Education, Hints & Tips, Travel

6 Shocking things you need to know before buying an international SIM card

So you are planning to go overseas, maybe to Europe, maybe further afield and you need to keep in touch with home. You’ve heard all about how expensive roaming can be if you take your US SIM card with you, so you’ve done the sensible thing and looked at international SIM cards. Job done. But are all international SIM cards the same or are there pitfalls you should avoid? Make sure you check the following 6 things:international-sim

1. Your phone may be incompatible or locked
Your US phone won’t necessarily work in all countries. For the phone to work in Europe it will need to support GSM and be at least tri-band. If it’s a CDMA designed only for US frequencies then it won’t matter what SIM you put in – it won’t work. It’s also possible it’s locked to your domestic US network (e.g. T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T). If so, then you’ll need to get the phone unlocked before you can put in a SIM from a new network. If you call your network they should be able to help you with this.

2. Are Incoming calls free?
In the US, incoming calls and SMS are often chargeable. That’s not always the case in other countries, especially Europe. Therefore if you can choose an international SIM card that offers free incoming calls then you can often stay in touch more cheaply by sending an SMS and getting someone to call you. But be aware – not all countries may be free. Check the call charges for your destinations.

3. Does the phone number you get make you expensive to call?
Every SIM has a phone number (sometimes they can have more than one) which in turn will be registered to a country. Even “international SIM cards” have to be registered to one country. For example, a US number will begin +1, a UK number +44, a French number +33. No matter where you are at the time, when people call you it will be as if they are calling that country. So even though you may be in Canada, if you have French SIM and your family back in New York call you, they will pay for an international call to a French number. If you have one person that may be contacting you a lot during your trip, then it might be worth considering an international calling card for them. Also, not every US landline can make international calls by default. Sometimes you’ll need to get this service unblocked by your home service.

4. Can you check your usage for runaway spend?
SIM cards can be pre-paid or post-paid. Pre-paid is easier to control spend because you can’t spend more than the credit you put on, but they are less convenient because you have to keep topping up. Post-paid provides more freedom but you need to keep aware of your call spend. Some of the best providers, like Cellhire, offer an online way to not only check your usage to date but also download a record of all your calls.
World Phone
5. Check for inflated call rates, especially to “local” numbers
Some international SIM cards offer really competitive headline rates but these may only be for certain countries and certain call types. Make sure to check the call types for the countries you’ll be visiting. And keep in mind that because these are international SIMs, if you’re in Germany calling a German number this may NOT be a local call. International SIMs typically come from a single network e.g. US or UK and they roam at reasonable rates. Therefore if you have a UK-based international SIM and you’re in Germany calling a German number this is actually a roamed call, not a local Germany-Germany call and it could be more expensive.

6. Beware: Hidden data use in Smartphones?
If you take a SIM which allows data (for the internet and email) and put the SIM into a smartphone (i.e. Android, iPhone), be aware that smartphones use data all the time in the background. Even though you’re not browsing, the phone is downloading the latest mail, twitter feeds and software updates. It may even be synching your photos back to a central server the whole time. If your international SIM card charges for data on a per MB basis, you can easily run up a large bill. Look to choose either a SIM that doesn’t allow data and instead take a separate MiFi product or choose a SIM that has a decent sized data bundle. However, roaming voice and data SIMs with bundles can often be expensive and hard to find.

Hints & Tips, Travel

Mobile Internet with a Personal Hotspot

With the huge upturn in smartphone and tablet ownership there is a near 24×7 requirement to have a mobile internet data connection wherever you are. Whether it’s downloading emails, updating twitter or Facebook status, map navigation, online shopping, Skype or simply finding train times, your iPhone or Android phone is becoming a life essential. When you’re in your home country, it’s not a problem; the networks offers large data bundles and you have your home WiFi networks to rely on. But what about when you travel abroad? We’ve all heard tales of bill-shock and leaving your data roaming turned on with a smartphone can quickly lead to a large roaming bill.MiFi

So what are the alternatives? If your smartphone is unlocked then you can look to swap the SIM card and put in a SIM card for the country you’re visiting, complete with a local data bundle. That’s OK but if you’re visiting multiple countries then you need a roaming SIM card that offers both voice and data (to allow the phone to make calls) and the data allowances on these SIMs are often small and overage quite high. Also, if you’ve got a WiFi-only tablet then this isn’t an option because there’s no SIM to swap.

