How to avoid paying data roaming charges on your next overseas trip part 1 – before you go

UPDATED August 2014 with Goodspeed review and advice on VPNs

These tips were originally featured in the Wired UK September 2011 magazine on page 82. Click the image for a larger view.


This post has become my most popular ever, with over 37,000 views to date.  If you’re reading this, you are probably also a regular traveller. You therefore must also read my post on why you need a VPN. My preferred VPN provider is VyprVPN and London Calling readers can access a special deal here.

I’ve heard so many horror stories about high data roaming charges from friends and colleagues over the years.

This has always surprised me because I’ve managed to keep my data roaming costs to an absolute minimum (often zero) by following a few rules – summarised below. Hopefully by crafting this post I can help others keep their data roaming costs to a minimum.

Perhaps my surprise at the high roaming costs experienced by others should be tempered with the fact that mobile phone companies don’t publish many of these tips – they would much rather you use your home carrier for data when you are overseas and incur large roaming bills.

I’ve held international roles since 2004, and always seem to come in with the lowest mobile phone bills for any company I have worked for, even with extensive travel that has seen me visit 90 cities in 31 countries, flying over 2.6 million kilometres according to my Tripit profile.

On a work trip to Istanbul over several days in 2007, many of my team with Blackberries turned in £1,000 mobile bills.

What had transpired was of course their handset was “always on” checking for mail 24 hours a day and therefore racking up expensive data roaming charges along the way.

Using just some of my tips below, I was able to keep my data roaming bill to an absolute minimum, and after reading this you should be able to as well.

This post will also help you find a local SIM card if you are travelling to the UK or a number of other countries.

One tip that overseas travellers seem to miss is that if you have bought an iPhone or indeed any sort of handset or dongle via an operator, chances are it is “locked” to their network so that if you land in a foreign country and try to insert any other operator’s SIM, it will refuse to work.

Tip 1. Unlock your phone WELL BEFORE YOU TRAVEL

Handset locking is such a lazy attempt by mobile operators to provide you with no option but to spend big when overseas on data and voice roaming. Ask your operator to unlock the phone when they sell it to you (there will be a charge and a qualifying period), but never entertain paying more than £30/$50 to get it unlocked. Alternatively, you can buy an unlocked phone (also called outright) from companies such as Expansys.

If you have a data dongle or MiFi that is locked (they normally are to keep the purchase price down), sites such as unlocked-dongle.co.uk can help you. I have used them before to unlock the 3 MiFi (Huawei E565) and it worked well with a minimum of fuss.

You will need your phone unlocked so that you can put a local SIM card into it (allowing you to benefit from local data rates) in tip 3 below.

Tip 2. Get a second (cheap) phone.

A second, cheap phone can be used to run your normal SIM, while using your smartphone to access local data (using tip 3 below). This way any data that you use will be charged at the local data rate on your smartphone and not the roaming rates of your home operator.

BlackBerry 10 series users

bb10-devices

If you are lucky enough to have a new Blackberry 10 device (Z10, Q10 or Q5), then if the device is unlocked, you can put a local SIM with a data plan in the device (see tip 3 below) and use the internet and email as normal as these new BlackBerry devices use standard data plans and don’t need a blackberry server (if you have corporate email enabled, then you will only be able to use WiFi – see below)

Tips for older Blackberry users:

If you have an older Blackberry (using OS 6 or 7) you will need to use WiFi to use email and browse the web while overseas and not pay roaming rates if you use a local SIM in this device – the mobile data plan won’t work with your BlackBerry server but it will over WiFi.

IMPORTANT: To ensure you don’t get charged by your home carrier for data roaming, in the options section of the manage connections > networks and connections screen set the “While Roaming” option to “Off”.  You can leave this set like this all the time (even when back in your home country). You can confirm you have data roaming off via the red triangle in the menu (means roaming with data roaming off).

