The New York Times story on saving money on mobile calling internationally hit home, so I thought I should add my spin to it. It's something through trial and error I've become sort of a subject matter expert on.
Upfront, I think David Kelly did an excellent job of highlighting some of what’s possible (and I really appreciate his mentioning Truphone and Boingo - both agency clients - in his story) but I felt with more space, more could be told.
Like so many international travelers I’ve also hated roaming rates for as long as I could remember. Given I’ve been traveling and working internationally on a regular basis now for at least the last 10 years, I’ve picked up tricks and tips that have helped, but until my most recent trip, I never really had what was really the ultimate solution when I'm away from my computer, where Skype has been a blessing, but not quite full solution.
Well, that solution has arrived, and it comes from Truphone with Truphone Local Anywhere.
1. I know what I'm paying per minute on Local Anywhere’s Pre-Paid plan, just like when I used buy local SIMS in local countries.
2. I can top up from the phone or from their web site
3. My friends can find me everywhere and pay local. I can call them and pay local. U.S.or UK (and soon elsewhere)
4. I don't have to swap SIMS any more. I can now use one phone, with one SIM anywhere in the world.
5. I have the luxury of having both a UK and a USA number that rings in both places. That means I can now consistently provide my UK number to my UK friends vs. telling them "the number I'm calling from won't get answered after I leave the UK," as has been the message I would leave when using a UK T-Mobile, Vodafone or Three SIM. This means a true end to number confusion.
6. When I'm calling around the UK and more importantly, over to the EU, I'm paying rates even better than the EU-to-EU international rates, not the extortion-priced rates as a USA roamer there, from wherever I may be. Even better, when I'm calling back to the States, it's as if I'm making a local call from the USA to someone down the block. That's because with Truphone, I'm viewed as a local on the Truphone network wherever I may calling to, not where I'm calling from.
7. I was able to port an existing AT&T number over to Truphone, thus allowing me to keep my USA number from one of my many accounts here in the USA and not get a new number.
Let me give you some background why this is so important. Before every trip I’ve spent many, many hours, figuring out how to minimize or eliminate those painfully high roaming rates, especially when I was visiting a new country for the first time. And, that my friends, was almost always a losing battle. But now, after my most recent trip, I can see that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And that light really is called Truphone Local Anywhere.
This most recent trip included 39 days of business travel spanning 13 cities, 9 flights, 4 trains, 12 hotels (in four countries) and regardless of where I was, I was able to make use of my mobile phone and, for the most part, with really only one phone number as far as the outside world was concerned.
Sure I used my Google Voice number that everyone has, but I pointed that to both my Truphone applications' inbound number and to my USA-based Truphone Local Anywhere number. In the UK, I simply gave out my UK number from Truphone and I was totally, connected and local and thus avoided those high roaming charges. You see, with Truphone Local Anywhere you can add local numbers in the countries they are operating in. That meant my calls back to the States were local and my calls in the UK were local. When I called someone in Europe my calls were on EU/UK International rates, not what someone from the USA usually ever pays, and thus I realized a massive per minute savings of up to 80 percent. The local number also meant I could give people in the UK (like the restaurants I booked at) my local number, so they could confirm my booking, or provide it to others who needed to reach me who are in London. For those who had my pre-existing UK mobile number I simply forwarded that to my UK Truphone number.
With Local Anywhere active I was able to beat the high cost of roaming at every single turn. And it also put a big dent into even higher data roaming rates, too.
Sure, I kept playing with all those old SIMs that I’ve acquired along the way the past few years, swapping them in and out of my cadre of unlocked phones, MiFi's and 3G Data Dongles that I usually carry. But that was more or less to see what worked with which carrier and what doesn't work where, as well as to burn up some leftover credit. But, now with Local Anywhere, those days are basically over.
What this all means.
1) For my next trip I'll pretty much be able to toss all the excess baggage of many phones and too many SIM cards away and simply use one carrier. Truphone.
2) I won’t have to race to the Phone House, Three, T-Mobile or Vodafone store in London to get my phone topped up.
3) I’ll be able to enjoy London, grab a curry lunch, instead of something fast, so I can get my phone services up and running.
4) When people check voice mail, I’ll only be checking one voice mailbox regardless of which country I’m in. That’s something most people can’t easily do even with Google Voice (trust me, I’ve done the telephony gymnastics on that one).
5) By October, other countries like Spain, the Netherlands and Australia should be online, too, with more being added. More places, local numbers, local rates for global nomads, ex-pats and other people who visit friends and family regularly.
Most of all, next trip I won’t be leaving unused credit on travel or local SIMs anymore as the Truphone Local Anywhere pre-paid calling plan just simply guts the travel SIMs where those prices may look good on the surface, but what’s hidden in the pricing really isn’t good at all. With Truphone Local Anywhere I know what I’m paying for, and what’s left over to use next time.
Add to the fact that with my Nokias or an unlocked iPhone I can also use the Mobile VoIP apps from Truphone to make calls over WiFi or 3G for even more savings, and it all means that I’m now calling everywhere as if I’m there.
Up next, more on how I saved money internationally to beat the high cost of roaming using 3G, Boingo WiFi, hotel broadband and public hotspots.