The most effective option is to take a MiFi Personal Hotspot device with a roaming data-only SIM card. These personal hotspots are about the size of small cell phone and connect to the mobile internet using the SIM inside. They then broadcast the data wirelessly to up to 5 devices in a 10m radius. In other words, it’s like taking a mini version of your home WiFi network with you wherever you go. The access is password protected so only you get to connect. Because devices connect through WiFi, you can connect a phone, laptop and tablet to the device at the same time and you can share it with a traveling companion. Also, because the device is separate to the phone you can use it even if you have a cell phone that is locked to your domestic network. If you use something like Skype to make voice calls then you don’t need to worry about roaming call costs. The MiFi personal hotspots can use data-only SIMs, rather that voice & data SIMs, which tends to give you larger data bundles and better prices on overage.

The units do need charging and when under use tend to last about 8 hours. However, for the traveler this is generally fine since you only need it for bursts at a time. And you can still use the hotel or restaurant WiFi as well.

So if, like me, you feel completely cut off if you’re unable to connect your iPhone to the internet when travelling then the MiFi personal hotspot is an ideal solution.

Hints & Tips

Do you use unsecure free WiFi?

Using public WiFi can be unsecure and even dangerous affecting both your personal data and potentially, your bank balance.Cellhire MiFi

If you’re out and about traveling and you need to access your personal accounts on various platforms including internet banking and social media, you might find that you’re walking right in to the arms of cyber criminals.

Most café and hotel WiFi is insecure allowing anyone with the right know-how to hijack your traffic and steal your information. Among the most common threats are “man in the middle” attacks where hackers insert themselves between users and a hotspot to gather data passing between two points. Other problems include rogue hotspots with names like “Free Public Wi-Fi”, tricking people into connecting to what they think are legitimate hotspots. Cyber criminals set these up to steal information from unsuspecting users.

One reason for the increase in Wi-Fi hacking is the proliferation of Wi-Fi hotspots. Figures from a report commissioned by the Wireless Broadband Alliance show the number of Wi-Fi hotspots reached 1.3m worldwide in 2013 and will rise to 5.8m in 2015.

Tools such as Firesheep make it easy for a hacker to snoop on other people’s browsing sessions over Wi-Fi and steal information. Other more advanced tools like Wireshark can also be used to capture and analyse traffic.

Instead of using free WiFi and taking these risks, you can take a MiFi device from Cellhire which offers a secure connection for all of your personal data. Don’t take unnecessary risks with security, why would you when you can buy a MiFi from Cellhire for as little as $59?

UK News

Cellhire launches all new cellhire.com in the US

This July saw the launch of the all new cellhire.com US website, offering a new range of mobile products for customers travelling abroad from the US. The new product range focusses on offering a smaller but more flexible selection of voice and data solutions.

Cellhire.com now includes purchase products for voice allowing customers to choose from a phone and SIM or SIM-only solution which covers either international or European destinations. In a departure from the traditional Cellhire rental approach, customers now pay a single fee and keep their devices, SIM cards and numbers. There are no recurring charges and customers only receive a bill for calls when they are made.

The major new addition to the portfolio is a prepaid data offer allowing customers to choose data bundle sizes ranging from 200MB to 1GB from as little as $29, with the additional option of adding a MiFi mobile hotspot device for only $59. Customers can buy data bundles to use in multiple zones around the world including 33 countries in Europe and two further zones, one adding key global destinations to the Europe package and the final zone covering most of the world’s key destinations.

New and existing Cellhire US customers looking for rentals products can still find these products at cellhire.com/rentals where all of Cellhire’s classic rental products covering 100 specific countries around the world are still on offer. The Rentals site has also had a full revamp to reflect the new Cellhire style.