Tip for US travellers:  If you are planning to travel to the US, you will need a tri-band GSM or quad-band phone that works on GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 or HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 frequencies. Most modern smartphones operate on GSM at the US 1900 MHz frequencies. Always check though as each phone is different.

Tip 3. Get a local prepaid SIM card with data included

This is probably the most important tip if you want to use the internet and send and receive email while abroad.

If you are going to be overseas in the same country for more than 2 days, get a local SIM card provisioned with data and voice services. Most countries allow you to purchase a pre-paid SIM without ID.

In countries such as Australia, South Africa and Spain you will need ID to buy a pre-paid SIM (Australia uses a 100 point system so take a few forms of ID with you, in Spain and South Africa just a passport should be ok). You won’t need ID in the US or the UK.

You also have the opportunity to get a SIM card either before you head off, or even at the airport in Heathrow when you land.

ritesim-logo

Ritesim has a great service where they will send you a pre-activated SIM card for a large number of countries ahead of your trip.  They have essentially gone and bought up pre-paid SIMs from operators around the world, and they send you the SIM (yours to keep) ahead of your trip to your home or office.  This means that you will have the overseas number before you go to give to friends and family or the office.

I have used Ritesim on trips to the US and South Africa (I was provided with these as a trial at no cost) and they worked out of the box.  All I did was put the SIM in my unlocked phone, and when I landed it was ready to use.  In South Africa, having a local number (and 2GB of data) was invaluable for calling local taxis and the hotel.

Lately at Heathrow, I have started to see SIM card vending machines, located in the arrivals hall. Here you can pick up a data only SIM with no questions asked.

local-sim-vending

There are also shops at Heathrow in the arrivals and departures area that will sell you local and international SIMs – look for the SIM Local shop.  At Heathrow they are in Terminal 5 after the North security gate, and the picture below was taken just outside the terminal 1 arrivals door.

SIM-local-store-LHR-T3

Once you have your local SIM, you will have to configure the Access Point Name (APN) to tell the phone how to connect to the internet on the local carrier.

Remember to write down your existing operator’s APN settings first! You can find a good list of worldwide APNs here.

Prepaid data plans on a local SIM are normally pretty reasonable, and in both Spain and the Netherlands, I paid around €40 for 1GB of data that was good for 30 days.  In South Africa, they had an online special (I needed to get the SIM first), offering 20GB for R499 (£35/$50) which is one of the best deals I have seen to date.  Coupling this with a 4G MiFi, I was experiencing superfast internet in Durban while not worrying about the cost on a recent trip.

[Top tip] when visiting the mobile operator links above, use Google Translate to translate the pages so you know what each of the offers include.

Back in 2012 on a US trip, I switched my data provider from AT&T to T-Mobile. They offer 5GB for $50. The catch is you need a T-Mobile capable MiFi (operating on non-standard 2100/1700 AWS frequencies). The T-Mobile US supplied E587 does the trick – more on this device at http://lc.tl/e587. More on the T-Mobile USA prepaid data plans here.

If you are planning to visit the UK, there are pretty reasonable deals – as a guide 1GB will cost you around £10. Local phone shops are everywhere on the “high street” in London – look for Vodafone, O2, EE, or Carphone Warehouse.  These shops will all sell you a local SIM and also help you set up your phone with the right settings.

If you already have a dongle, SIM enabled laptop or MiFi then the Three UK plans will be of interest because they don’t come with a dongle.

Tip 4. Grab a Goodspeed mobile hotspot

goodspeed-mobile-hotspot

For several months now I’ve been trialling an innovative MiFi gadget developed by Finnish company UROS called Goodspeed.

The device is unique in that is has been developed with 10 SIM card slots, as shown above. UROS has negotiated local 3G data deals in major markets, so you insert a SIM supplied by them into one of the 9 free slots (1 slot is a “control” SIM to allow the service to operate seamlessly when you arrive in a new location), and the rest happens automatically.

