Cheat On Your Cellphone Service With Tep Wireless

If you are a smartphone user and love to travel, this has probably happened to you: you return from a trip abroad to find your cellphone service provider has piled on hundreds of dollars for roaming charges and data usage. No matter that you purchased an international plan or topped up with extra data before you left. You’re now faced with a huge bill and a growing ulcer from the stress of it all.

Some elect for a workaround, getting an unlocked phone and performing the old SIM-card switcheroo when traveling overseas – but that’s not especially convenient. What is convenient is a Tep pocket Wi-Fi, a personal hotspot that lets you cheat on your cellphone service with pay-by-the-day Wi-Fi.

Here’s how it works:First, you book your service with Tep, providing information on where you are traveling, dates of travel and a delivery address. Tep will deliver your device to either your home address or to your hotel.

Second, your device arrives, complete with charging equipment, a small tag indicating the name of the Wi-Fi network and its password, and a postage-paid return pouch. Just locate the network on your phone or laptop – the hotspot signal is strong enough for use with about five devices – enter the password, and you’re ready to go.

Finally, when your trip is done, simply pack up the Tep equipment in the mailing pouch and pop it in the mail.

During a recent test drive of Tep’s Wi-Fi hotspot, the thing I found most difficult was printing out a return label and sending it back. Tep pays postage on the pouch but emails the return label, leaving it to customers to remember to print out return labels before embarking on trips. That’s not so convenient.

On the bright side, I got excellent connectivity on three devices simultaneously, including an older model iPhone that is Wi-Fi only.

If you are heading to the London Olympics or to any of 38 European countries this summer, Tep is offering rates starting at $5 per day for a 30-day plan (3G data) to $9.99 per day for a five-day plan (500 MB data). Customers can pay an additional $6.95 per day for unlimited data.

This plan will allow you to fly, drive or take the train across the continent without losing connectivity. If you’re traveling to London, Tep has partnered with Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station to enable pick-up of its devices at designated terminals.

While Tep is designed for travelers visiting Europe or the United Kingdom, it also works in the United States, which means that you could ostensibly use it as an option when traveling domestically.

I’m heading to Maine soon and I wish I would have known about Tep before I shelled out the extra fees for a cabin equipped with Wi-Fi. Ideally, I’d unplug all together. But let’s save that discussion for another article.

Yearly reminder: turn off International data roaming when heading abroad

It has been a few years since we last reminded you to pay close attention to your international data usage when you head abroad. And now smartphones are more popular than ever, the time has come to remind you again.

Unless you make specific arrangements with your mobile operator by adding a data roaming package, you will be charged as much as $21 per megabyte of data when abroad. This means you could very easily end up with a $2000 bill for a couple of days of email. The only way to prevent these charges is to disable data on your phone.

Even if you stop checking email and surfing the web, your phone could be doing all kinds of data intensive tasks in the background. Simply forgetting to disable a news or RSS application could cost you $1000 in a week. Every year, people return from their vacation only to be welcomed by a phone bill delivered in a box. Need an example? How about a week in Cancun with an $11.667 Sprint phone bill?

Before you leave:

  • Call your operator and ask whether they have an unlimited or bundled data plan for international usage
  • Always note the name of the customer service rep, along with the time and data
  • Call back before you leave to verify any requested changes were made
  • If you do not want to do data roaming, ask for it to be turned off in your account
  • Turn off data roaming on your phone before you leave the country
  • On some phones, you can alter the “data access point name”, which also blocks all data
  • Consider investing in a prepaid SIM card with data when you are abroad in need of data
  • Keep online activities limited to WiFi when possible

With these simple steps, you should be able to enjoy your trip, without your phone blowing through the budget for your next trip.

[Photo credit; Flickr/Me and the Sysop]