Posts from Roaming


Yesterday I traveled from Amsterdam to Berlin and ended my day in Paris. Three countries in one day. And I did it all with just one data only sim card in my phone.

I've been trying out a new data only service called Roamline while I've been in europe. It works great and allows you to roam from country to country in Europe, Canada, and the US with a fixed rate on data.

It works great, but it is not cheap. At .39euro per MB, I feel like its a luxury. It's much more cost effective to buy a sim card in each country. In Denmark, I was able toget a 1gig sim for 48krone which is something like $8US. So that would be .8cents per MB. In london, I paid 20pounds for 1gig of data so that is 3cents per MB. Roamline's cost of .39euro per MB is something like 50cents US per MB.

But what you get in return is convenience. I needed to be in three countries in one day, I wanted data to work on my phone from the moment I landed, and I did not want to be running around looking for a store to buy a local sim card.

Of course the other option is to just use your US phone service and get the biggest data roaming plan you can. With AT&T Mobile, you can get 800MB a month of international roaming for $120. That is 15cents per MB. But after that you pay some crazy number like $20 per MB (at least that's what the AT&T customer service person told me when I called a few weeks ago to inquire about this stuff).

If Roamline were about half the price, somewhere around $0.20per MB, I think it would be an awesome service. And operating in data only mode is not a big deal. I use skype and a sip client called Bria for voice and I use Kik for messaging. Everything else is data.

You'll need an unlocked iPhone or Android to swap out sims like this. But I don't buy locked phones and never have. I think the lock+subsidy is a bad deal and I don't like being told what I can and can't do on my phone.

In any case, I think Roamline is an interesting option for people who do a lot of international business travel in europe, canada, and the US. If they can lower the price by half, then I think its a great option.


Feature Friday: Mobile Data Usage Tracking

Sometimes an app can be a feature that is missing from the OS, or a feature that isn't well implemented in the OS. Flashlight apps are a great example.

Another example are apps that track mobile data usage. If you have unlimited mobile data, you might not care how much mobile data you are using. That's my behavior when I am at home.

But when I travel, I am either using a prepaid mobile data card (which is what I am doing now – 1GB for 48 krone/$8US), or using a mobile roaming package from my US carrier (my wife and kids are on a 800MB roaming plan from ATT Mobile).

In either case, it is critical to know how much mobile data you are consuming, per day, per week, per trip, and per plan term.

My favorite app to do this is called My Data Manager and it is free and available for iOS and for Android.

My Data Manager has three tabs to show you how much data you are consuming on your carriers's mobile data network, how much data you are consuming by roaming on other networks, and how much data your are consuming on wifi. It also shows you what apps are consuming the most data for each tab.

You can set up your mobile plans in the app so you can see how you are doing for the current plan term.

I have been in europe since Monday morning (four days now) and I have consumed 128MB on my prepaid 1GB danish sim and I have consumed 155MB on wifi. I haven't had to roam since I have a local data sim. My wife and kids have similar data usage except that they are all roaming on other data networks and are well within their 800MB cap.

If you have a cap on your mobile data usage or if you are roaming on other data networks, I highly recommend getting My Data Manager to keep track. Mobile data is expensive when you go off plan or above plan. Keeping track gives you peace of mind and that's a valuable thing.

#Blogging On The Road#mobile

International Wireless Roaming

My family has been in europe for the past couple weeks. And we've been trying to keep our data roaming costs down. The Gotham Gal and I have a sweet blackberry plan on T-Mobile that provides a really excellent international data roaming deal.

My two kids who are in europe with us both use iPhones and they turned off data roaming while we were in Rome and Zurich, except for Josh who turned it on to checkin to places on foursquare and then turned it off. Turns out that Foursquare checkins don't use up a lot of mobile data. Looks like about 140kb based on ATT Wireless' user dashboard.

Even so, he is running up against his 20mb of data that comes with his current international roaming plan.

And now that we are in London, I decided to figure out a better way. It's pretty easy to get an iPhone unlocked over here. There are stores all over Oxford Street that will do it very inexpensively. Then you can get a "pay as you go" plan from one of the mobile carriers here. We chose O2 which is a Telefonica owned carrier. They have a plan for 30 pounds that gives you unlimited data here in the UK, 500 text messages, preferred rates for international calls and texts and that all comes with 30 pounds worth of charges. Once you spend the 30 pounds, you can "top off" the account.

We set this up for my daughter yesterday and I am seriously considering setting it up for my son as well. The only slight drag is they now have a new phone number. Not a big deal for The Gotham Gal and me. We can simply add that new number to our address books. But it is a bigger bummer for their friends and family who don't know they have a new number.

I am going to look into setting up forwarding their calls on their US numbers. I have no idea how to set up forwarding for text messages, if that is even possible.

You might wonder if it is worth all of this effort. Well I have had a number of europe trips that resulted in $1000+ phone bills when I got back. And that was for a couple weeks. There is no way we are going to let that happen, particularly with kids who live on their mobile phones.

I figure 30 pounds should buy my kids at least a week of full tilt mobile roaming. Maybe they can go two weeks on that amount. In any case, even if we end up spending 100 pounds on each of our two kids who are here for a month, that is a lot less than $1000 that we could end up spending if we stuck with their ATT Wireless numbers.

This whole international roaming thing sure feels like a racket to me. We have affordable plans in the US. We can buy affordable plans in the UK. Why do we have to change numbers to make that happen? Why can't we simply buy the affordable plan in the UK via our US carrier and have it work for as long as we are in the UK?

I suspect that people who live here in europe and travel a lot between countries are way more experienced with this problem. I'm curious what they do to deal with this problem.

#Blogging On The Road