Andrew Grill – “The Practical Futurist”.
As “The Practical Futurist”, I travel internationally on a very regular basis delivering keynotes and consulting advice to companies around the world, from San Francisco to Cairo, from Melbourne to Nicaragua and all places in-between.
One constant need I have is for reliable and fast internet, and I just hate paying data roaming fees. I can’t simply rely on public WiFi, because I’m often on the road and need connectivity in-between gigs.
Just last year, I was roaming with my UK mobile provider during a stop-over in Dubai and ended up with a £150 bill for downloading just 30Mb of emails while waiting to get off the plane. I made a promise to never let this happen to me again.
For years now, I have been searching for the right solution that balances cost with practicality.
In the process, I have amassed a range of 3G and 4G portable hotspot devices, commonly called “Mi-Fis” for each of the regions I travel to, buying them in a foreign city so that they would work on the local operator’s network. Just some of them are featured below, purchased in a range of countries.
In America for example, 4G networks operate on a range of frequencies or “bands”. The US 4G networks use 700MHz, 850MHz, 1700MHz, 1900MHZ and 2100MHz frequencies.
In contrast at home, the UK networks use 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2600MHz frequencies. In Australia it is different again. For this reason, manufacturers of 4G devices only produce them to work in the countries where they are sold.
In the past, this has meant that I had to carry a different WiFi device for home in the UK and Europe, a separate one for travel to America and another one again to get the fastest 4G speeds in Australia.
As a true “global road warrior”, I needed a single device that spans as many of the 4G frequencies as possible, so I only need the one device for each continent I visit.
In addition, I would always buy a local SIM card in the country I was travelling to, to reduce the data costs to local data rates.
This means I had a collection of data sims and devices. It became a nightmare to manage.
There had to be another way.
On a recent trip back from speaking at an event in Hong Kong, I was flipping through the British Airways in-flight magazine and I saw an advertisement from Uni-Fi Global outlining their 4G global Wi-Fi Device. At first, I was sceptical. Could a single device span the 15 or so LTE/4G frequencies used in the countries where I travel? The advertisement piqued my interest as the promise was that I also did not need a new SIM card for each country I visited.
I contacted the team at Uni-Fi Global and asked for more information. They loaned me a unit ahead of a business trip to New York. In the past, my US trips would entail taking my AT&T 4G hotspot and my AT&T SIM card and top it up with funds when I arrived at an AT&T shop in Manhattan as their website would not accept non-US credit cards.
The Uni-Fi Global device just worked out of the box. There is also no SIM to worry about because they use a “cloud SIM” which handles all of the network connectivity and charging. You can also insert a local SIM as well if you have a data contract in a specific country.
The Uni-Fi data rates are also very reasonable, and comparable with buying a local SIM card in the US, which is what I used to do. If I had used my UK carrier to roam, I would be looking costs far in excess of using the Uni-Fi device, and I would be constantly worrying how much I was spending, thanks to my Dubai bill-shock mentioned earlier.
Having the device ready to work as soon as the plane landed also ensured I was productive when I arrived, not wandering the streets of Manhattan looking for a phone shop to top-up my SIM card with funds.
The benefits of the cloud SIM should also not be underestimated. Not having to keep a bank of SIM cards ready for each country I travel to is a real timesaver. Normally SIM cards stop working after 6 months of inactivity, so I now have a collection of SIM cards with credit on them that are worthless to me.
So after years of searching, and devising my own home-grown solutions I now have a solution on one device, with one bill that follows me around the world.
If you do even one international trip a year, then you should consider investing in the Uni-Fi Global 4G device for you and your team, as the Uni-Fi team have a focus on business customers and have a comprehensive billing and reporting back-end for a whole fleet of users.
This article has been written as a result of a new and exciting partnership with Travelwin, the global travel innovators who developed the Uni-Fi Global proposition. In upcoming articles, I will share more useful tips and advice for global travellers who want to make their travel experience more relaxing and hassle free.