If, like us, you get through a bit of data on your smartphone, travelling internationally can be a pain. Without mobile internet access, you’re cut off from email, Facebook, Twitter, and any other connection to the folks back home that you might use on a day-to-day basis.
Globalgig is one solution to that problem. With a bunch of deals with international mobile network providers in some of Australia’s most popular travel destinations, and data rates that are much lower than typical international roaming prices from your local mobile carrier, it’s a (relatively) cheap way to get roaming data and stay connected to the world.
What Is It?
- Countries Supported: UK, Ireland, US, & 36 others
- SIM Size: Mini, Micro, Nano SIM
- Plan Price: $9, $19, $29
- Quota: 1GB, 3GB, 5GB
- Pay As You Go: Yes
- PAYG Price: $0.02/MB, $0.10/MB, $0.20/MB
Globalgig is the Australian arm of global mobile broadband service Voiamo, with a network of partnered mobile telecommunications carriers in around 40 different countries that lets Globalgig users roam freely between nations without losing mobile phone coverage and without losing access to that crucial mobile data.
With standard size mini, micro- and nanoSIMs on offer, you’re required to switch out your phone or tablet’s existing SIM card, but it’s a simple and quick enough process for anyone who has done it before. Globalgig previously also sold a 3G-capable Wi-Fi hotspot, but it’s a little outdated now and has been discontinued. Globalgig’s SIMs will work with any of a huge range of Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Windows RT and 8.1 and other smartphone and tablet devices
If you have an Android device, it’s as easy as setting up a new APN in Settings-Tethering & Networks-APNs. If you have an iPad, just go to Settings-Cellular Data-APN Settings. (The setup process for an iPhone is a little too complex to be worth mentioning here.) All around the world, Globalgig uses a single unified APN — “mbb.voiamo.net”, with no username or password required — and that makes it very easy to set up once and rest assured that it’ll work straight away in whichever partnered country you travel to.
What Is It Good At?
Pricing is a difficult topic to discuss with roaming mobile data services; with Globalgig the process is simple enough depending on which countries you’re visiting. In Australia, the UK, Ireland or the US you can get 1GB, 3GB or 5GB for $9, $19 or $29 per month to use across all four countries. Outside of those areas and in the 36 other partner nations, Globalgig’s pricing is split into two tiers — $0.10 per megabyte in 19 countries, and $0.20 per megabyte in the rest. If you use excess data within the prepaid 1/3/5GB area, you’re only up for $0.02 per megabyte in overage charges.
These prices are pretty impressive, moreso when you compare them to the offerings of Telstra and Optus in Australia — with and without prepaid international data packs. Where $29 gets you 100MB of Telstra data to use overseas, that same price gets you 5GB of Globalgig partner data across the world.
Globalgig’s deals across the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland are rock solid. The process is equally simple when you’re travelling to any of 36 other locations. You roam onto the T-Mobile network in the States, onto Three in the UK, and onto other partnered networks — like Telekom (itself partnered with T-Mobile) in Germany, for example. When you touch down and switch on your smartphone or tablet or hotspot, within a few minutes, you’ll be hooked up — provided you have everything set up correctly otherwise.
Here’s a hint — if you’re a regular traveller, and you’re a bit tech-savvy, the Globalgig SIM is perfectly complemented by one particular 3G/4G Wi-Fi hotspot sold in Australia at the moment, Telstra’s Prepaid 4G Wi-Fi. It’s a cheap hotspot, but it has incredible battery life, supports a huge range of 3G frequency bands for connecting to international mobile networks, and it’s also impressively cheap. It takes a bit of time and effort up, specifically unlocking the device through Telstra and then changing its APN to Globalgig’s, but the end result is worth it.
What Is It Not Good At?
Globalgig also faces stiff competition from the new international roaming deals inked by local telcos like Vodafone. When you can roam “like home” and use your local mobile data allowance as if nothing were different, it becomes harder to justify the extra effort of buying and setting up and bringing along a Globalgig hotspot or inserting it into your smartphone or mobile-enabled tablet.
The setup process is not as seamless as using an Optus or Telstra or Vodafone SIM. Because Globalgig is a MVNO, and doesn’t actually have its own mobile data network, straight out of the box on a tablet or a smartphone, you’ll be auto-assigned APNs from Optus’ Yes Internet network. That’s one thing that you have to remember to change before heading out of the country, and one thing that it’s worth checking when you land overseas just to make sure that it hasn’t been supplanted by the local carrier’s settings.
There are a few notable exceptions to Globalgig’s partnerships at the moment. There’s no coverage in Canada, or in Singapore, or in the United Arab Emirates. Seeing as the first is a popular travel destination and the second two are incredibly popular destinations for transiting or layovers on long-distance plane trips, it was a bit of a shock to switch on my phone in an Abu Dhabi airport lounge and not have the luxury of mobile data that I had in Berlin and London.
And, of course, the kicker for especially data-hungry travelers — obviously only those heading to the countries with which Australia shares those pre-loaded 1GB, 3GB or 5GB prepaid plans — is the fact that Globalgig only has access to 3G networks across the world. In Sydney? You’re on Optus 3G, which is busy at the best of times. In the US, you’re on T-Mobile’s sometimes spotty towers. It’s usually good, but with this kind of partnered arrangement there are a few small caveats.
Should You Buy It?
If you’re on an Australian mobile carrier that charges through the nose for mobile data when roaming, and if the idea of pre-purchasing a pack of data is a little restrictive, then Globalgig’s Home & Abroad plans are a great idea. If you travel regularly from Australia to the US, UK, or Ireland, then there’s hardly a better option available to you than Globalgig.
If you’re travelling outside of these specific locations, Globalgig’s data sharing agreements cover you for international data access in 36 other countries including a huge swathe of Europe, although you’ll pay more per megabyte. South East Asian travellers, including the notable omission of Singapore, might be less impressed with Globalgig, although the inclusion of Hong Kong in the 10c/MB tier is nice to see.
As usual, your mileage may vary as to whether your local carrier offers a better deal. If it’s Telstra or Optus, probably not. If you’re on Vodafone and able to access the $5 per day roaming deal, the value proposition of using your local data for a short trip may be more appealing. As it stands, though, Globalgig is an excellent service that is appealing to regular travelers and occasional tourists alike.