An end run around roaming

July 22, 2011

When it comes to telecom expenses, I can be a real cheapskate.  I travel frequently in Europe, most often to my portfolio companies in the Benelux and the UK.

One of the beauties of Europe is the accessibility of my habitual destinations via high-speed rail from Paris.  Paradoxically, an inexpensive and brief 2-hour train ride can lay the groundwork for an unwieldy mobile phone bill the minute I cross a national border.

Roaming fees, especially data roaming, contribute substantially to the net margins of European telco’s.  Although they are under regulatory attack from the EU, including some frighteningly audacious propositions which I’ll write about later, roaming fees remain exorbitant.

I’ve experimented with a handful of solutions to circumvent these fees.  Here’s what works best for me:

  1. I purchased local prepaid sim cards in certain countries, notably the UK and the Netherlands where I spend the most time.
  2. At my office we use an excellent VOIP provider called Keyyo, which also happens to be one of our legacy portfolio companies (now publicly-traded Euronext ticker: ALKEY).  In addition to my mobile number, I’ve also systematically distributed my Keyyo land line number to my contacts.
  3. Keyyo provides me with economical calling rates from my Keyyo line to mobile phones, even international mobile numbers.
  4. Before my trip, using Keyyo’s web interface I program my Keyyo line to transfer all calls to my local sim card at my destination.
  5. Anybody that calls me on my Keyyo line is automatically transferred to my local mobile phone in the country I’m in.
  6. Although I pay Keyyo a fee for these international calls, I save a bundle on expenses relative to the data roaming fees I would pay on incoming calls to my French mobile phones while abroad.

Moreover, with relatively inexpensive prepaid data plans, like those offered by T-Mobile in the Netherlands, I can use a second Android phone while abroad that remains fully in sync with my Gmail account and eliminates the hassle of physically swapping sim cards.

My objective of this scheme is to circumvent roaming fees all while not incurring any substantial inconvenience.  There is undoubtedly room for improvement, and I welcome any inspiration others may have.

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posted in technology by mark

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  • Jason C.

    I like your thinking, but this wouldn’t work for Americans
    tourists in Europe because our evil cable companies don’t give us triple-play ADSL service with a low-cost international calling package like you Europeans have. 🙁 This is one area where the USA seriously lags Europe.

  • Cees

    Great post. Have you considered simply setting up call forwarding on your French mobile phone to your foreign sim?

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