The data charges are quite reasonable, and for the frequent traveller, you can get 500MB of 3G data per day for around €5.90.

I should note that you have to purchase the unit first for €239.00, and then there are a range of plans with a monthly charge of €9.90.

I asked the Goodspeed team to set me up for the US, UK, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland and I have used the device in all these countries. Like other MiFi devices mentioned on this page, you can connect up to 5 devices and you receive up to 3G HSPA speeds.  You can grab all the MiFi tech specs on their website.

In some countries, the daily data allowance is super-generous such as in Spain where €5.90 buys you 1GB of data for a day. I used this extensively when I was in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress in February 2014 and was able to stay connected with all my devices without having to worry about roaming charges.

After some initial teething problems when I landed in each country, the device (thanks to new V3 firmware) now connects automagically when I land in a new country and performs flawlessly.

The benefit of the Goodspeed is that I don’t have to worry about keeping multiple SIM cards topped up – the team at UROS take care of all of this.

Once you’ve bought the device, all you pay is the monthly €9.90 fee, then only on the days you use the data are you charged.

Following feedback from myself and another of others trialing the service, they also have released a Lite plan that has no monthly fee, instead the daily fee is €16.50 for up to 1GB of data.

The MiFi and service is a really neat idea and if you travel regularly to multiple countries as I do, then this device beats all of the options I’ve listed on this page and is well worth a look.

The Goodspeed mobile hotspot is available from www.getgoodspeed.com and Amazon UK.

Tip 5. Vodafone Euro Traveller (UK) and Vodafone Australian Roaming options

I have been a very happy Vodafone customer since I grabbed my first pre-paid SIM on a trip to London in 2005. When I moved here in 2006 from Australia I flipped the number onto a contract and have been with them ever since. Because Vodafone has a strong footprint in Europe (32 operating companies globally), they can offer cheaper voice and data roaming. They have a new service called Vodafone EuroTraveller.

If you are a Vodafone UK post-pay customer then when you opt-in to the service, for just £3/day for each day you use it, calls made and data used when in a qualifying EuroTraveller country come out of your UK bundle. For example, I have unlimited calls and texts and 1GB of data while in the UK. This means that when opted into EuroTraveller, I pay a flay £3 per day and keep using my minutes, texts and data as normal – brilliant!

Vodafone Australia is just about to launch a similar program for Vodafone account customers.

vodafone-australia-roaming

With their offer, for $5 per day, you can use your Australian bundle in the US, UK and NZ.  This is a pretty good deal, given the Vodafone UK one does not cover the US.  If you are on Vodafone Australia already, I’d advise you to opt-in to this from September.

Tip 6. Get a MiFi

I’m now on my 4th MiFi (Huawei E587 unit shown on left – see full review at lc.tl/e587 ) and I would not travel anywhere (even in London) without it.

In summary a MiFi is a data only device that accepts a SIM card, and has an internal battery. It acts as a WiFi hotspot for up to 5 units by converting 3G mobile data (from the SIM card) into WiFi.

I use the MiFi to run not just my iPad, but also my normal phone, and laptop from the one device. When travelling I source a local prepaid data plan as outlined in tip 3 above and run everything from the MiFi.

Where hotels charge for WiFi (normally at anything between $10/€15 and $25/€30 per day) I have found it more cost effective to run everything via the MiFi, and usually experience a faster connection than the hotel WiFi jammed with 300 people all trying to connect at once.

[Top iPad tip] If you are thinking of getting an iPad and travel internationally a lot, then just get the WiFi only model. Not only will it be considerably cheaper, you won’t be constantly having to source and swap microSIMs for each country you visit.

Make sure you get your MiFi unlocked before you travel! (see tip 1 above)

The type of MiFi also will be governed by where you are travelling.

