson

            Good question. I am sure we have it.

          5. Riaz Kanani

            yes and no – brixton definitely has it’s own scene. But then so does shoreditch.. camden.. clapham junction. As well as the more popular soho.There are a lot of quirky, interest and random restaurants dotted all around London. it isn’t really centred in one area.

          6. ShanaC

            Good to know -any favorites?

          7. testtest

            brixton is a shit hole.north london is better. more edge. progressive art scene. where the creatives hang.

    2. Selby

      Definitely would be interested in this! Would be good to get your thoughts on some of the start ups in London and the VC scene.

  27. Shyam Subramanyan

    About a year ago I tried Skype/Skypein as my primary number with iPhone/AT&T 3G service here in SF Bay Area. Between occasional poor voice quality over 3G and the Skype app not reliably running in the background, it became too much of a hassle. Not sure if the Skype mobile app has improved recently.

    1. fredwilson

      i can’t say i used a lot of voice over here. mostly taking calls from cabbies who i hailed using hailo

      1. Jan Schultink

        How did you get a mobile UK SkypeIn number? Hailo wants a “07” number before you can register.

        1. fredwilson

          Yeah. I had a friend who works there do it for me. I suggested they change that in their system.

  28. Elia Freedman

    I know this has absolutely nothing to do with this post today but I wanted to share. I watched Inside Job last night, a documentary from 2010 on the financial crisis. Extremely well done. I hope everyone will take a couple of hours to watch it.

    1. fredwilson

      where is it available online?

      1. Elia Freedman

        BitTorrent, probably. I had to get the disc from Netflix.

        1. fredwilson


    2. John Revay

      Hi Elia,Thank you for sharing – started watching late last night I needed to break off @ 1:30 midway throughPicking up second half now.Great movie – very much like that MattD narrated

  29. LIAD

    what time are we hitting the town?

  30. JimHirshfield

    20 pounds for 1 GB…is that limited to a timeframe? IOW, use it or lose it at end of 30 days? Or is forever…works until the gas gauge hits 0?

    1. fredwilson

      I dont know

  31. Anthony Wong

    Anybody know if they have data only sim in Asia?? More specifically China/Hong Kong?

  32. ShanaC

    Is it annoying to always be setting up new skype accounts? I mean, wouldn’t it be easier to keep your old one and switch numbers as you go from place to place?

  33. Guest

    I’ve been advocating that ever since I got my first Android phone. With Google Voice I can do anything I want, usually for free. I’ve spoken with network engineers for Verizon, 4G LTE is essentially pure data (even the voice part of it). Eventually some carrier will get smart and disrupt the market by offering superior data services. The only downside is that makes traveling out west a pain since there are many “dead” zones that can barely provide regular service, much less data.

  34. wiwa

    This works in the U.S. too, unlimited data from Tmobile is like $2 a day or $30 a month, and groove IP works great so you can get unlimited minutes too. Minute plans are over rated

  35. DubyaMD

    I is this in combination with Goigle Voice and my iPhone in the States to minimize my minutes. Fred, you could even give out a Google Voice number and have it forwarded to Skype so you have a single phone number wherever you are worldwide (so long as you have data access). It’s convenient and cheap solution.

  36. Ronen Mendezitsky

    I’d love it if everyone would just use Skype, Viber or any other app to talk and text. Many have them installed on their devices, yet people still use (and pay) cellular networks for minutes and SMS.

  37. Donna Brewington White

    The things we learn here…Thanks, Fred. Hope it’s been a great trip.

  38. kenberger

    I will be there next week (and in Ireland just before and after). Next step is for their to be a multi-country SIM at a reasonable charge. 20lbs for a gig is pretty good.Fred– any no-miss tips to hit in Dear Old Blighty?

    1. fredwilson

      Kusama at Tate Modern

      1. kenberger

        Thx! The fiancee has full plans to hit every museum in town while I’m in meetings with investors and clients. But I’ll prioritize Tate then. I hear that’s the 1 they converted from an old power station.

        1. fredwilson

          yes, at the end of the kusama exhibit is the hall of infinite mirrors. get a photo and your fiancee in it.

