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Receiving calls at a reasonable rate when in Thailand or Spain October 14, 2010

Posted by themobilephoneconnoisseur in Uncategorized.
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Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people tend to travel from colder countries like UK, Norway and Sweden to warmer countries like Spain, St Barth’s and Thailand in the winter months. As this is during high season of most people’s work, I get loads of questions on how to avoid horrendous costs for receiving calls when away. What you would like to do is to sit on the beach and still be reachable on your regular mobile phone number at a reasonable cost.

What I will describe here is fairly advanced, but can in return save you hundreds, if not thousands of Pounds, Euros, Kronor or whatever your currency is. The only prerequisite is that you have an unlocked mobile phone.

Step 1

Make sure you have an Operator One account, if not this is created free of charge on www.operatorone.com. Once you have the account, add some credit to it.

On Operator One’s website, purchase a Connect Plus phone number in the country you are in. This new number will immediately be presented and sent to you in an e-mail. (For countries such as Germany and France, a special process is required before the number will be yours.)

Step 2

When arriving in the visiting country, get hold of a local (prepaid) SIM-card. Make sure it works. These cards don’t cost that much and it does not have to have too much credit (unless if you are in the US or Canada).

Get online; if you are doing this from your mobile phone, use the mobile web site http://m.operatorone.eu or just go to the regular web site if you are using for example your hotel’s Wi-Fi.

Sign in to your Operator One account and go to the Account Settings page. Add the new local SIM-card’s phone number to your own phone numbers and have it set as your Primary.

Step 3

Insert your home phone (SIM) in your phone, and force forward all incoming calls to your Connect Plus number, using *21*PLUSNUMBER#. Note that the PLUSNUMBER should be in local format e.g. 0203-1234567 for a London number or 21 01 02 03 for an Oslo number.

It is extremely important not to divert calls “on busy”, “no answer” or something like this, as this will cause double roaming costs. (Technically the difference is having the HLR forward instead of the VLR).

The effect: Your friends can reach you on either the Plus number or your mobile phone number. In the later case you will need to pay for a regular local mobile forwarding cost, typically using your included minutes. Operator One charges to for example Thailand are very small.

The effect on the price:

Receiving a calling Thailand is now roughly £0.02p per minute instead of roughly £1-2.00 with most mobile operators.

Receiving a call in Spain is £0.10 instead of £0.12 compared to the Euro roaming tariff.

So, for intercontinental roaming the savings are huge, 90-99%. But when moving around within Europe, they are quite limited (at most 20%), if any, depending on your mobile operators price for a local mobile call.

A last note. It is a great idea to still have your home phone on, since SMS messages cannot be forwarded, and they are free to receive.

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Mobile data access when traveling October 7, 2010

Posted by themobilephoneconnoisseur in Uncategorized.
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One of the most common questions I get from friends traveling abroad is what to do when wanting to connect the PC to the internet.

As most people know it not advisable to download data when roaming. There are no tricks to get around this other than either to use another mobile broadband service (local mobile broadband service) or connect using local Wi-Fi networks.

Unfortunately changing your phone’s SIM is very simple compared to changing SIM in your mobile broadband connection. So unless you get a modem as part of the price when buying a local mobile broadband connection, you will be reconfiguring everything from APNs to outgoing SMTP-servers. Not very practical or user friendly.

The Wi-Fi alternative leaves you to being dependent on staying in the places where there is Wi-Fi available. How easy it is to find these so called hotspots varies greatly. In for example Portland in Oregon in the US, there are hundreds of access points free to use, while in Seattle not far from there, it is tricky to get online without paying a minor fortune. McDonalds actually has a pretty good network in many countries, as well as Starbucks. But will you be spending your time online while having coffee?

Actually your best choice is probably to get a hotel room that has a good enough wireless (or cabled) internet connection. But watch out, some hotels have no shame in charging you €15-25/day. So when booking a hotel, it is advisable to see if the internet connection is included, or at least find out the price before hand. In my experience, Radisson hotels have often had very fast and stable internet connections, and often free too.

iPhone vs Android, Nokia, Blackberry and Windows Phone September 29, 2010

Posted by themobilephoneconnoisseur in Uncategorized.
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– Should I get an Android or iPhone? Or a Blackberry, or newer Nokia? Or wait a few months for a Windows Phone?

I often get this type of question. The question is tricky and it has no perfect answer, but let me elaborate a little on what I see in the near future development that can be of relevance for a choice today. After all, a smart phone is an expensive tool in your everyday life. All of my reasoning below assumes an unlimited voice and data flat rate price plan.

iPhone is the obvious choice for somebody who has not gotten used to a physical keyboard and who does not communicate too much via text. You must however live with the fact that Apple will decide for you what you will be allowed to do with your phone. Apple has the user experience main focus, and they are masters of it. And make a minor fortune from it, which in the end will come out of your pocket of course. Many people I have met say that iPhone changed their lives, and I can understand them if they come from a life without internet in the phone, which is the normal scenario, especially in the US.

Google Android is a great budget choice with roughly the same purposes as iPhone. However these phones allow you to install applications that will do much more. For example route your outgoing calls. This can be good and bad. It could save you a lot, for example on outgoing international calls with Operator One, but it also allows malicious programmers to call up premium numbers. You also might want to consider that Google controls the platform, and whatever they do tends to go towards identifying what you search for, communicate about, talk about with your friends, just so Google can make even more money off of their money machine “pay per click” ads.

Blackberry is really for people who live their online lives in text based services like e-mail, Twitter, text messaging etc. Just those basic features like efficient copy-paste features. At the same time, this advantage is also the limitation, as the user experience is not quite as obvious. Worth noting is that Blackberry has their unique offer of international data roaming at very reasonable rates, this is possible due to their separate agreements with mobile providers as well as their extreme compression, which also is related to the text based nature of their e-mail application.