The 3 MiFi E585 shown on the left (around £70 outright including 3GB of data) is a 2100MHz WCDMA model, meaning it will work pretty much anywhere except in the US where they use 1900MHz for WCDMA. I used the 3 MiFi extensively on my last trip to Australia, downloading over 30GB of data over a 3 week period without once using the $10/day Hotel WiFi.

If you are travelling to the US, then you will need the Huawei E587. The E587 supports UMTS (AWS 2100/1700, 850/900/1900/2100MHz) unit so will work in the US on AT&T AND T-Mobile.  The trick is thought that the T-Mobile version of the E587 is only available from them. Whatever MiFi you do buy, ensure it works on at least the US 1900 UMTS frequencies – then you can use it on the AT&T network.

[TOP TIP] If you are in the US, you can grab the T-Mobile E587 from one of their stores, and more information on unlocking and their data plans ($50 for 5GB of data valid for 30 days) can be found on my Huawei E587 post. This MiFi has become my global option for anywhere in the world now.

Each MiFi provides simple setup via a web based interface, and you can use the standard 192.168.1.1 address to access the settings just like on your home router. Battery life hovers around 3-4 hours depending on how much surfing you are doing.

Most smartphones these days come complete with WiFi, and apart from making voice calls and sending texts, everything else (email, web browsing etc) can be carried out over WiFi, which brings me to my next tip…

Tip 7. Switch off 3G and use WiFi only

Switching off your 3G connection is not always a simple process, but doing so can save you real £/$/€ when you travel. On some phones and the iPhone/iPad you can just select the “disable cellular” option, and on Android devices you can turn this off in the wireless settings option.

Once you are operating on WiFi only, you can pick up the local WiFi (hotel or MiFi) signal and all of your internet and email sessions will use WiFi.

Tip 8. Consider Truphone or Toggle Mobile if based in the US/Australia and UK and travelling between these countries.

Back in 2011 on a trip to the US from the UK I decided to give Truphone a go. I have been using them since 2006 before I moved from Australia to the UK (with their VoIP service), and they now offer a Truphone SIM. The SIM currently provides “local rates” in the US, UK and Australia.

When I call numbers in the UK from the US, I pay just 10p/minute for landline calls and 22p/minute for mobile calls – pretty reasonable given I was on a mobile walking down the street and not able to fire up Skype. Their data charges are also reasonable – 10p/megabyte in the UK and Australia, and 20p/megabyte in the US.

I decided to add additional numbers to my Truphone SIM. Now for an extra £5/month per number, I have a permanent US number (213 xxx xxxx) AND I ported across my existing Telstra (Australian) 0418 xxx xxx number. Now when I call a US number, they see my US number come up (same in Australia where they see my Australian number). Importantly, my US and Australian contacts call my local number, and I don’t pay to receive the call when in the UK, US or Australia. Brilliant!

More information on Truphone is available from truphone.com where they offer both prepay and pay monthly accounts.

toglemobile-logo

Lately there have been other entrants to this global SIM space, and another one worth considering is Toggle mobile. They are backed by LycaMobile, and offer 3p calls in the UK and also “local rates” and local numbers for a range of countries.

I can’t wait for them to add a US local number and rate plans – this will put their service head-to-head with Truphone where I pay 10p per minute. Also Truphone charge £5/month for a local US number, and it looks like Toggle will offer the same for £5/year. Bring on competition!

Update 19 January 2014: Toggle now offers a US local number and calls to/from the US are also 3p/minute.  I’ve moved my personal mobile to Toggle and now have multiple numbers for just £5/year per number.

Tip 9. Get a VPN to protect yourself when connected to public WiFi.

I have been using a VPN since 2009 as a way of protecting my online security when using public WiFi at coffee shops, conference venues and hotels.

You may think I am being slightly paranoid, but wanting to always be ahead of the curve, when the Firesheep FireFox plugin was released in 2010, that lets you sniff all of the traffic from nearby public WiFi hotspots, I felt vindicated that I was being smart in protecting my online activity.

