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30 Jun 2015ABOLITION OF EU ROAMING CHARGES – TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED

Shows what I know about the workings of the European Union… absolutely nothing! The last update on this issue showed parties deadlocked, unable to come to an agreement, and likely to carry on squabbling under the Council Presidency of Luxembourg. But the outgoing Latvian President was apparently in no mood to be considered a failure (on this issue at least), and opted to go for the ‘lock them in a room until they get along’ method of negotiation. To the surprise of everyone here at GO-SIM, he succeeded!

At around 3am on the morning of June 30th, after twelve hours of negotiation on the very last day of his Presidency, an agreement was reached to end mobile roaming fees in the EU Member States by  June, 2017. In addition, current roaming fees will be reduced on the 30th April, 2016 to a maximum surcharge of €0.05 per minute on calls and per MB of data, and €0.02 per text message.

There were of course some compromises as part of this remarkable deal. As had been previously suggested, there will be a ‘fair use’ policy to prevent abuses – this means that residents in the UK, for example, cannot enter into a contract with a cheaper Swedish provider and simply use roaming.  It has also meant that proposed Net Neutrality rules, the principle behind an an open and unrestricted internet, have been watered down, with the proposed rules guaranteeing a general level of service, while also keeping the door open to premium cost ‘internet fast lanes’.

We are not out of the woods yet. While the proposed law has been approved by EU President and the EU Parliament, there still remains a vote in the European Parliament, and this vote will only take place once ministers from the 28 Member State governments have given their approval. But given that it is these individual ministers, together with lobbyists from the individual telecoms companies, that have held this agreement up from its inception, it will be an even bigger surprise if they decide to give up on billions in roaming revenue and meekly agree to the proposals. However, this is a huge step in the right direction. As always, stay tuned for the latest developments.
25 Jun 2015TRAVELLING FOREVER – THE RISE OF THE DIGITAL NOMAD

For some people, the traditional approach to work feels most comfortable and makes the most sense. You live here, you work there, and every now and then, you go on holiday. The boundaries are clear. But with the rise of the internet and many other technological advances, these boundaries have become significantly more flexible, and for some, they’ve disappeared altogether. After all, if all you need to work is an internet connection and you can work from home… what’s stopping you working from almost anywhere at all?

That’s just what Theodora Sutcliffe did in 2010, along with her son Zach. As with many digital nomads, the original intention was to go travelling for a year, “then,” she says, “at the end of the year we carried on. Because - why not?”

Why not indeed? It’s a view many people have taken, to the extent that there are loads of travellers out there who make their living writing about their experiences online. Writing on escapeartistes.com, Theodora has had some truly incredible experiences, including hunting for prehistoric art on the Nile and being airlifted out of Tibet when Zach broke his arm (as well as dozens of other adventures that are a cracking good read). When I asked Theodora what the hardest part of living this way was, her answer was quite surprising. It wasn’t issues with language, culture or missing the comforts of home. “The hardest part for me, once I was working online, which I did nomadically for three years, was grappling with bad internet.”

Theodora is far from alone in this, and wherever there is a need, you can bet that someone will figure out a way to fulfil it. An industry has sprung up around the need for travellers to work effectively and efficiently. Take Hubud, a co-working space in the popular tourist destination of Bali, Indonesia. The bamboo outdoor organic café, complete with local monkeys and bean-bags, is exactly the sort of environment that tech giants such as Google are in favour of, as it promotes creativity. Personally, it would probably promote daydreaming and the urge to nap, but there are other, more traditional spaces available, in countries and cities all around the world. Some of them are great fun just to look around, let alone work in.

The rise of mobile internet simultaneously makes the world a much smaller and much bigger place. Smaller, in that all you need is a data connection via laptop or smartphone to do many jobs. Bigger, in that now, you can do that job almost anywhere. The only problem that remains, having realised that I could be writing this post from a beach in the Bahamas, is trying to figure out a good reason why I’m not.
17 Jun 2015AUTOPLAY  - THE MORTAL ENEMY OF THE ROAMING TRAVELLER

With profits flagging and investors demanding action, Twitter have today announced a new ‘feature’ – videos, Vines, GIFs and any other video-based content will download and play automatically in your feed. This is wonderful news… if you’re an advertiser. For everyone else, it’s little more than an annoyance. And if you’re roaming abroad, it’s potentially a real nightmare.

As this article concisely points out (though be warned, it contains autoplaying GIFs that have been inserted for comedic/sarcastic effect), even under perfect circumstances, such as with the very latest smartphone on a fast, 4G WIFI network, videos that are set to play automatically slow down your browsing experience and drain your battery life. If people are downloading video on their smartphones every time a new post is added to their feed, the entire network is slowed down for everyone, whether you’re on Twitter or not. Even domestically, data allowances are eaten into.

When roaming abroad, if you haven’t been very careful and disabled these ‘features’ in advance, you can find yourself spending your data allowance at an incredibly rapid rate without knowing it. As well as Twitter, almost all of the most popular social media sites autoplay videos, including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. This is because the chief source of revenue for all these sites is from advertising and unfortunately, user experience will come second place to profits.

This is likely to get worse before it gets better. With print newspapers declining in favour of online, agencies must decide whether to keep asking customers to pay for content (by putting it behind a paywall) or keep their online news open to all and fund the site with adverts. While most have chosen the latter offer, the required advertising is becoming more intrusive, with breaks in the text now being filled in some cases by autoplay videos. Other websites are sure to follow suit.

In the meantime, here’s how to disable the new feature, and if you hunt around some of the other sites, they’ll tell you how to switch off their autoplay options too.
15 Jun 2015ABOLITION OF EU ROAMING CHARGES – DEADLOCK (DEAD IN THE WATER?)