Is a Nokia an option? Well, Nokia phones are very nice phones, no doubt about that. They are a sort of mish mash of a BlackBerry and iPhone. But looking forward, can Nokia compete? The big problem for Nokia is in my view that their OVI-store to download apps isn’t not too exiting, and I believe the main reason is that there simply are too many different kinds of Nokia’s to choose from and the apps don’t work too great on all types of phone. The many phone models are a direct consequence of being the biggest player in the market. The size however is also the asset for Nokia, and once they figure out a way forward, I believe they will be able to beat Apple and Google in many market segments.

Windows Phone looks like a great alternative so far and Microsoft has truly understood their failure in the past. The next month will reveal how well they have learned their lessons. The main advantage is of course the native integration with Exchange, so for business users it is an obvious choice.

Personally my next phone is probably an advanced Android from Sony Ericsson or HTC, but tempted to get a Nokia E7 or Windows Phone.

EU Roaming September 22, 2010

Posted by themobilephoneconnoisseur in Uncategorized.
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Here is a valuable insight into the complicated situation of the EU Roaming regulation, valid since a few years.

Most people are aware of the fact that operators in the EU have a cap on how much they can charge an EU subscriber who is roaming within the EU.

But only some people know (probably by finding out the hard way, like myself) that local operators in Europe can have any price plan for outgoing international calls when not roaming, since competition is considered to be satisfactory here. This leads for example to £0.50-1.00 per minute for UK prepaid SIMs when calling from the UK to Germany. Because of the EU Roaming regulation, it can be cheaper to cross the border to make the same call to Germany!

But, did you know that there does not seem to be any limit on how much a non-EU call is allowed to cost when a EU subscriber is roaming within the EU? €2-3 per minute is not uncommon. Also, you should consider yourself lucky if you find this price on your mobile service provider’s price list, it is not obvious where to find it, as most often they only list making calls home and within the country you are visiting.

The other week, I was in Paris for just a few hours, and getting hold of a local SIM-card was not really an option. At the same time I desperately had to make a business call to Pakistan. Sitting on a train to the airport I simply had no way of using Skype or a VoIP service, so I had to use a regular phone for 20 minutes. Using my regular roaming phone would have cost me 20x€2, i.e. €40 for that single call. But by making an EU-call to an Operator One number, I got away with roughly €10, a 75% saving.

I do not regard a call to be cheap unless it comes down to around $0.10-0.20 or €0.10-0.20 per minute, so this was still massively too expensive, but it shows that there are special cases where you quite easily still can save a lot relatively. This also shows that international pricing from EU mobile operators still have a long way to go before we reach reasonable costs for a simple call.

Why are international prices to call mobiles in the USA different from others? September 15, 2010

Posted by themobilephoneconnoisseur in Uncategorized.
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I recently got a question from the Operator One customer services to answer a tricky question from a subscriber. He was wondering why it was more expensive to call from a mobile phone in Europe to another mobile phone in Europe, than to a mobile phone in for example the US or India.

One might think this is strange due to the longer distance, but the explanation for the cost to the US lies in the fact that the called up party pays for all mobile calls, i.e. incoming as well as outgoing calls. If you sum it up, the total cost of a call in either direction is roughly the same.

For example:

Assume a price of €0.10/minute to call up or receive a call within the US, and €0.12/minute to call up a European mobile with Operator One. The total cost of the call from the US phone to the European phone is €0.10+€0.12=€0.22/minute.

Assume a cost of €0.10/minute for making a local call with a European provider, and a cost of €0.02 to call up a US mobile with Operator One. The total cost of the call in the other direction works out to: €0.10+€0.10+€0.02 = €0.22/minute.

Over all, the major cost for the mobile networks lies in the usage of frequencies. This reason for this is that the so called bandwidth is limited, and often related to high license fees and/or other requirements (such as geographic coverage requirements) from local governments.

In most countries outside the USA and Canada the principle of Calling Party Pays (CPP) applies, which means that the calling party pays for the cost of the call. The reasoning around CPP is that it should not cost anything to receive a call, since that was not an action taken by the called up party, which seems fair. In the USA and Canada the reasoning is instead using so called airtime, which is related to allocating the usage around bandwidth. And also that the calling party would not know that the called up number actually is a mobile phone number, i.e. to be able to predict the price of the call better, which also seems like a fair reason.

In many African countries the price difference between calling to a landline and a mobile is very little. This is often related to the fact that the infrastructure for the landline networks is poorly developed and that mobile technology is a faster and cheaper way to deploy.

Then there are the regulatory reasons for prices being higher than expected, for example the governments in Pakistan and Ghana have made permanent or temporary fees/taxes for incoming calls from abroad. This is usually considered as a way to tax expats who otherwise are not paying taxes at home.

In countries like India and Thailand the price to send traffic to the mobile networks have dropped significantly over the last years, and this probably related to deregulations in combinations with a high usage and lower hardware and local maintenance costs.

This is a rough overview, and of course there are many details for each specific market, but I believe I have summarized the major reasons here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m your guide May 4, 2010

Posted by themobilephoneconnoisseur in International phone calls, Technology, Tips and tricks, Travelling.
2 comments

This blog will be about international phone calls. You might not think it sounds too sexy at first, but I do think that you’ll find it helpful.

Do you have friends or family abroad? Do you travel to other countries every once in a while? Are you interested in making the best choices and not being ripped off? Maybe you like new technology?

I am here to provide you with smart tips and tricks on how to combine an active, international life style with the usage of your mobile phone. Welcome!

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