Fast forward to 2014, if you access a public WiFi network without using a VPN, then you’re playing with fire – as any medium-level hacker can use Firesheep to view everything you are doing on your laptop.

Many companies provide VPN access to corporate LAN networks, but they don’t always secure all of your browsing traffic, meaning that the geeky looking guy at the back of Starbucks is watching everything you do on Facebook.

The other byproduct of a VPN is it allows you to appear as if you are another country.  As an Australian expat, I often like to catch up on Australian TV.  The ABC and other websites in Australia enable geoblocking to ensure people outside a particular country cannot access content.

You can read more about why you need a VPN in another post, or if you’re convinced, head over to VyprVPN and take advantage of a special offer for London Calling readers.

In the next part, we will put all of these tips together and provide some suggestions on how to set up your devices once you arrive at your international destination.

In the meantime, happy travels. Are we connected yet on Tripit? This is a purpose built social network for seasoned travellers and it also shows up on our LinkedIn profile alerting your business contacts that you may be in their city.

If you enjoyed this blog post you may like other related posts listed below under You may also like ...

To receive future posts you can subscribe via email or RSS, download the android app, or follow me on twitter @andrewgrill.

About 

Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of social business and social media networks. Andrew is a Global Partner with IBM, with a focus on Social Business.



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  • Pingback: London Calling » How to avoid paying data roaming charges on your next overseas trip part 2 – while you are there

  • http://lc.tl/rg RomanP

    There are applications which allows you to prevent possible bill shock of data charges in roaming. For example Roaming Guard for Symbian smartphones, No Data for Windows Mobile…

  • http://twitoaster.com/country-gb/andrewgrill/ AndrewGrill

    If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming charges http://londoncalling.co/2011/01/how-to-a

  • http://andrewgrill.com Andrew Grill

    Roman, thanks for sharing the information about Roaming Guard – this also would be an effective way of keeping the data roaming costs down – try for free at http://lc.tl/rg

  • Annemcx

    RT @AndrewGrill: If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming ch …

  • CGiboi

    RT @AndrewGrill: If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming ch …

  • Lorna_Wall

    RT @AndrewGrill: If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming ch …

  • simonsanders

    RT @AndrewGrill: If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming ch …

  • yushkalia

    RT @AndrewGrill: If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming ch …

  • sweetshopavenge

    RT @AndrewGrill: If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming ch …

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    RT @AndrewGrill: If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming ch …

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    RT @AndrewGrill: If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming ch …

  • jcoetsie

    RT @AndrewGrill: If you travel a lot and have an iPad, Blackberry or laptop, this post can help you save a great deal on data roaming ch …

  • Tamara

    Hi Andrew, I’ve just returned from 3 weeks in Adelaide and my most used gadget was the 3G kindle; free internet (and thus email) access without need for wifi and no contract charges (just the one off cost of buying) Doesn’t offer phone functionality but combined with your tips is a good solution!
    Tamara

  • Pingback: Real life information on travelling abroad | UK Gadgeteer Website

  • Pingback: Data Roaming « Stuart’s Weblog

  • http://stuartward.wordpress.com/ Stuart

    Just returned from a trip to the USA and Canada. I was going to get a local SIM card, but I found that free access was redly available on WiFi networks in most places. Some you have to open the browser and select a hard to find check box for Terms and Conditions.

    Most independent coffee shops have free WiFi, Hotels certainly do for guests, and even restaurants have free access.