Calls for the EU to live up to its promise to scrap roaming charges by the end of this year have been renewed after it was discovered that British travellers to the EU had accumulated £573 million in roaming charges in 2014. However, in line with previous attempts, the meeting was both poorly attended and predictably deadlocked.

A breakfast meeting was held amongst telecoms ministers and other EU officials last Friday in an attempt to break the deadlock, with participants hoping that at least some progress would be made. Unfortunately, there was none. Complex technical issues were partially to blame and an inability to agree on the framework for various terms such as ‘net neutrality’ and ‘fair use roaming’. They also found time for some good old-fashioned political blame-gaming, with the European Council feeling a little aggrieved that the European Commission and Parliament were making them responsible for the lack of agreement. The reality is that while a unified roaming plan for Europe is a lovely idea, there is simply too much money up for grabs for the telecoms operators of the various member states (and therefore the member states themselves) to consider giving this up. Over £500 million from the UK alone is just the tip of the iceberg – all the other Member States have contributed to this billion-dollar industry.

So where does the EU Council go from here? Well, at least that one is easy to answer – the Presidency of the Council, currently held by Latvia, will be taken over by Luxembourg on 1st July, so it is possible that there will be a pause in proceedings while everyone finds their feet. Currently, no new discussions have been proposed. But there is some hope that things will go differently under the new president – Luxembourg has already abolished roaming between it and its nearest neighbour, Belgium. Perhaps they can convince telecoms operators that this really is for the best. We won’t be holding our breath here at GO-SIM, but we can at least keep you updated as soon as we hear anything new.
13 May 2015MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE POND…

You may remember a few months ago, we took a look at Jersey Telecom’s plans for the future, our parent company. Now it’s time to check in with the folks across the pond at Telestial – GO-SIM’s older sibling. We’re more or less the same in every way, except that they use a slightly different dictionary and in general, have better teeth.

Telestial recently commissioned a survey into the roaming habits of American travellers. Some of the findings were quite surprising, for example that over half of travellers from the US change their mobile behaviour, with 81% saying they were concerned about roaming costs. Despite this high level of awareness toward the dangers of roaming, only 43% have ever bought an international SIM card to help combat this. Many (37%) simply rely on hotel WIFI, which, as has already been established, provides questionable service at best.

There has been plenty of reaction to this story, with the survey results being picked up by USA Today and C-Net, amongst others.  Join the debate or let us know what you think by dropping us a line at shout@gosim.com.
08 May 2015THE DECLINE OF HOTEL WIFI

As the travel industry as a whole prepares for its peak season, there are only a few chances left for companies to learn from last year’s trends. One such opportunity comes from a new survey by hotels.com into the preferences of hotel bookers. The results are simultaneously surprising and no surprise at all, with complementary wifi being the number one item that customers of all types seek out when selecting a hotel room. The unexpected part is that this figure has dropped in all categories, down 4% for leisure travellers to 30%, and 6% for business travellers to 50%. When asked, 60% of respondents wanted to see free wifi as standard for all hotel rooms, a figure that has also dropped 6% on last year.

These decreases are certainly not down to the fact that people no longer want to go online while abroad. All the evidence points in the opposite direction, that people are using mobile data more than ever before. More likely, these declines are due to the service simply not being good enough. For a start, many hotels are still charging for wifi access, often at very high rates. Free or paid, the service is often sub-standard, leaving many customers unable to access video or other streaming services. It is also hideously insecure. Instead, what is driving these changes is the fact that consumers are breaking free.

When it comes to using data abroad, the relationship between companies and customers has traditionally been similar to that of predator and prey. If they think that they have you trapped – for example, by locking your phone to a particular provider or attempting to stop you using other services on their premises – companies of all kinds will seek to extract as much as they can from you. Prices rise, but the service remains the same or declines. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you really cannot go anywhere for a time, such as on a plane or cruise ship. It’s no wonder people have had enough.

Here at GO-SIM, we are very pleased to be on the other side of this debate. Together with the increased availability of free public hotspots, data roaming packages such as our own are the stated reason for the decline in popularity of hotel wifi. We hope that they’ll get the message eventually, but until they do, look carefully at what’s on offer and if necessary, create your own solution.
05 May 2015WHAT SORT OF HOLIDAY DO YOU CALL THIS?

Here’s something you didn’t know (or maybe you did, in which case, I’m very sorry – please carry on): it’s not enough to simply call it a ‘holiday’ or ‘vacation’ any more, not when there are so many other options available. You could take a staycation (holidaying at home), a  thrillcation (pursuing extreme thrills or situations) or a foodcation (travelling to where the best eats can be found). Or there are greycations, playcations, haycations and if you’re really unlucky, fakeations, whereby you are forced to pretend that you’re on holiday just to catch up with an overbearing workload. That photo you’ve just taken of yourself and your friends in front of the palm trees – is that the humble selfie (if there is such a thing), or is it in fact a ‘braggie’? If it’s the latter (a photo of yourself intended to show off your wonderful surroundings in order to make others jealous), you may want to check whether there are benefits to posting and tagging it online. If you’re packing a tent, you’ll have to decide – are you camping, or are you glamping? Are you backpacking or flashpacking?

