No overspending, no bill shock
We regularly travel overseas to cover events, and one of the most frustrating things that we have to deal with (aside from the very legitimate threat of finding a bullet in our bag in NAIA) is internet access. You have a few options that are open to you when you step off the plane in a foreign land if you want to access the internet:either bite the bullet or buy a local SIM card with data, hope there’s free WiFi in your hotel or bite the bullet and sign up for an unlimited roaming data plan from your provider. Not all are ideal: connecting to free WiFi hotspots opens you up to security risks, singing up for unlimited roaming data isn’t the easiest thing to do and your phone (especially if it came from your network provider) may not be setup to accept SIM cards from other countries.
At least, that’s the scenario posited to us by Eric Plam. He’s the Vice President for North America for Skyroam, a new startup that promises to deliver unlimited internet access for just $10 (or around Php 490) a day (24 hours) wherever you are in the world. No hidden fees, no monthly charges and more importantly, no messy SIM cards to setup.
That’s right – no SIM cards. Skyroam’s virtual SIM technology that’s embedded in the portable router that’s used to access the service allows the user to connect to any mobile network anywhere in the world and start enjoying unlimited internet with a touch of a button, for a flat fee. It’s fast, quick and easy, and is compartively cheaper compared to the offerings of both telcos here in the PH.
As Plam explains it, going the traditional roaming route for data is slow and costly. Data has to travel from your phone to the local provider (whatever country you’re in) to the PH and back to you, which slows down connections. You can also forget tethering your other gadgets if you go this route.
That’s not an issue with Skyroam. Their service connects directly to whatever local telco of whatever country you’re in, and gives you the native speed of the HSPA+ connection for a flat rate, for 24 hours. And since Skyroam isn’t connecting back to the PH (which happens when you connect via data roaming) your latency is improved, important for video and conference calls. Skyroam is present in multiple countries in all continents (aside from Antartica, penguins don’t need smartphones).
There is a catch though. While Skyroam says that they provide unlimited internet, they do knock down your speeds down to 256kbps if you go over 350MB in a single day. Plam says that around 80% of their customers use up less than 250MB a day, so most people won’t be hitting the upper limit anytime soon.
In the PH, Skyroam is partnering with travel agencies at the start. Travel agencies will offer Skyroam as an added service for their customers. Travellers will only have to pay for the 24 hours of data for Php 490 a day and leave a small deposit with the travel agencies that’s completely refundable once they return to the PH.