  • http://twitter.com/ilicco/status/68349825623654401/ ilicco elia (@ilicco)

    Reading: How to minimize data roaming charges part 1 http://goo.gl/NHuyN

  • http://twitter.com/marcsettle/status/68351335862509568/ marc blank-settle (@marcsettle)

    Really useful ideas. Where’s part 2?! RT @ilicco: Reading: How to minimize data roaming charges part 1 http://goo.gl/NHuyN

  • http://twitter.com/Britt_W/status/68351845520781312/ Britt Warg (@Britt_W)

    Brilliant tips… RT @ilicco: Reading: How to minimize data roaming charges part 1 http://goo.gl/NHuyN

  • http://twitter.com/jimbola/status/68356826684604416/ James Griffin (@jimbola)

    How to avoid paying data roaming charges on your next overseas trip part 1, before you go (Vodafone Passport mentioned) http://bit.ly/mC0HQh

  • http://twitter.com/PambosKS/status/68396979528536064/ Pambos Soteriades (@PambosKS)

    How to avoid paying data roaming charges on your next overseas trip part 1 – before you go http://zite.to/kn9JCV via @Ziteapp

  • http://twitter.com/Britt_W/status/68690448641835008/ Britt Warg (@Britt_W) (@Britt_W)

    @dominiccampbell Re roaming costs: Did you see these, from @ilicco @AndrewGrill ? Part 1: http://bit.ly/iGvMZ1 Part 2: http://bit.ly/maEtEs

  • Jerom

    Great article you explained everything in details. But I do not agree with the 2nd tip. I am pretty sure, that you can turn off any kind of roaming on your phone, that is why it is called smart phone. When I was searching for some good roaming plan I bumped to this website for data roaming as well, for some people it could be useful. For me it was.

  • http://twitter.com/AndrewGrill/status/91962283500109825/ Andrew Grill

    @BevJack good start here with some tips http://t.co/qhOnmuS

  • http://www.therabbitagency.com Dirk Singer

    Excellent article Andrew, and one I found while doing some research for my forthcoming trip to NYC after a not great experience with Orange in San Francisco last month.

    Essentially Orange cut off my phone for data and outbound calls after ‘excessive’ use of data in the US. I did buy a data bundle, but apparently I was £600 over.

    Sounds like a huge amount, but given that Orange has the most expensive data plans out of the UK mobile phone companies at £8 an hour, that actually means I used 50mb pre-paid and 75mb over the limit – not an outlandish amount for someone who works in technology.

    My issue with Orange is two-fold. First of all, unlike the other UK mobile phone companies they don’t send you a warning text to tell you what’s going on.

    Instead I got some pompous customer services agent lecturing me on how I should have downloaded an app beforehand to track use, an app I hadn’t heard of until then.

    Secondly, Orange is demanding I fork up before allowing me to call out or access data – in the UK. Why? I have a monthly plan and run a small business, the money can just as easily be debited at the end of every month.

    To cut a long story short, I’ll be following some of your advice here, unlocking my iPhone and then when I’m back buying out the remaining few months of my contract and switching to either 02 or Three who seem to be much more reasonable when it comes to roaming abroad.

    Excellent post and tips – thank you for sharing

  • http://londoncalling.co Andrew Grill

    Dirk – glad I could help with the planning for your next trip. This post has become one of the most popular ever – seems like many people are getting stung by excessive data roaming charges when they shouldn’t have to.
    For my regular US and Australia trips, I maintain pre-paid SIMs (usually with a decent top-up the SIMs stay active for a year at a time) meaning on the next trip you keep your number and just top-up to use data.

  • http://www.campaignmetric.co.uk Sam

    One of the best deals for the US is t-mobile’s $2 a day prepay deal, which gives you unlimited voice, text and data. Admittedly, it’s only 2G speeds, but for most things (email, social media, maps) that’s more than adequate. If you fork out $3 a day, you can get 4G data speeds – but this will only work on compatible handsets, and specifically not iPhones.

    You can only pick up the SIM from a t-mobile store, where they should set it up with the correct APN, etc. Walmart do a $30 monthly prepay deal, but you have to buy a handset to get it, which only makes it worthwhile if you’re travelling regularly.

  • http://www.liesdamnedliesstatistics.com Dirk Singer

    How to avoid ridiculous £6 mb data roaming in South Africa – if phone unlocked take your passport into a vodacom shop, £20 gets sim and 1gb data.