Given the trend for amending new words, this is not something we see going away any time soon, especially if we have anything to do with it. Even now, our GO-SIM wordsmiths are working hard to come up with next year’s trendy buzzword. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

Braycation – donkey-based travel (not to be confused with a Neighcation)

Curds-and-Wheycation – a trip for those who love to re-enact nursery rhymes

Altarcation – touring the fonts and pews of old churches (no fighting allowed)

Fraycation – a holiday designed for the specific purpose of ruining your jeans

Sleighcation – exclusive to Lapland

Craycation – go where you like, but the only thing on the menu is lobster (or you could take the vegetarian option, a Cauliday)

Tanqueraycation – gin-based holiday activities (as invented by my grandmother)

Do-you-know-the-way-to-San-Josecation – traveling through California without a map, listening to Burt Bacharach songs

Naycation – no, I am not going on holiday, stop asking

If you think you can top those, please send your suggestions to shout@gosim.com and we’ll feature the best ones in a later post.  
17 Apr 2015THE BILLSHOCK REPORT – DOWN UNDER EDITION

Spare a thought for the Melbourne man who finds himself moving straight to the top of the billshock blockbuster chart after his phone was stolen in Spain. Kim Beveridge had his pocket picked one evening in Spain, but unfortunately did not notice until some 20 hours later. Mr Beveridge immediately did the right thing: he phoned his provider, informed them that his phone had been stolen and asked them to freeze the account. The phone provider agreed – they had seen evidence of fraudulent behaviour and his account was suspended. Crisis, you would hope, averted. Not so. When he received his next bill, Mr Beveridge was horrified to discover that his operator wanted him to pay over $190,000.

In the 20 hours since his phone went missing, the thieves racked up an extraordinary 4,484 calls to premium rate numbers. With 38 calls active all at the same time, this was clearly not something that was possible to do with a single phone. It is likely that the thieves were using a SIM box, a device that houses multiple SIM cards in order to bypass certain connection fees for international calls. It is an increasingly prevalent type of fraud and costs operators upward of $3 billion per year. It is particularly painful for smaller operators, who find themselves in danger of being put out of business. So while it is a bit shocking, it is not wholly surprising to learn that the company want Mr Beveridge to pay the full amount, and no surprise at all that Mr Beveridge is refusing.

The problem here is that neither party is to blame, and in order to get the $190,000 back fairly, you would have to track down the criminals and bring them to justice. Even if they could be easily identified and located, there would need to be court proceedings and a verdict could be weeks or months away, during which time, the operator could go under. This case will no doubt end up in court anyway, as customer and operator both try to avoid financial ruin. The result will likely be that no one will win. The phone company won’t get the full amount back, and while the customer is unlikely to have to pay the entire sum, the settlement will be significant indeed. And in the meantime, the SIM box fraudsters will have put another group of victims and phone operators in the same position.

What is to be done about this? After all, this is not a story about negligent phone users downloading videos or spending too much time on Facebook. The customer’s phone was stolen, and as soon as he was aware of this fact, he contacted the operator, just as he is supposed to. There are a number of additional ways to protect yourself, but it seems that one of the simplest is to use a different SIM while roaming abroad as it is impossible to rack up a large bill with a pre-paid SIM card. It may also make sense to use a different phone too. Someone using a more generic smartphone will appear a less attractive target than a person using the latest iPhone. Either way, even with users becoming more savvy to the consequences of their own roaming, it seems that billshock is still finding ways to creep up on us.
10 Apr 2015ABOLITION OF EU ROAMING CHARGES - GLIDING INTO REVERSE

It seems we’re not paranoid after all. When we reported back in September that the EU were talking about watering down proposals to abolish roaming charges in the EU altogether by 2016, we were a little sceptical. The language had changed significantly, for one thing. Instead of giving firm dates for when these proposals would be implemented, there was now a ‘glidepath’ to a reduction in roaming rates. Here at GO-SIM, we’re not wholly sure what a glidepath is, but it certainly did not sound either swift or urgent.

The reason for this change is that the EU is split into three governing bodies. The European Commission are the executive body, responsible for upholding treaties, making sure decisions are implemented and, in this case, proposing legislation. In 2013, they proposed a single European digital market, with an end to roaming charges within the EU by the end of 2015. This was then passed to the next governing body, the European Parliament, which gave their backing to the plan with an almost unanimous vote of approval.

However, the next step was to have the proposals reviewed and approved by the European Council, and this is where the water starts to get a bit muddy, because this is where the heads of state and government of the member nations have their say. Certainly, they must all have agreed that abolishing roaming was a great idea in principle, but when it came to the concerns of national telecoms operators and the amount of money they stood to lose, things became a little more complicated.

It began with Italy proposing a ‘fair use’ limit on roaming. Customers wanting to roam abroad could do so – up to a point. However, if they exceeded this limit, then additional charges would apply. It would be left to the individual telecoms operator to decide what these limits and additional charges would be. Then, early this month and with the support of their fellow member states, the President of the Council (currently Latvia) submitted new proposals that suggested they revisit the issue in 2018 to see if anything else was needed. In other words, roaming charges would once again be reduced in the EU, but not, as they had at first suggested, abolished.

Suffice to say, the European Commission are not happy to see their plans being scuppered by the Council. The Commission’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip called the proposals “a joke” and criticised the member states for a “lack of ambition”. Of course, as we all know, it’s not ambition that is driving these decisions, it’s money. Lobbyists have a whole range of unpleasant scenarios that they claim communications operators will be forced to implement if they lose their sweet, sweet roaming money, from a reduced investment in infrastructure to raising domestic calling costs. Local politicians, who have elections to win, are clearly not yet ready to take on these threats, and so things remain, broadly, as they are for the time being. 
19 Feb 2015:-(

As the mobile phone market has evolved, so have the methods by which we communicate – and also the ways we can get ourselves into trouble. Our good friend billshock has mutated once again, and this time it’s going after our smiley faces.

You might be forgiven for thinking that emoticons are a relatively recent invention, having come into being with the rise of the personal computer. They have been around far longer; in fact, it seems that ever since the invention of printing, type-setters have been messing around with their tools to make funny faces. One of the earliest existing examples comes from the satirical magazine “Puck” in 1881. The stated intention of the four grammatically-induced faces was “to let the public see that we can lay out, in our own typographic line, all the cartoonists that ever walked”. Clearly this was not meant seriously; as well as inventing the emoticon, Puck magazine was also instrumental in the creation of the modern satirical or political cartoon (and in fact, there’s one directly beneath it in the original paper).