  39. Luke Chamberlin

    I wonder why locked phones are so prevalent in the US, and unlocked phones with removable sim cards never took off. What other consumer goods industry gets away with minimum 2 year contracts and $400 cancellation charges?Do the telecom companies here have stronger monopolies, and thus there is less competition?Is there a higher value placed on owning the newest, fastest phone, thus encouraging subsidized models that might not be affordable otherwise?



      1. Luke Chamberlin

        What’s the difference between the US and the UK? I don’t believe it’s just a culture thing. There are external factors at work.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Luke Chamberlin

            But what kept that model from evolving in the UK or Europe?I think it has something to do with the main carriers in the US who chose two non-competitive technologies (Verizon with CDMA and ATT with GSM), which basically makes an unlocked phone less useful since you have no real choice of switching without getting a new phone.

          2. Avi Deitcher

            One other piece is that the carriers *want* you locked in. This is just starting to change, with the growth of prepaid plans. I vaguely remember seeing that they passed the 50% threshold, but that could be hearsay.What is interesting is T-Mobile. They launched a postpaid “Value” plan. You get no phone subsidy, but you get a lower monthly rate.

        2. Riaz Kanani

          Actually most phones in the UK are locked for the period of the contract as they are subsidised over here as well. You are able to unlock the phone after the initial contract expires.You can buy “pre-pay” or “pay-as-you-go” phones which are unlocked but those are significantly more then contract phone prices. eg. iphone 4s 64GB is £700 on pre-pay.All in all that feels similar to the US..?

          1. Luke Chamberlin

            My impression was that pre-paid SIM cards were more prevalent in the UK and in Europe. Almost no one uses SIM cards here.The iPhone is a bit of an outlier because it’s so expensive. I think it’s subsidized everywhere.

          2. Riaz Kanani

            I believe contract phones are now the majority (just) in the UK (it has been growing for a while – possibly as you say spurred on by the iPhone). Haven’t seen country specific data for Europe though I found this for Q2 2011 from wireless intelligence for UK and Western Europe as a whole:48.6% contract phones in the UK (growing year on year since 2007)55 percent of operators in Western Europe now have more contract subscribers than prepaid.

    2. fredwilson

      Dont get me started. I will not buy a locked phone.

  40. Mark Essel

    I want that here. Part of the way there, being using gv connect over wifi. Skype’s better voice quality though. Can you use Skype with Google voice

  41. OurielOhayon

    i do that in every country i travel too. What i find difficult for “normal travellers” is to be aware of those possibilities. i am sure there is room for a well designed service that would tell you based on destination what sim card data only no commitment you can buy and may even get it delivered to youRoaming cost are just too insane and this is the perfect temporary solution

    1. William Mougayar

      What does a more desirable permanent solution look like?

  42. kenberger

    For next trip, assuming you still use and like OnSip (I do very much), you can do even better: use the Bria app for Android and for Mac. Both support G.722 HD codecs. My team and I find sound quality and reliability consistently better than Skype, at least over wifi.For having international numbers, use the service and procedure here: You can buy a UK number, a German one, etc and map them to your account.This way people from the States can call your usual number and Europeans can use local numbers for you. And for me, I can use my company’s regular billing account, don’t need to deal with skype accounts, etc.

    1. fredwilson

      that makes my brain hurt. but i do like onsip.

      1. kenberger

        …or you could use the Nexus’ built-in SIP with your onsip credentials and make calls via the phone app.

  43. Jasnoor Gill

    Using data seems to kill the phone battery much faster than voice usage though. How was your experience? What phone by the way?

    1. fredwilson

      galaxy nexusi got through the day on a single charge

  44. Muj Naqvi

    I use the Talkatone app. It let’s you make and receive Google Voice calls as well text. Just need to setup Google Voice which is free vs. SkypeIn

  45. beekman33

    I love this idea. I tried it once, but my girlfriend hated it. The problem is everyone doesn’t know the new phone #s. Unless you make the full switch to Google voice to triage it all.

