In the age of satellites and global communities and the internet, mobile phone roaming charges are the scam of the century. Luckily, there are companies out there trying to bring prices down and holiday-makers can enjoy several new services. We take a look at three of these recently-announced services below.
Truphone Local Anywhere – The new global service from Truphone gives you a local phone number with local rates when you go abroad without having to change your SIM card. It’s currently available in the UK and USA – so if you’re holidaying in America, you’ll have two numbers on your SIM – a US phone number and a UK number. Your phone will ring whether someone calls your UK or US number; the difference is that you’ll be able to make calls from your US number at local rates, rather than at massively-inflated rates on your UK number. Local numbers are not available in every country yet, but when it rolls out to other countries, you’ll also be able to receive incoming calls on your local number without paying a fee. Unfortunately you still have to pay to receive calls in the USA, just like the locals do. Boo hiss.
The major benefit as we see it will be low-cost data when you’re abroad – you’ll pay just 75p per MB (a bargain compared to O2’s current data-roaming charges of £6 per MB) so you can keep up with Twitter, use map apps and tourist guides on your phone without paying through the nose or having to seek out local Wi-Fi.
WorldSIM – WorldSIM is really a similar concept to the Truphone SIM – a pre-pay SIM card which gives you a UK number and a local number on the same card when you go abroad. Like Truphone, it is launching in the UK and US first (in early February) before rolling out to other countries – but whereas Truphone runs on Vodafone, WorldSIM runs on 3. WorldSIM tells us it’s working feverishly on a deal in South Africa, so football fans will be able to get a local number if they’re headed out there for the World Cup later this year.
IP2 Mobile – IP2 Mobile does something slightly different; instead of just a SIM card, you’ll buy a whole phone for approximately $20 (around £12). It’s a tiny, credit-card sized handset (pictured right) with what IP2 Mobile is calling ‘Roamobi’ technology. When you make an outgoing call, IP2 Mobile’s base centre will call you back and connect the call. This saves you more than 50% of what UK networks charge you for roaming calls – the upshot is that you’ll have to dial the international country code even when you’re making UK calls from the UK.
Eventually IP2 Mobile hopes to offer a number of phone numbers on the same SIM card in a similar way to the companies above, but the low-cost handset will be out in time for summer holiday-makers to take advantage. The handset won’t do much more than calls and texts, but on the return journey, travellers are encouraged to donate the handset back to the company to provide Third World countries with a low-cost mobile solution.