A few years later, and in all seriousness, American journalist, critic and author Ambrose Bierce invented a new symbol. This new mark would be "an improvement in punctuation – the snigger point, or note of cachinnation: it is written thus ‿ and presents a smiling mouth. It is to be appended, with the full stop, to every jocular or ironical sentence". While this suggestion now seems somewhat stiff and humourless, if his ideas had been adopted sooner, there would have been no need for emoticons as we currently use them.

In 1982, physicists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg were using a computer ‘bboard’ (an early precursor to the technology that would shortly become the world wide web) to post riddles for each other to solve. One question involved theorising on what would happen to a candle and a drop of mercury if they were in a freefalling lift. As is now the case on every message board in the world, one participant fancied himself a joker. “WARNING: Because of a recent physics experiment,” he wrote, “the leftmost elevator has been contaminated with mercury. There is also some slight fire damage. Decontamination should be complete by 08:00 Friday.” Many people took this for the truth, despite the fact that no such event had taken place, and the conversation turned to how such confusion could be avoided in the future. Enter Scott E Fahlman, father of the modern emoticon, whose smiley face/sad face suggestion paved the way for the symbols we use today.

As emoticons began to be adopted around the world, it became clear that there were not enough of them. Variations, adaptations and additions began to appear. Winks, tongues, tears and frowns began to appear on these typographical faces, adding a new range of implied tones with which to convey messages. Japanese style emoticons (which are presented vertically, not horizontally, ie: (*_*) ) and those comprised of accented words and obscure symbols (for example: ᶘᵒᴥᵒᶅ) have vastly increased the amount of possibilities.

By the end of the 20th Century, emoticons were being used every day by millions of people around the world. Seeing this, developers in Japan decided that if we were going to all this trouble to make tiny pictures, why not just use tiny pictures themselves? These ‘emoji’ were at first only available in Japan, but as their use and usefulness increased, they spread to the rest of the world. It is said that emjoi is the first truly international language – after all, there are no words, only pictures, and putting them together tells a story as easily as the written word. You can, if you are so inclined, read an emoji translation of Moby Dick. Most smartphones now have a separate keyboard specifically for emoji, and it is an incredibly useful way of adding an extra dimension to a simple text message. However, there is an issue. While emoji are more convenient and easier to understand than a series of colons, brackets and letters, some phones do not accept emoji as part of a text, and classify them instead as pictures. This can have serious ramifications for your monthly phone bill.

The cost of text messages (SMS) are not something people worry about too much these days. After all, most deals offer unlimited texting as standard. But that’s not the same as picture messages (MMS), which are usually charged individually, and at a higher rate (approximately 40p each). Overusing emoticons over a month can lead to surprising bills – sometimes very large ones. Even if you prefer traditional emoticons, you are not out of danger. Many handsets, in an attempt to be helpful, will substitute a smiley face emoticon for a smiley face emoji, thereby changing your regular text message into a picture message. Some manufacturers now display warnings that this is going to happen, but it is certainly worth being aware of the dangers, especially when travelling abroad.
16 Jan 2015THE POWER OF TWO

Who’d be a SIM card, eh? Talk about body issues. Things are fine for years and years, and then suddenly Apple come along and say, ‘Sorry SIM cards, you’re too fat. You’ve got to lose some weight if you want to fit into our smartphones’. So the SIM card hits the gym and loses enough excess plastic to become a micro SIM, and for a while, everyone’s happy. But then, Apple come back again: ‘Hi SIM cards, look – we appreciate the efforts you’ve made to slim down. You look great, you really do. The thing is, we’ve got a whole load of new tech to cram into our latest phones, and we’re sorry, but you’re still too big. Would you mind, you know, becoming a nano SIM?’ Once again, the SIM loses weight. In fact, it loses all the excess size it possibly can. What no one has told the poor SIM card by this stage is that user habits have changed. SIM cards are not the only ones having to shape up. After years of competition to see who can have the slimmest, most compact handset, small is no longer beautiful. Users now want a phone that will fit in their pocket, but also the functionality and screen size of a tablet. So ‘phablets’ are invented, a cross between the two, and smartphones start to get bigger again. Now the tiny little SIM card finds itself in a much bigger space and is understandably upset after going to all that effort. So, almost by way of apology, smartphone manufacturers have now begun adding a second SIM slot. At least now the poor, put-upon SIMs have a companion to complain about all this with.

Dual-SIM handsets are nothing new; we have been selling them for years. Now the top-end smartphone makers are releasing handsets with two SIM slots. It’s not simply a question of filling space. The ability to have two SIMs working in a phone simultaneously is incredibly useful, especially when travelling. Say you have your ekit handset (which is sold unlocked and therefore can take any SIM of any kind) and you are away for a few weeks. You’ve taken the very sensible decision of buying a GO-SIM international SIM card, but what do you do with the second slot? Well, you could bring your regular SIM with you so you don’t miss any calls. While a sensible option, you still need to be very careful using your regular SIM abroad, as you can still incur roaming charges. Some operators will charge you for receiving a voicemail message even if you don’t listen to it.

Another option is to add a local SIM. As phone users in the UK are all too aware, just because you have a working SIM card, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a working signal everywhere you go. One operator could have a strong signal in one area, while another could have nothing at all. A little research into local SIM card coverage maps and a second local SIM will mean that you have full coverage wherever you are. This is particularly useful in larger countries, where metropolitan areas may have very different service providers and rates compared with more rural areas. This is very much the case in countries such as India or Brazil.

A third option is to have different SIMs for different things. For example, a GO-SIM Europe SIM card for making or receiving calls while travelling, and a GO-SIM data SIM card and data bundle for browsing. Because you’re keeping the two activities separate, there’s a certain peace of mind that comes with knowing that if you run out of credit on one SIM, you can use the other to top up there and then.

