Being a Telstra customer, and previously using Amaysim and Optus, I’ve had a rough time when it comes to using my smartphone outside of Australia. It’s kind of a pain when you’re travelling for work, especially when you’re working online. During this year’s Mobile World Congress, though, I actually had unlimited data while I was overseas, for the entirely reasonable sum of $11 per day.
Any savvy traveller knows the smartest thing to do when travelling is to buy a local SIM when you get to the airport, saving yourself money by using a local provider’s networks and (usually) cheapest possible data rates. The next best alternative is to buy a SIM before you depart from a global roaming provider like Globalgig, which supports dozens of countries and provides entirely reasonable rates as long as you book them in beforehand. If you have time before you travel, though, there’s KnowRoaming.
In its current state, KnowRoaming uses a tiny, translucent sticker with gold contacts that you affix to the contacts of your smartphone (or tablet)’s SIM card. Then, with the help of the KnowRoaming app (it’s available for both iOS and Android), you create an account, then when you’re overseas you switch to the KnowRoaming SIM by virtue of tapping a button within the app. You can even forward calls and messages from your existing Aussie SIM to the KnowRoaming one.
Rates are pretty reasonable, too. When I was in Spain, for example — 10 cents per minute to call a landline, 23 cents per minute to call a mobile, and 14 cent SMS. But it’s the data that’s most appealing — for US$8 per day you get unlimited 3G data (depending on the country you’re in). At current exchange rates that’s a hair less than $11 per day, for the privilege of not having to switch off mobile data and stop streaming Spotify or using YouTube or disabling all your emails — well worth it to me.
At MWC, KnowRoaming announced a “Soft SIM” — it’s a version of the platform that works with eSIM-enabled devices, meaning you don’t even need to order the tiny sticker and put it on your phone’s SIM card. That won’t be coming to Australia in the immediate future, because we don’t have any phones or mobile carriers that work with eSIM at the moment, but the technology is there — it’s being rolled out by KnowRoaming in partnership with TCL, which is the parent company responsible for Alcatel handsets in Australia.
Even now, if you’re about to embark on a long trip outside of Australia and your international roaming data rates are too high — and unless you’re on Vodafone, they almost certainly are — then it’s worth looking into KnowRoaming, especially if you’re a heavy data user within Australia and you don’t want to change your habits when you travel. [KnowRoaming]