If you're a Canadian and you're tired of paying exorbitant roaming fees to the incumbants when you go traveling down to Seattle, New York or anywhere else in the United States, then you may be very interested in what Roam Mobility has to offer. They're a Canadian company, but they give you reasonably priced cell service in the States.
When Canadians go traveling down to the US, the most convenient way to stay connected is to keep using our existing Canadian cell phones. This is also the most expensive way to stay connected, because we get hit with some horrible roaming charges. It's pretty typical to be charged over $2 a minute when roaming in the States, not to mention the potential thousands of dollars spent on roaming data. Roam is not only more affordable, but it's far more convenient than signing up for a prepaid plan with a US carrier.
What Is Roam Mobility
Roam Mobility is a Canadian company catering to Canadians travelling down to the United States. They've partnered up with T-Mobile USA to use their network down there, offering Canadians are a far more reasonably priced way to talk, text and use data while travelling. The plans are largely geared on an "unlimited" per day basis (more on that in a moment) and, because they're a Canadian company, they're a lot easier to deal with than if you signed up with a US carrier directly for prepaid service.
For the time being, Roam Mobility is focused on service within the United States, but they are exploring future opportunities in other countries. If you plan on doing a lot of international travel, a service like Truphone Global SIM may be more appropriate, but it does not have unlimited service and it tends to be a little more expensive.
As far as product offerings, this review will be taking a look at the Roam SIM card, which will work in any unlocked GSM phone. An AWS-compatible (1700MHz 3G) device is ideal, but a regular quad-band phone will work too. We also had the chance to use the Liberty Mobile Hotspot and Roam also offers the Breeze Dual-SIM phone too.
Talk, Text and Data Plans
The plans offered by Roam break down in three main categories. First, you have your basic talk+text plans. These start at $2.95 per day, offering you unlimited talk and text within the United States and back to Canada. Yes, this includes long distance calls back home to Canada. You can buy a package with up to 30 days to service.
If you need to add data, that comes in at an extra $1 per day, providing you with 100MB of wireless data. If you buy the 3-day package, you get 300MB to use for those three days. A 7-day package nets you 700MB and so on.
For those of you who plan on only using data, as you would through the mobile hotspot, the plans are only available on a 30-day basis and start at $29.95 for 500MB, going all the way up to $99.95 for 5GB.
Activation and Setup
Here, you'll see the devices associated with your account. It was a little unfortunate that I could not choose my phone number with Roam. I couldn't even pick which area code, but considering that American mobile phones have nationwide long distance, it shouldn't be a big deal. From there, you simply click on the "top up" link to buy a prepaid plan for your SIM card.
What's nice is that you can do this well ahead of your planned departure to the United States, effectively "time stamping" when the prepaid plan should start. This is great when you know you're leaving next Tuesday, but you don't want to have to log in to do it on Monday night. This way, as soon as you arrive, your SIM is loaded and ready to go. If you need more and you have your billing information properly setup, you can top up right from your phone using SMS shortcodes.
Coverage and Service
The kind of coverage that you get with Roam Mobility in the States is exactly what you would get if you signed up with T-Mobile USA directly. For my testing, calls and text weren't too much of an issue anywhere in the Greater Los Angeles area, though the signal did have some trouble penetrating through certain buildings.
To test the SIM, I had an old unlocked Samsung Galaxy S. This is a quad-band 3G phone (850/900/1800/1900), so I did not have access to the AWS network. As I understand, though, T-Mobile has migrated some towers to the 1900MHz band, so I was able to get some weak signal here and there.
As you can see above, the speeds were certainly better than the 100kbps or so I would have gotten with just EDGE, but I was not at all capitalizing on the AWS network. There were some spots, like right near LAX, where I was barely able to get 0.10Mbps though.
To provide a fairer representation of the wireless data speeds you can expect with Roam Mobility, my colleague was provided with their mobile hotspot. Doing the Speedtest there yielded far better results, averaging in the 3-4Mbps range down and 1-2Mbps range up. It's not blazing fast, but that'll suit most consumers just fine.
MEGATechie Roaming Rescuer or MEGATechie Substandard Serviceman?
If you're the kind of Canadian who only occasionally travels down to the United States, but still needs reliable cellular service at a reasonable price, Roam Mobility could be just the ticket. It's great for talk and text, especially with unlimited long distance calls back to Canada. The data rates are good if you're not a heavy user (less than 100MB a day), but you may consider a "local" prepaid SIM if you use a lot more than that.
There is a small premium charged by Roam, compared to how much you'd pay to T-Mobile directly, but having the convenience of dealing with a Canadian company and being able to "time stamp" your prepaid plans in advance is generally worth it. The Canadian long distance, as mentioned, is great too.
As a quick reminder, if you want to give Roam Mobility a try, we are giving away a SIM and a week's worth of service. This is week two of our four-week giveaway, so you have several opportunities to win.