One last word of advice on dual-SIM handsets – if you bought your phone from a major provider, both SIM slots will be locked so that you can only use their SIMs in either slot. Contacting them to have the phone unlocked will make both SIM slots available in the majority of cases, but there have been a few cases where an unscrupulous provider will charge you to unlock each slot separately.

(Of course, if you can have two SIM slots, you can have three. Or four. We could not find a phone with more than that, but if you find one, please do let us know at shout@ekit.com!)
19 Dec 2014JT – OUR VISION FOR 2015

Here at GO-SIM, we take a world-wide view of things. After all, our customers are travelling everywhere that it’s possible to go, and it remains our goal to make communication as cheap, convenient and easy as we possibly can when they get there. You might be forgiven for thinking that because they are based on the Island of Jersey, our parent company would have a narrower view of things. After all, the island covers an area of just 45 square miles and the population remains steady at about 100,000. But size has little to do with it, and the truth is, they are just as focussed on the rest of the world as any other major telecommunications provider, if not more so. The clue is in the name: JT Global.

For a view on JT’s vision of the future for both residents and consumers, take a look at this article for Contact Magazine by JT’s Chief Operating and Technical Officer Dave Newbold. For JT Global’s customers, partners and employees, the future looks very bright indeed.
09 Dec 2014ROAMING WARS – END OF YEAR UPDATE

2014 has been the year that international roaming has been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the spotlight. The battles that have erupted around the world no sign of calming down any time soon. There have been victories and losses on both sides, for consumers and operators alike, but peace seems like it is still a long way off. Here’s a round-up of the latest developments.

We start in Europe, where the EU’s cap on roaming rates in 31 countries is making a real difference for consumers. As already covered in a previous article, their plan to abolish roaming charges altogether by December 2015 has met with strong resistance from operators. While the reduced rate in Europe has received a good deal of favourable attention, it seems that some operators have attempted to claw back their profits by raising the price of non-EU roaming. In Ireland, for example, costs for roaming outside the EU have doubled since early 2013.

Over in North America, while the debate over Net Neutrality rages on in the US (especially now that President Obama has offered his opinion on the matter), network operators do battle with each other over the price of data roaming. T-Mobile, with the support of Sprint, have asked the FCC to provide guidance on acceptable roaming rates. This could eventually lead to EU-style regulation of roaming rates across the USA. However, the larger operators, AT&T and Verizon, believe that things are working just fine the way they are, and are fighting to keep things as they are. Meanwhile, in Canada, roaming has become a big enough issue that established operators are having to defend themselves against a slew of new companies dedicated to reducing roaming costs. One of the major players, Rogers, has entered the debate by offering ‘roam like at home’ rates for the US. This has been seen as a bold move purely because of the amount of money at stake. Rogers’ new plan offers a cap of C$5 (£2.78) per day to roam on AT&T’s network – a vast difference from the previous option which involves a data rate of C$7.99 (£4.45) per 50MB.

It’s a similar story in Africa, where demand for roaming is creating new innovation and forcing operators to offer alternatives. In Zimbabwe, for example, the country’s second largest operator Telecel has just offered reduced  roaming rates for seven other African countries, including South Africa, Malawi and Botswana. This now includes data roaming, which was previously excluded from all roaming deals. In Australia, Telstra has just unveiled a range of passes for international roaming, from A$15 for three days right up to A$300 for a full month. All these new agreements, offers and changes are definitely a step in the right direction, but if you think that this means an end to horror stories about billshock, think again. Just this week, a customer in Singapore received a S$2,270 (£1,100) bill for data charges accrued in Malaysia over the course of a single afternoon.

None of the major players really want to offer reduced roaming rates, not when they stand to make an estimated $90 billion from such charges by 2018. However, companies that specialise in international SIM cards (such as GO-SIM) are becoming more and more popular amongst consumers, forcing the larger operators cut their rates to be competitive. Not wanting to give up their roaming revenue is only one factor – for true international roaming to be effective, they would need to enter into agreements with other major operators, some of which are their direct competition. Many operators will find coming to terms with their rivals a slow and occasionally painful process. While they’re only now starting to look seriously at this, it’s something we’ve been doing for years.

To sum up, 2014 has been a year of seismic changes in the roaming world. Certainly, for those roaming close to their home country, there are much better deals available than there were a year ago. However, you still have to be very careful when choosing one of these plans, as there are hidden dangers lying just past any caps on allowances, and if you are headed further afield, the offers become less and less attractive. A roaming SIM card from GO-SIM still offers the best savings on calls, SMS and data and remains the solution of choice for the savvy traveller.
02 Dec 2014HOW MUCH DOES A TEXT MESSAGE WEIGH?

There are those who would happily lay the blame for many of the world’s problems at the feet of the humble mobile phone. Anyone who has sat around a dinner table with a teenager, for example, might feel that the art of conversation has been somewhat diminished. If you’ve ever received a text message comprised of emoji and combinations of letters and numbers (u wot m8? ;)), you could be forgiven for thinking that written English has suffered as a result. And of course, if it doesn’t work properly, time you should be spending talking into it becomes time wasted swearing at it. However, researchers at the New York Spine Surgery have discovered a new problem - using your mobile phone incorrectly might be causing long-term physical damage.

According to the report, smartphone users spend an average of two to four hours per day looking down at their device, which easily equates to over 500 hours per year. In a world where we are developing special smartphone lanes for users who can’t break away from their phones to see where they are walking, this is beginning to have an effect on posture. The added pressure on the neck of someone hunched over a phone can be as much as 60lbs, or the weight of a seven-year-old child.

