If you have been playing the Australian technology drinking game over the last few years, you have taken many a drink when you heard the words "Bill Shock". Basically it's the idea that you get a shock when you open your bill as to how much it is based on what you thought you used. Long story short: telco is a pretty pricey game, and these people aren't reading fine print properly. Over the last few months we have been reviewing what I'm calling the cure to bill shock. It's called Globalgig, and you'll be pleased you two met.
What Is It?
The Globalgig Wi-Fi hotspot is a marvellous piece of tech that essentially makes huge data-roaming bills a thing of the past. That sounds like a huge gimmick, but after a few trials abroad we can attest to the fact that the Globalgig does, in fact, work.
How Does It Work?
Basically, you buy -- $129 for the unit plus a monthly plan -- or rent -- $5 per day for the unit and 150MB of data -- the Globalgig pre-paid Wi-Fi hotspot, power it up and you’re away!
Connect to it like you would any Wi-Fi hotspot on your mobile phone, tablet or laptop. The data rates are infinitely cheaper than anything Telstra, Optus or Vodafone can offer, and it potentially beats out buying a SIM your destination city — both in cost and hassle.
Globalgig only works in three regions right now: Australia, the US and the UK, but more are apparently coming online soon.
The best things about the Globalgig is the most obvious: cheap data roaming. In Australia, the Globalgig roams on Optus, so let's use that as our example as we delve into the world of maths and dizzying numbers.
Say for example you took your Optus mobile to the UK or the US and decided to download or stream a few songs. 25MB of data later and you're in the hole to Optus for the frankly shameful $500 (based on a roaming cost of 20 cents per 10 kilobytes).
For the amount of money it costs you to stream a few Top 20 Chart Hits to your smartphone on holiday, you'll charged as much as a $40 phone plan is likely to cost over a whole year. This is why Globalgig makes so much damn sense.
For $25 per month, you get 1GB of data to use in the UK, US and Australia. $39 buys you 3GB and $49 will get you 5GB. Cue more maths.
Say you bought a 5GB monthly plan and a Globalgig device. You're on the hook for $178 in the first month and you have 5GB of data. Compare that to our Optus 25MB streaming cost from earlier and you're coming out on top with a $322 saving and over 4.9GB extra data to use on whatever the hell you please.
Excess usage charges on month to month plans are fairly reasonable at 5 cents per MB over your plan, and there's no lock in contract. This is genuinely a great deal.
Even if you rent the device for $5 per day, you're still only paying $150 for 4.5GB of data per month. That's cheaper than a plan, and way cheaper than spending potentially thousands on roaming when you get home.
The only problems you really have with the Globalgig is battery and network speed.
Network speed is the primary annoyance, but to be fair, that's not really the fault of Globalgig. I tested mine in the US on Sprint's 3G network, which is poor at best. In the UK it uses 3 but I don't imagine that being leaps and bounds better, and in Australia it's still only using Optus 3G, which is passable. Perhaps we have all been spoiled by HSPA+ and 4G networks to really appreciate how good the Globalgig is.
Despite the crazy savings on offer, it's worth noting that not every network in every country is covered, so if you're planning to go somewhere in Europe or Asia, for example, the Globalgig isn't for you just yet.
The battery on the Globalgig modem is nothing short of atrocious. I had to carry a USB charger and external power pack with me wherever I went with the Globalgig. It's not a device you can set and forget all day like some USB modems, it's a big battery hog.
The longest I got from fully charged to empty was just over an hour, and that was when it was only connected to one smartphone. Check out our guide on getting power while abroad, or consider sourcing a second battery for the Globalgig before you buy.
Should You Buy It?
Yes. A thousand times yes. If you're a techie bent on travelling, the Globalgig should be on your "Don't Leave Home Without" list.
Despite the battery issues and the state of slower data networks, buying or renting the Globalgig it's better than paying through the nose for data browsing while overseas.