The Joy of Global Roaming – Part 1

Detour:

A slight detour in the blogging direction for a couple weeks as i’m currently on vacation. The next few entries will cover the issues i’ve found with trying to stay connected whilst overseas.

Pre-Travel Research:

Before leaving New Zealand I did a small bit of research regarding how I would retain an internet connection. The prices of global roaming for data are excessive to say the least ranging from $5 per mb in Dubai, to $10 per day in UK then finally $2.50 per mb in Europe. With these roaming prices from my NZ provider (Telecom) I decided the best course of action would be to try to rely on the Hotels Wifi in Dubai, and then obtain a local SIM card in UK, France, Germany and Italy as these were the primary countries I would be spending any time in.

Dubai:

Dubai was simple, the Hotel provided free Wi-Fi that didn’t require signing up to any sort of service. It simply worked, and it worked really well. (Fortunately I had previously done some research on Holiday Inn Bur Dubai and this was exactly what I was expecting, which was great).

UK:

In the UK the family (Wife and her parents) and I were going to spend a couple days in London and then be travelling around in a camper van, so the reliance on Hotel WiFi was not an option. With this in mind I had heard of SIM card vending machines at Heathrow airport so checked these out and managed to get a 3 pay as you go Data Only SIM with 3GB data allowance (for 30 days) to be used in the iPad for $30. This seemed to work great (and still is at the moment), obviously it requires 3G cellular reception to be of any use, unfortunately the camping ground we are staying at in Cornwall does not have reception so I am restricted to use while we are actually on the move. As you can imagine sitting in the back of a camper van driving around the narrow roads of Cornwall is not the greatest way to read/type on an iPad.

Unfortunately my wife’s parents haven’t had as much luck with organising a method of staying connected. The plan was to use a Vodafone Mifi device (from NZ) with a UK SIM card in it to provide access to their iPad (their iPad does not have 3G). The issue with this is the MiFi device is locked to Vodafone (of course we only found this out after arriving in the UK, and trying my 3 UK Sim), and unfortunately Vodafone UK do not provide any decent data plans on a Pay as You Go Plan. The only plan we were able to get would only provide 500mb of data a month, which was insufficient as we were hoping to be able to upload a large number of photos to dropbox for safe keeping. If we had a UK address we would have been able to get a decent Pay-Monthly plan, however being tourists with no fixed abode this is not an option.

Simple Solution:

Our solution to this issue was simple. We purchased a cheap SIM-Free smart phone, and would get a Data-Only SIM for that. As long as the smart phone could create a mobile hot-spot we would be golden. We headed into a “Carphone Warehouse” and picked a Samsung Galaxy Ace with a 3 Pay as You Go Sim that provides calls, texts, and even unlimited data (this was a bonus, as I was not aware of this particular plan). A quick test of the Mobile HotSpot, and all is golden.

Next Stop – Europe:

We have not even reached Europe yet, and already this seems to be harder than it needs to be, data roaming rates are excessive. Upon checking prices (granted it was not an indepth check) it appears the costs of data roaming in Europe using a UK SIM are similar to the prices of using our NZ SIM’s hence the need to get a SIM in each country we travel to in order to keep costs done.

I plan to keep you updated as I travel to see how I get on, however it all depends on how much success we have with obtaining internet access.

About Anthony Dowling

Founder Sjones Limited, focusing on developing ID and Security Card Solutions. Long time Delphi Developer. @AntDowling
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