It’s hard to know how to combat this. Obviously, texting and walking with a straight spine will leave you looking like a starship captain in an alien environment attempting to take a reading on your tricorder. The development of wearables and improvements in voice recognition software (meaning that you can dictate texts instead of typing them) may ease the burden on our tired backs. For now, all that we can do is try to be more aware of our posture when using the phone. I’ve found that replacing my home screen picture with a photo of my grandmother looking stern together with a caption that reads ‘no slouching!” has been very effective, but you’ll probably want to find your own solution.
15 Oct 2014OK COMPUTER

Talking on your phone is old news. Talking to your phone is the big new thing, and very much a feature of iOS, Windows and Android systems. It’s all very clever, and increasingly so. A recent study put the three main voice-controlled search engines through their paces, asking them a range of over 3,000 specific questions. Of the three, Google Now came out on top, with an almost 90% success rate. Just as impressive is the fact that this is available for free, right now, via the Google Play app store. We’ve tested it on our Android handsets and it works really well.

The Google app has recently been updated to make travel planning easier, from finding restaurants, bars and places of local interest, to reminders for your flights, car rental or other reservations. There is no need to inform your phone of every little thing you’re doing, such as which country you’re in and the name of the hotel you’re staying at. Your phone already knows where it is (and where it is not), and if you’ve used it to book any of your reservations or flights, it uses that information to your best advantage. So the only thing stopping you now is the feeling of awkward self-consciousness that comes with talking to an inanimate object.
02 Oct 2014NATIONAL ROAMING

Making calls in the UK is a more complicated business than you might realise. Certainly, you will have no problems in metropolitan areas. You will almost always have a strong signal, all bars filled, no matter which network you are on. But if you leave the towns and cities behind and venture into more rural areas, then you might find things getting a little strange. For example, there are many places where you won’t get a signal at all if you are using a particular provider. There are houses where you can only make calls by standing in the furthest corner of one particular room. This can be inconvenient, but at least you’re inside. Other places require a much more complex routine. I once spent a fortnight in a village in Cornwall which offered two options: you could either walk a mile and a half up a winding hillside road to find a signal at altitude, or you could use the improvised ‘mast’ at the local pub. This ‘mast’ was in actual fact the pub’s flagpole, and you could get a signal, if you were tall enough, by standing on an upturned bucket with your phone held in the air. This led to some excellent entertainment as we watched people attempting to shout a conversation into their mobile whilst clinging onto the flagpole. We soon discovered that you could just about maintain your conversation, your dignity or your balance, but never all three at the same time.

Whether British Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has ever had to balance on something perilously unstable to make a call is unknown, but nevertheless, he is leading a push to end this national nightmare. Among the proposals being suggested are a £150 million investment toward putting up new masts in areas that are lacking them, and an attempt to get rival operators to share masts in order to give greater coverage. As with all roaming-based issues, national and international, we will be watching closely to see how everything pans out, but you can read more here.
30 Sep 2014
DO YOU NEED AN INTERNATIONAL SIM CARD?

Of course you do! But don't just take our word for it. Our friends at 1Dad1Kid.com are professional travellers, having been on the road since 2011, so they really know what they're talking about. See what they have to say about GO-SIM here.      
29 Sep 2014
TRAVELSTART'S TRAVEL STATS

South African travel company Travelstart have commissioned a very interesting survey about travel habits in South Africa. It came as no surprise to see that, when asked, 92% of participants felt that the roaming fees charged by local operators were too high. For example, on the most popular network, Vodacom, the cost to call South Africa from most countries is R23.50 ($2.08), whereas data costs can be as much as R128 (just over $11) per MB. Compare this with GO-SIM’s Explorer service, with both international calls and data roaming at $3.89 ($0.37), and it’s clear that consumers have a fair point. Check out the rest of the survey for some interesting facts and figures, such as what people from South Africa use their phones for while out of the country, or what percentage of travellers are likely to take photos in places where they’re not supposed to!
26 Sep 2014
BILLSHOCK BLOCKBUSTER!

It seems that Australia still leads the world in cases of billshock the name given to the unpleasant discovery that youve accrued a huge amount of charges on your mobile phone account whilst roaming overseas. In the last year alone, half of the 14,500+ complaints received by the Australian Telecoms Ombudsman concerned data costs of over A$400. A staggering 60 customers received bills of over A$10,000! But these poor people have been blown out of the water this week by a new entry into the Billshock Hall of Shame straight in at number one, the story of the man who received a bill for A$571,000.

Racking up half a million dollars in phone fees is no simple task and requires a lot of help. Firstly, you need to have your phone stolen while in Europe. Then those thieves need to spend just about every minute of the next 24 hours making calls around the world, including to Somalia. Finally, you need to get the timing right because the customer was resident in Australia but located in Europe, the time difference meant that the phone was recorded as being stolen a day later than it actually was. Fortunately, the Ombudsman has stepped in to ensure that the charges are waived, but we think that it will be a while before this particular record is broken.

If you have heard any Billshock horror stories, or even been unfortunate enough to experience it for yourself, please get in touch and let us know. You never know, you might make it into the top ten!
26 Sep 2014

EU ROAMING CHARGES SCRAPPING THE SCRAPPING?

In July of 2014, the European Commission implemented the first steps toward the abolishment of roaming charges in the European Union by cutting the cost for roaming calls and data. Roaming fees across the whole Eurozone were on schedule to disappear altogether by the start of 2016. However, according to reports this week, new draft legislation may make this a much more gradual process, with telecoms operators working toward the goal of standardised charges across the continent, as opposed to doing away with them outright. Operators claim that to deny them this revenue all of a sudden would make it more difficult for them to invest in new technology and networks, and so a more gradual phasing out is necessary. Negotiations are ongoing, and well be keeping a careful eye on what is eventually decided. Watch this space for the latest news!