    @dirktherabbit

  • Nagaraj

    Thanks for the great review.

    I have a question, with the mifi device, can I select a roaming operator. We now have a daily cap based deal with some countries when roaming so the ability to pick up an operator will be great.

  • http://londoncalling.co Andrew Grill

    Hi Nagaraj, if you unlock the MiFi (link in the post) you can select any 3G/UMTS mobile operator via the web interface. You can also scan for operators from within the web interface.
    I have used the device with AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Vodafone UK, Vodafone Netherlands, 3UK, O2 UK – fully flexible.

  • Lorraine

    2 of us travelling from Aus to UK for 3 week holiday and trying to work out the best configuration for our 2 3G Android phones + 1 wifi tablet device. We also have a Huawei wifi device but yet to find out whether it’s locked to Optus.

    3 UK have a pay-as-you-go SIM for 15 pounds which includes calls, text and all-you-can-eat data. However, in the fine print, it states that “Pay As You Go plans do not allow tethering.” Is using your phone as a wi-fi hotspot considered tethering? If the wi-fi hotspot facility comes standard in the Android OS, how does the SIM actually stop you from using that feature on your phone?

  • http://londoncalling.co Andrew Grill

    Lorraine.
    great questions – answers below

    1. We also have a Huawei wifi device but yet to find out whether it’s locked to Optus
    It WILL be locked – to test put a non-Optus SIM card in it. If the error message is “invalid SIM” then it is locked. Unlock via this link http://lc.tl/e587u

    2. Re 3 UK “Pay As You Go plans do not allow tethering” – correct. They may not catch you, however I would never suggest you do something against their T&C.
    Instead, with 3 UK get a Data Only SIM for the Huawei MiFI. Just get a 3 UK SIM when you get there and top up with the option for mobile broadband. Their rates are reasonable and you stay within their T&C. If you want to run everything off your Android phone as a mobile hotspot, the battery will go flat very quickly and you will be without a phone to make calls.

    The 3 Mobile broadband SIM only deals can be found here http://lc.tl/3mbb . They offer 3GB for £20.49 or 12GB for £70.49 and this is probably the cheapest deal that allows tethering. Their £25/month deal does I understand offer tethering on a pay-as-you-go monthly basis.

    Suggestions

    1. get your MiFi unlocked and use this for ALL your data devices and requirements in the UK
    2. buy a 3 UK mobile broadband SIM
    3. Don’t forget to unlock your other Optus devices.
    4. Get a local SIM for locak UK calls
    5. Enjoy your trip to the UK!

  • AlanLB

    Hello Andrew — I have read your Part 1 and Part 2articles with interest, as I am going to the US in September and October of this year for a week on each occasion, and want to be able to use my “Unlocked Three Huawei E586 High Speed 3G/4G MiFi 21.1 Mbps HSPA+ MOBILE BROADBAND” device there (with a locally bought data SIM.

    Will that be possible, or will I need to buy an unlocked Vodafone R201 MiFi or Huawei E587?

    I am not terribly “technical”, so any help you can give me with this would be very much appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance.

    All the best, AlanLB.

  • http://londoncalling.co Andrew Grill

    AlanLB: The E586 will NOT work on 3G in the US. I had one and I took it there so I can confirm first hand that it does not support the US 3G frequencies (1900MHz).

    To get 3G on a MiFi in the US you will need a Vodafone R201 or an E587.

    Hope this helps and saves you some hassle!

  • AlanLB

    Hello Andrew — I asked you a question back in May of this year (see above), and much appreciated your help.

    I wonder if you can help me by answering another question? In the hope that you can, here it is: I am going skiing in France in January. If I take my “Unlocked Three Huawei E586 High Speed 3G/4G MiFi 21.1 Mbps HSPA+ MOBILE BROADBAND” device with me and buy a local SIM data card, will I be able to use my MiFi as I do in England? Will I have to make any changes to my MiFi and/or my iPhone4S?