  46. kenberger

    update: ok I’m just back from London and Ireland, and what I found was extraordinary.Walk into any 3 ( shop in Ireland. Pay €20. Get *unlimited* internet for a month, wherever 3 has coverage across all their countries. That includes UK, Italy, and others. The money goes to calls and texts. After 10 days of frequent texting and a bunch of local calls, I still held a balance of €16. The 3G data worked fairly ubiquitously across the UK and south and northern Ireland. i tethered my laptop to the Android phone I was using, no problems, easily used a few gigs of data. iPhone uses a different sim, is usually locked, and won’t tether, so this is also an “Android wins” story.I had a +353 area code. When I landed in JFK, the card also worked to grab my email but quickly drained the remaining credit since it was roaming off network.If you buy the card in a 3 shop in London instead, the plan isn’t quite as good but still excellent. For £20, you get a similar plan, but there are caps.

    1. fredwilson

      three is my kind of company. simply awesome

      1. kenberger

        didn’t have time to check what kind of plans the others (like O2) had. If they are similar, then the big AVC-angled story is what a boon this progress is to companies like foursquare and other mobile-first apps.Here’s a photo of a Heathrow SIM vending machine:

        1. fredwilson

          yup. that’s the vending machine. we need to geolocate it for the AVC community 🙂

          1. kenberger

            They have these machines in all Heathrow terminals, just before you reach the street in Terminal 1, or in baggage claim in Terminal 5. BUT I highly recommend instead waiting to get to town and buy one there for reasons I just explained to William, above.

    2. William Mougayar

      I just called Three and they told me you can’t tether with their pay-as-you-go card. Is that the card you had, and just confirming that you bought it at the vending machine? I’m going there in 3 weeks and wanted to use it on my iPhone and use the iPhone as a Personal Hotspot.

      1. kenberger

        see my notes above: I did NOT use a vending machine, and iPhone has challenges.Highly advise folks to skip the machine and buy a card in town (most anywhere in UK, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Denmark and others). In town they have more variety than the machine, and dealing with a live person you can confirm if you also get data hopping to other countries (assuming you’re visiting >1).Your iPhone must be unlocked, they do have micro-SIM’s for iPhone (viewable in the photo I attached in another post here). But iPhone doesn’t have native tethering, regardless of where you use it. I absolutely tethered with no problems all over Ireland and London, BUT I was using an unlocked Android Galaxy Nexus S, AND my SIM was bought in Ireland. I’ve researched online but can’t confirm whether this works with the UK version as well.

        1. William Mougayar

          Great insights Ken. Did you happen to research using an unlocked MiFi too? My latest findings on that is that you need a different SIM card with a plan to use to it on a MiFi, so it’s not ideal, but would have been a good option otherwise.

          1. kenberger

            well, this post is all about sweet life hacks, so best to come prepared with a dose of adventure 🙂 If you’re up for it, it’s not hard: just get a used unlocked Nexus S on ebay, cheap since they are a few years old. Still a great phone with an excellent camera.Using this method, you’ll also have a local phone number and be able to text and call right from the phone, which can be handy. Happy to help, you have my contact info.

  47. Peter G

    I’ve used this technique in both the UK and India – interestingly I had much better Skype-over-3G call quality while in India!

  48. RichardF

    Starbucks, McDonalds and now Costa Coffee, that probably covers every street in central London!

  49. awaldstein

    Gd info, thanks.Imminently useful for this coming couple of days!

  50. RichardF

    The Costa roleout has only just started but Cafe Nero also offer free wifi.Have a great trip Arnold.

  51. awaldstein

    Will do.It’s a present to myself. No work for two days. All natural wine as there is a fair put on by friends at Truman Brewery (?) and they have wifi there I know.

  52. Jake Lewis also charge 10 pounds for unlimited data and txts and 250 outbound minutes. I think the key to Fred’s post though is the convenience of buying the sim at the airport – giffgaff unfortunately requires mailing the sim.

  53. fredwilson

    20 pounds got me a gig. which makes sense given the deal you got on half of that.

  54. fredwilson

    yeah. the vending machine was the key. right product and right place at right price.