18 Aug 2014

Mobile Data Update

Data is now available in Laos with our international SIM cards. Also, data rates in Pakistan have been reduced.
08 Aug 2014New country added! We now provide coverage in Laos for calling and texting with our international SIM cards.
04 Aug 2014Honduras and Nicaragua are now also available for the data bundles of our international SIM card.
04 Aug 2014Cyprus (South) has been added to the coverage of the Data SIM, bringing the number of popular travel destinations covered to over 55.
21 Jul 2014Data rates in Saudi Arabia and Iceland have been reduced. Saudi Arabia is now also available for the data bundles of our international SIM cards.
18 Jul 2014We have expanded the coverage of our international SIM cards. Calling and texts are now available in Tajikistan and Equatorial Guinea. Data coverage has been added to Equatorial Guinea and Malawi.
07 Jul 2014

*IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR TRAVELERS TO THE USA*

In response to new information from the Department of Homeland Security, the US Transport Security Administration (TSA) has announced new security measures for passengers carrying electronic devices. Effective immediately, any passenger flying into the US from certain airports may be asked to switch on their smartphone, tablet, laptop or similar device to prove that it works. If the device does not have power, it will not be allowed on the flight, and its owner may be subject to additional screening. While the TSA have not said which departure destinations are listed as of particular concern, passengers from both Britain and Belgium have reported being subjected to these measures. Other reports suggest that iPhone and Galaxy devices have come under specific scrutiny.

If you are flying to the US from any destination, we suggest you ensure that you check ALL electronic devices to ensure that they can power up and down, and remember to pack your charger. In the event that your device does not power up as expected, you still have a number of options. You can go back to the airline and place the item in a checked bag, and some airports have postal facilities that will allow you to post the item home to yourself. Additionally, you can keep it in your car (if you are parked at the airport) or give it to a family member (if they are there to see you off). Please note: if you do not take advantage of these options and the device is confiscated, it will be considered excess government property and you will probably not see it again.

