The cost of overseas roaming can be shocking, especially when you are using your smartphone to surf the web and check your emails. But “the world’s first global mobile network” operator Tru, which launched in 2006, offers a micro SIM card for individuals and price plans for businesses that it says will cut the cost of voice calls, texts and data by up to 90 per cent – a revolution for business travellers. So how does it work and does it live up to the hype?
The pay-as-you-go SIM card for personal use, which costs £19.99, can be installed on any unlocked phone (see here for rates) and can be used in 220 countries. You get a UK phone number, £10 of credit and the option to add personalised US and Australian numbers (£5 per month each?) so it costs other people less to call you in those countries. In “Tru countries” (UK, the US, the Netherlands and Australia), customers can save up to 90 per cent, while in Europe you can expect to save up to 60 per cent, and across the rest of the world up to 30 per cent.
There is no monthly fee and calls cost from £0.08 a minute, while data costs from £0.10 per MB. For example, calling a UK landline from the US costs £0.10 per minute, while receiving calls on your UK number in the US is free per minute. Texts cost £0.08 and data costs £0.20 per MB. (Click here for details.)
Tru also offers four business price plans with inclusive minutes across 30 European countries and a free second number in addition to a US number. For £20, the cheapest “Essential” price plan gives customers 100 minutes in Tru countries, 100MB of data in Tru countries and 50 minutes in Europe. Texts are pay as you use. At the top end of the scale, the most expensive price plan is the “Elite 2,000”. It costs £140 per month and includes 2,000 minutes, 2,000 texts, 2GB of data and 500 minutes in Europe a month.
To test out just how much money I could save by using Tru as against my normal £35 per month O2 contract, which includes 500 minutes and unlimited texts and data in the UK, but no roaming bundles, I took it on a number of overseas trips between June and November and made phone calls, sent text messages (MMS is not yet available through Tru), checked my emails and made a few Google searches as and when I needed to.
The countries I used it in were China, Italy, Germany, Austria, India, the US and the Maldives. I was on Tru’s “Elite 500 Borderless Bundle” package, which includes 500 minutes and texts, and 500MB of data in Tru countries, plus 50 minutes in European countries for £50 a month.
For the purposes of comparison, O2 charges £0.90 a minute to call the UK from the US or Canada, £0.25 to send a text, and £0.39 a minute to receive a call in the US. From Western Europe it costs £0.36 a minute to call the UK, £0.11 to receive a call and send a text, while from Eastern Europe it is £0.81 to call the UK, £0.52 to receive and £0.30 per text. From Asia-Pacific it costs £0.60 a minute to call the UK, £0.43 to receive and £0.30 per text. From countries across the rest of the world, such as India, it costs £1.20 to call the UK, £0.85 to receive a call and £0.40 per text.
In all cases it costs £1.79 a minute on O2 to make calls to other foreign countries while abroad, and £0.26 to send MMSs. As far as data goes, in Europe O2 charges £3.07 per MB, while across the rest of the world it costs £6 per MB (in both cases this is up to £40/50MB a month). Although it does offer a “Web Daily Europe” option for £1.50 a day for up to 15MB a day. For additional data outside of what is included in your price plan, Tru charges £0.02 to £0.08 per MB.
Tru, has a more complicated pricing structure – with countries assigned to one of ten zones, each with its own rates depending on which zone you are making calls to or receiving calls from. For example, it charges £0.30 a minute to make and receive calls between UK and the US, while texts are free and data is £1.25 per MB. From European countries such as France and Italy, it costs £0.25 a minute to call the UK, £0.09 to receive, £0.08 to send a text and £0.50 per MB of data. From Asian countries such as Thailand and China it costs £0.60 a minute to call the UK, the same to receive, £0.30 per text and £1.50 per MB of data.
Over the course of my travels, I made 417 minutes worth of calls (145 minutes form Tru countries and 317 from other countries), sent 135 texts (28 in Tru countries) and used 19MB of data (13 in Tru countries). On O2, I would have been charged £522, while on Tru, my bill showed a total of £193 – equating to a saving of £329 (63 per cent). There was a 100 per cent saving (on calls, texts and data) in Tru countries, and even in non-Tru countries the saving was 37 per cent on calls, texts and data.
PROS Significantly cheaper calls, text messaging and data usage while abroad.
CONS The hassle of getting your Blackberry unlocked, buying second handset or transferring your existing contract over to Tru. And roll-out of the Tru’s full roaming service will take some time.
PRICE £19.99 for pay-as-you-go SIM, monthly contracts from £50.