Hong Kong tech company Ucloudlink Network Technology Ltd was established in 2009 and developed “Cloud SIM technology” that it incorporates into what it claims is the world’s first 4G free roaming wifi hotspot. This is a portable device called the Glocalme G2, which provides fast and consistent internet access in “more than 100 countries” around the world. I was given one to test for a month, covering Hong Kong (my home base) as well as trips to Macau, mainland China and Vienna, Austria.
The boxy, white and silver G2 device reminded me instantly of my first ever iPod – which is to say like a current iPod but thicker, more angular and heavier. At 353g it does feel a bit hefty in the hand, but it comes in a soft case along with a short USB cable – with an add-on USB port that lets you use it like a power bank to charge your mobile phone – and once it was in my backpack I forgot about any additional weight.
Creating an account is a simple process, involving using the website or scanning a QR code to download an app to your smartphone, creating an account, choosing a payment package (Alipay, Paypal or credit cards can be used) and logging in on your G2. You can then connect your mobile, laptop or tablet like any other wifi hotspot.
WIFI SPEED & DATA USAGE
Once connected I found the speed to be excellent – the company claims 150Mbps download and 50Mbps upload (4G). I had two 1GB packages, one for Europe and one for China, Hong Kong and Macau.
I used the G2 mostly just for emailing and basic internet browsing, which kept my usage down and meant that my 1GB of data for my four-day Europe trip was easily enough (I used less than half), while my Hong Kong and Macau data package (also 1GB) lasted me most of the month.
Of course as soon as you start uploading pictures to social media or streaming video your data disappears at an alarming rate – a 20-minute You Tube documentary sucked 350MB off my balance, although on the plus side it did stream perfectly (Facetime, Wechat and Skype also worked seamlessly).
This is a vital element of any modern gadget. The G2 claims 15 continuous hours of use from a full battery (6,000 mAh). When I first received the device it took an overnight plug-in to charge it fully (there’s a standard USB input port and a micro USB output port on the side of the G2 so you can connect to a computer or to a direct socket plug), but then it performed fairly close to expectations. The battery life bars at the top of the screen were very small and hard to see in bright light, and once when I powered it up it told me there was 10 per cent battery life left (which in theory gives 1.5 hours’ usage)… then promptly shut down until I began recharging it. The lesson? Charge it every night if you’re going to use it all day.
I did find that if I left it on standby and did not use it, battery life still dropped a bit, and small amounts of data were also used, so I got used to switching it off quite frequently – but then the slow powering-up issue became annoying. However, these are small complaints given the overall convenience and usefulness of having smooth internet whenever you need it on a trip.
Extra flexibility comes from two SIM card slots in the side of the G2, enabling you to buy local cards and receive local 3G and 4G network signals if you wish. The ability to use it as an emergency power bank for your phone or tablet is also a helpful function.
This is a highly useful and effective device for the business traveller who visits multiple countries on a regular basis and does not want to buy numerous local SIM cards or pay exorbitant roaming fees. There are competitive rates with alternative providers in Europe and the US, but in Asia this is a very attractive proposition, and the worldwide package looks to be a great deal. Making future versions lighter and slimmer would add to its appeal.
PRICE & DATA PACKAGE PRICING
The G2 is currently priced at US$159 on amazon.com.
Regional data packages can be bought with the following fees:
- Southeast Asia (seven countries): €12 (US$13.09) / 1GB
- Japan and South Korea: €15 (US$16.36) / 1GB
- Hong Kong, Macau and China: €27 (US$29.44) for 3GB
- Worldwide: €29.90 (US$32.60) / 1GB
Alternatively you can choose to pay as you go, topping up with variable rates but capped at €10 (US$10.90) per day. Payment methods include Paypal, Alipay, and Visa/Mastercard.