04 Jul 2014New data country! Zimbabwe now has data coverage with our international SIM cards, also available with data bundles for even lower rates.
03 Jul 2014Russia has been added to the coverage of the Data SIM, bringing the number of popular travel destinations covered to 54.
02 Jul 2014Data rates in Russia and the Ivory Coast have been reduced. Both countries are also available for the data bundles with our international SIM cards.
19 Jun 2014Data rates in Thailand have been reduced for our range of international SIM cards .
18 Jun 2014China has been added to the coverage of the Data SIM, bringing the number of popular travel destinations covered to over 50.
28 May 2014Data rates in Costa Rica and Macau have been reduced for our range of international SIM cards .
19 May 2014Lower data rates for Israel, Faroe Islands, Rwanda and Uzbekistan announced! Our data SIM now covers 47 countries, with more being added all the time.
07 May 2014Data usage rates have been reduced in El Salvador and Guatemala for the current range of our international SIM cards.
20 Mar 2014We Know EVERYTHING! If you live in Europe, we have a good idea of what your holiday plans are, and we didnt even need to use the NSAs spying programme to find out. Its all there in an EU report, the results of which are collated from a survey of over 30,000 participants. The results are, unsurprisingly, very interesting. The economy, for example, still has a huge influence, with four out of ten respondents giving this as the main reason that they took no holiday at all in 2013. In EU countries that have been hit particularly hard by austerity measures, this figure is even higher, with up to seven out of ten staying home instead. Those of us who are planning a holiday are not exempt, with a third of travellers saying that economic factors play an important part in deciding where to go. 42% of holidaymakers chose to stay in their own country instead of travel abroad, and another 40% stayed within the EU. As for the type of holiday that people like, things have not changed all that much. We are still very much a continent of sun-worshippers, with a trip to a sunny destination being by far the preferred choice. Spain was the top destination for tourists, with France and Italy close behind. In addition, when we get there, its good to see that everything seems to be in order. 95% of travellers said that they were satisfied with their accommodation and surroundings, and the amount of people who said that they were satisfied with the local prices was similarly high. Only 4% of respondents found anything to complain about, mostly related to travel in their holiday location. When it comes to booking a holiday, the majority of those that dont get someone else to arrange everything for them (22%) make their plans using the internet. We also like to make sure we get the most for our money, with one in four people researching and booking each service separately. Of course, if you are reading this, then you can already count yourself as part of that savvy minority! Surveys like this are an excellent opportunity for us to learn the travel habits of our customers, and to make changes accordingly. We already strive to get the very best roaming rates for calls, data and SMS. Rest assured, we will use this information to your advantage, and ensure that no matter what your destination and your reasons for choosing it, worrying about the cost of calls while you are away will not be a factor.
07 Jan 2014Data usage rates have been reduced in France and Anguilla for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
22 Nov 2013Data usage rates have been reduced in Luxembourg for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
05 Nov 2013The rates to make and receive calls in El Salvador has been significantly reduced on the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
18 Oct 2013Lower data rates in Nigeria! From next week on, data rates in Nigeria will drop significantly and Nigeria will be added to the data bundles!
04 Oct 2013More coverage! Service (voice and text) now available in Cameroon, Gabon & Guinea with our international SIM cards.
04 Oct 2013New data coverage. Data is now available in Cameroon, French Polynesia, Guinea, Nicaragua, Martinique and Zambia with our global SIM cards
24 Sep 2013Data usage rates have been reduced in Austria for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards
28 Aug 2013Data usage rates have been reduced in Belgium and Ghana for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards
09 Aug 2013Check our our latest travel app tip "Are we there yet?" edition!
01 Aug 2013New article about bill shock and overseas phone usage
23 Jul 2013See what the Sydney Morning Herald has to say about our international SIM cards!
16 Jul 2013New country added! Voice, text and data coverage is now available in Cameroon on the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
25 Jun 2013Check out the global festival round up for July at http://on.fb.me/12hATdJ - a great excuse to travel and use your GO-SIM international SIM
06 Jun 2013Great news if you are traveling to Japan! Data rates have been significantly reduced in Japan for the range our our international SIM cards.
23 May 2013New Release- Data Bundles: Purchasing a Data Bundle is a great way to get the best value mobile internet while you are traveling. Data Bundles provide you with a separate credit balance which is used for surfing the web, emailing, streaming music and videos and all other kinds of data usage on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. To purchase a Data Bundle, just log into your international SIM card account online, under account details you can then select the Data Bundle you would like to purchase.
17 May 2013New roaming countries added! Coverage is now available in Rep. of Guinea & Turkmenistan on the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
14 May 2013Check our latest travel app tip on our facebook and google pages. Benefit from our low data rates when traveling with your international SIM.
08 May 2013Data usage rates have been reduced in Greece to only $0.49/MB for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
03 May 2013Check our latest travel app tip on our facebook and google+ pages. Benefit from our low data rates when traveling with your international SIM.
26 Apr 2013Visit our facebook page to learn more about our travel app tip of the week!
09 Apr 2013Travel App of the Week: ONAVO COUNT/ONAVO EXTEND Find out more on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/GOSIMsocial
26 Mar 2013Check out our newest travel tip on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/GOSIMsocial
14 Mar 2013Your GO-SIM international SIM card comes with two numbers, one for the UK and one for the US. The Global number is already allocated to the SIM and is printed on the card. The US number is optional, and can be activated once you have the card and start calling. Should you need a reminder of either of these two numbers, simply dial 568 for your Global number, and 654 for the US number, and it will be sent to you moments later via text message.
12 Feb 2013Cheaper rates in the St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago and Turks & Caicos! The rates to make and receive calls have been significantly reduced for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
01 Feb 2013Cheaper rates in the Montserrat, ST Kitts & Nevis and St Lucia! The rates to make and receive calls have been significantly reduced for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
25 Jan 2013Cheaper rates in the Cayman Islands, Dominica & Jamaica! The rates to make and receive calls have been significantly reduced for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
17 Jan 2013Cheaper rates in Anguilla, Aruba & Barbados! The rates to make and receive calls have been significantly reduced for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
09 Jan 2013Faster data with the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards. 3G now available in Gambia!
04 Jan 2013Faster data with the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards. 3G now available in Belgium, Croatia and Slovakia!
24 Dec 2012GPRS data coverage has been launched in Macedonia for the current range of GO-SIM International SIM cards.
21 Dec 2012Faster data with the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards. 3G now available in Honduras, St. Kitts & Nevis and the British Virgin Islands!
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23 Oct 2012We are happy to announce that you can send SMS from our range of GO-SIM International SIM cards to Verizon (USA) phones again. There was a technical fault beyond our control. We apologize to those who were inconvenienced by this outage.
16 Oct 2012Cheaper rates in Argentina! The calling rates have been reduced in Argentina for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards
12 Oct 2012New data country added! Data is now available in Nepal on the current range of our GO-SIM international SIM cards
09 Oct 2012Cheaper rates in Hong Kong! The calling rates have been reduced in Hong Kong for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards
04 Oct 2012For anyone wanting to upgrade their Iphone or Ipad, we are pleased to inform you that the iOS 6 firmware update has been tested successfully with all GO-SIM international SIM cards.
25 Sep 2012New roaming country added! Coverage is now available in Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyz Republic) for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
18 Sep 2012Data usage rates have been reduced in Albania, Switzerland and Egypt for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards
20 Jul 2012 Free Facebook updates while you travel with our range of GO-SIM International SIM cards! For more info please visit www.gosim.com/facebook-notifications.html
13 Jul 2012Keep a journal of your trip - with our free Travel Journal! To set it up, link it with facebook or twitter, just log into your online account at www.rechargeminutes.com
10 Jul 2012Data usage rates have been reduced in Argentina for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards
06 Jul 2012Add a German phone number to your current GO-SIM international SIM by logging into your account (under Account Details)
03 Jul 2012Data usage rates have been reduced in China, Cyprus & Azerbaijan for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards
29 Jun 2012Data usage rates have been reduced in the UAE and Thailand for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards
26 Jun 2012New roaming country added! Coverage is now available in Chad for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards.
22 Jun 2012New data country added! Data is now available in Guatemala on the current range of our GO-SIM international SIM card!
19 Jun 2012Cheaper rates in Russia! The rate to receive calls has been significantly reduced for the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards
12 Jun 20123G data is available in over 95 countries with the current range of our GO-SIM international SIM. For a complete list of countries and the carrier(s) visit our data page.
08 Jun 2012Faster data with the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards. 3G now available in Montenegro on M Tel!
05 Jun 2012New data country added! Data is now available in Albania on the current range of our GO-SIM international SIM cards!
29 May 2012Keep in touch with friends while you're away. Update your Facebook and Travel Journal by sending a text message to our special short code number and get text message notifications when friends posts comments on your wall. Available on all of our GO-SIM international SIM cards.
25 May 2012Data is available in over 135 countries with your GO-SIM international SIM card. Your phone must be configured for data usage to work with our SIM cards. We offer over the air configuration, which means that it is done automatically. Just visit www.rechargeminutes.com to get started!
22 May 2012Forward your existing phone number to your GO-SIM international SIM card while you are traveling, making it easy for people to reach you.
18 May 2012Want to use your GO-SIM international SIM with your own handset? Here are helpful tips on unlocking your phone: www.unlockingcodesforphones.com
11 May 2012Faster data on the current range of GO-SIM international SIM cards. 3G now available in Aruba, Barbados, Jamaica, Cayman Islands & Haiti!