Do you travel abroad for work or for play and need hate the bills that you get from international cell phone roaming? Well I completely understand. Go Figure! After having recently returned from a nice relaxing holiday in Europe (Amsterdam, Prague and Vienna) I can definitely relate if you are one of those people who thoroughly enjoy 1 Euro half pint beers, but feel the hangover kick in a month later when you open that 100 Euro mobile phone bill. Funny how that works huh? You work so hard to save money via outsourcing and/or setting up an International office where you do a lot of business abroad only to blow your savings on wireless roaming every month. As the current average roaming rate in China (across the industry) is $5.99/minute whether you are making or receiving a call, I’m sure you can see how this can quickly add up even if the only thing you are doing is retrieving your voice mail. So I have decided to share with you 5 of my clever tricks that I often use to help my clients save a ton of money on their international wireless roaming fees.
1. Jajah, ‘Free Your Voice’ with FREE CALLS to CHINA!Think of it like Skype for cell phones. Most of the carriers intentionally put a ‘delay’ in your wireless handset on the data service hence if you have ever tried to use Skype from your mobile you hear an echo. Unfortunately, it is not a bad connection. It is basically a diplomatic way to keep you from taking up precious and valuable space on the data network and getting a little bit carried away with your ‘unlimited’ data package. Just like nothing in life is ‘Free’ neither is anything truly ‘unlimited’. At any rate, Jajah is a FREE download for your cell phone. As long as you and the person you are calling have Jajah software downloaded on your respective handsets you can call each other for free and talk unlimited ;-). Jajah makes its money from website advertising and selling other premium services.
2. Babble Stick: Oh the beauty of IP based telephony.Plug your Babble Stick into any PC around the world and make free phone calls. They also have a handset version of the stick which is really small and cute (it’s on their website). Babble Stick uses a secure software platform integrated on a USB key with audio devices and drivers built in. There is no special software required. Additionally, instant messaging and voice mail comes standard with your Babble Stick. Just plug in and babble away. That word is starting to grow on me. I think I am going to start saying ‘Babble’ instead of talk and ‘Handy’ instead of cell phone, ‘cause dat’s what they say in the U.K. Ok now, carry on.
3. Unlock Your Phone and use a Pre-Paid SIM Card. And better yet if your company uses Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony service, forward your extension to your mobile number. The reason why is the Pre-Paid SIM Card phone number is different from your regular cell phone number that is why forwarding your number is recommended so that you only have to give people one number to reach you (although you can forward your phone number from any phone that has a call forwarding feature built-in, beware the per call forwarding fee). Unlocking your phone means having the carrier restrictions released so that you can use your phone with any GSM carrier SIM Card. The 2 major benefits of unlocking your phone/BlackBerry is: #1, you can use your phone anywhere in the world there is a GSM network as opposed to only in the places your carrier has international cell phone roaming agreements in place and #2 You can save a crapload of money on your international roaming fees by using the local provider in the country which you are located. With a pre-paid SIM Card you are paying local rates when you make and receive calls within that country and also in most European Countries calling party pays which means essentially your incoming calls are free. If you are a T-Mobile subscriber who has had service for more than 3 months you can call T-Mobile Customer Care and request to have your phone unlocked for free. They will provide you with the unlock code and give you the instructions to manually unlock your phone. For all other GSM carriers you will have to use a third party provider and pay a nominal fee. I personally use and recommend: Unlock It Now And for all persons looking to obtain Pre-Paid SIM Cards at an aggressive international rate, the most aggressive international roaming rate with FREE incoming calls I have found is through Cellular Abroad and Cell Hire.
4. Try to use your data features such as email and text messaging as opposed to making voice calls when possible. Using two-way messaging and email is considerably less expensive than per minute call rates. And use your Babble Stick ;-) to check your cellular voice mail when possible.
5. Palm and BlackBerry users who travel overseas regularly throughout the year should call their respective wireless carriers and request an international data package. This will allow you to get unlimited use of your email at a flat fee when you travel abroad. The rate is about $12-15/mo additional. And bonus: You can set up your BlackBerry or Palm as a modem and tether it to your laptop to save on your daily hotel Wi-Fi rate and save from additional added international cellular phone roaming fees that you would incur from data usage.