One of the largest challenges international travelers have is staying connected at affordable and easy-to-understand rates. The last time I was in Europe I was fortunate enough to have a portable WiFi device with me that gave me free access to 3G. I happily streamed music in the gym and would occasionally look at my phone ad notice the WiFi icon was missing for some reason. My stomach would drop whenever this happened as I had no idea how long I was streaming at local roaming rates.
This feeling is the reason why estimates say more than 80% of international travelers turn off roaming … Any figure north of 80% is surprising high until you realize the massive charges associated with roaming. Moreover, consider the hassle of calling your domestic provider and arranging for international service. Many of them only sell recurring plans meaning you have to remember to turn off your plan when you get back. You also have to remember to do this at the right time – waiting long enough for all your charges to hit your account but not too long to roll over into the next month.
To make matters worse, some countries such as India have regulatory environments which can slow your ability to get mobile connectivity by weeks.
To get around these challenges users use WiFi hotspots but this limits your connectivity when you aren’t near one. Another option is to buy local SIMs but challenges abound if you don’t speak the local language or can’t find a store to sell you a SIM card or have to stop what you are doing to find a store to top off your newly acquired SIM. Another challenge is commuting between countries which requires SIM swapping. Given how small SIM cards are getting these days, the less I handle one, the better as far as I am concerned.
One solution to this problem is being provided by GigSky a new company founded by Ravi Rishy-Maharaj who also serves as CEO. His company has a universal SIM which works in unlocked phones and allows users to utilize an app to simply select a country, operator and plan to use the service virtually anywhere in the world.
He tells me when he uses his company’s service he routes his local number to Skype In which allows him to speak using IP communications/VoIP. He told me that one minute of VoIP which equals approximately one megabyte costs his users ten cents per minute. Currently this is the cost in forty countries where the company operates. They are looking to soon cover over 120 countries and to further drive prices to five cents per minute. Moreover, the company provides a free 10 MB of data when you land in a country which is covered.
GigSky current and future country support
I look forward to testing the service in the future, I will certainly be thrilled to not have to deal with the confusing roaming plans the carriers are currently offering.