    I am not terribly “technical”, so any help you can give me with this would be very much appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance.

    All the best, AlanLB.

  • http://londoncalling.co Andrew Grill

    Alan,

    If you buy a local French SIM card, you will be able to use your unlocked MiFi there. You will however have to change the access point (APN) in the settings for the local operator.

    The APN settings you can grab from http://lc.tl/wwapn

    so for SFR for example, you would enter an APN of

    websfr with the username and password sections blank.

    The APN settings can be accessed via the settings – normally you get these via entering 192.168.1.1 in your browser when connected to the MiFi.

    Hope this helps.

  • Ozi

    hi, i wonder if you can help me? basically i have a UK monthly sim and i was thinking if it would be possible for me to put that UK sim in a smartphone always on charge in uk somewhere and use another smart phone abroad and connect to UK phone via wifi and make calls within the uk?

  • http://londoncalling.co/ Andrew Grill

    Ozi,

    unlikely this would work – you might just want to use Skype while you are travelling or one the tips in the article above.

  • Laurence Everitt

    A nice little one you might like to take up in future. We have BT in the UK with an International Freedom Plan (£5 per month) and 24×7 to landlines (£5 per month) which we use to call in the UK and 36 countries included (not free). Well, BT have released an App called “BT SmartTalk” and when you phone through this, it then uses your home phone tariffs (whatever they are) to call. Now, if I have a WiFi connection anywhere in the world, I can call to ANYWHERE that my landline in the UK can call without extra cost! This is great in the UK, as I have a Three 3G SIM with All-You-Can-Eat data, so, instead of having to worry about paying to call 0870/0845/0800 numbers from the phone or using up my 200 minutes Three allowance for landline calls, I can reserve these for mobiles only!

    Only issue is that I may need a WiFi connection (or MiFi) in another country if I have no WiFi. Is that not why they have Coffee houses???

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  • Veronica Mars

    I use tip #3, Get a local prepaid SIM card with data included

    for my trips I have a travelsim prepaid roaming sim, it helps me save on roaming charges and call/stay online whenever I wish. For me this seems like a solution to ‘roaming charges’ question :)

  • http://londoncalling.co/ Andrew Grill

    I received this comment via my website from: Philip Stubbs- thought I would post it here and reply for the benefit of all users.

    Hi, I seem to incur large phone bills by people calling
    me when abroad. Like you, I travel extensively. What is the best way to
    mitigate these charges and enable contact with customers and family without
    getting bills ranging into hundreds of pounds?

    Would buying a prepaid sim or local sim work or will they
    still incur extortionist charges when receiving calls from other countries?
    Mobile data I keep under control its voice calls which create the issue!!

    Many thanks in advance, Philip Stubbs

    Well Philip, what I now do is use a Toggle Mobile SIM card in mt secondary phone.

    They allow you to secure a local number in up to 20 countries (for a month for free or £5 to secure the number for 12 months), and this means that calls coming into your UK (or local number) are free of charge.

    If you port your existing (UK) number into Toggle, then you could receive calls why roaming in 20 countries (including the US) – see http://lc.tl/tmr

  • Phoenix Eagle

    Just get a 6 or 12 month t-mobile broadband sim off ebay and thats all you need take it anywhere and use the internet no problem and never get charged for anything.but its no good for call unless still in uk..

  • http://www.afroedge.com/ FreeSpirit

    Hi.
    I am going to the US in June and large part of that will be travelling by coach so I will not have access to free WIFI.
    I am planning on buying an AT & T Pay as You go Phone SIM from Ebay to use in my unlocked Nexus 4 to make calls and send text messages. I also want to use my tablet over there especially on the coach and plan to swap the sim between the Phone AND a compatibile MIFI to which I will connect my tablet.
    Do you think this will work?

    Thanks

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