US News

Cellhire launches all new cellhire.com

This July saw the launch of the all new cellhire.com website, offering a new range of mobile products for customers travelling abroad from the US. The new product range focusses on offering a smaller but more flexible selection of voice and data solutions.

Cellhire.com now includes purchase products for voice allowing customers to choose from a phone and SIM or SIM-only solution which covers either international or European destinations. In a departure from the traditional Cellhire rental approach, customers now pay a single fee and keep their devices, SIM cards and numbers. There are no recurring charges and customers only receive a bill for calls when they are made.

The major new addition to the portfolio is  a prepaid data offer allowing customers to choose data bundle sizes ranging from 100MB to 1GB from as little as $29, with the additional option of adding a MiFi mobile hotspot device for only $59. Customers can buy data bundles to use in multiple zones around the world including 33 countries in Europe and two further zones, one adding key global destinations to the Europe package and the final zone covering most of the world’s key destinations.

New and existing Cellhire customers looking for rentals products can still find these products at cellhire.com/rentals where all of Cellhire’s classic rental products covering 100 specific countries around the world are still on offer. The Rentals site has also had a full revamp to reflect the new Cellhire style.

Visit cellhire.com now to see the great new product range and don’t forget to check out cellhire.com/rentals to see how we have improved the look of our rentals site.

Hints & Tips, Travel

What does data cost in Europe?

So you’ve finally booked that holiday of a lifetime to Europe; taking in the history of London, the romance of Paris or the beauty of Spain. You’re going to want to tell all your friends and family back home what you’ve been up to, making them jealous with pictures of Pisa on Facebook or envious of the Eiffel Tower on Twitter. But pictures, tweets and email all use data and data in Europe is really expensive.

Isn’t it?

Not if you take Cellhire’s new Prepaid Data SIM and MiFi. With just one SIM and one pocket-sized MiFi, you can get data anywhere in the world (95 countries if you need it to be exact) at budget-friendly prices and no overage fees. With 3G speeds and wireless connectivity you can have constant access to social media and you don’t even need an unlocked cell phone. This great device even allows you to connect up to 5 separate phones, tablets or laptops so the whole family can connect at the same time. The best part is you only pay for what you use – no rounding up to the nearest MB of data here.

Cellhire cleverly have a budget Europe offer which works across all European countries offering 3G data from just $0.10 per MB. So there’s nothing stopping you making sure that all of your work colleagues know just what a great time you’re having. Should you run out of data, you can easily top it up online. The MiFi and SIM are yours to keep, so next time you travel – maybe to somewhere even more exotic – you can just top up the MiFi and go.

Get your own MiFi for only $59.99 and keep it for every time you go abroad if you need cheap and portable wireless data on the move.

UK News

Cellhire makes HSBC Global Connections finalists

Cellhire, the international mobile solutions specialist, has been shortlisted along with 44 other regional finalists in the UK as part of the HSBC Global Connections competition.

Over the past three years, the HSBC Global Connections Competition has sent 138 dynamic businesses to International Exchanges in some of the world’s fastest-growing markets and awarded access to over £3bn in funding. This year the field was widened to take in companies with a turnover of up to £100m.

The 45 Regional Finalists in the competition represent businesses across the UK which show the innovation, distinctiveness and strategic thinking that makes them future global players. The 45 finalists will progress to the regional finals in June and face a panel of judges who will whittle the list down to select National Finalists before the overall winners for 2014 are decided.

Tim Williams, Cellhire’s Chairman and CEO said: “We are absolutely delighted to be shortlisted out of so many businesses across the UK. HSBC’s recognition of our progress expanding globally is greatly appreciated and I am very much looking forward to June.”

The next 12 months will see Cellhire supply competing teams, key sponsors and the worlds’ media with telecoms as they attend the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Recent successes for the business have included delivering over 15,000 connections at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Cellhire plans to continue expanding its existing business portfolio internationally, particularly in BRIC economies.

For more information on the HSBC Global Connections competition, visit the HSBC website at:https://globalconnections.hsbc.com/united-kingdom/en/