So I’ve been in the USA for a few weeks, not wanting to pay Orange £35 for 10MB of international data I looked around for what I could find. Truphone were offering a local anywhere SIM with £5 of free credit so I snapped it up. For £7.99 for 30 days they let you have local rates in the country you’re going to, fantastic, data would drop from £2/MB to 75p/MB and calls within the USA were 10p a minute!
I dropped £20 of credit and the local rates plan on to my account and set off! I got to the USA, put the Truphone SIM in my HTC Desire and turned on mobile data, all seemed fine but I could only get an EDGE data connection. I fired a few tweets off to @Truphone, it turns out that they use the T-Mobile network in the USA and T-Mobile USA don’t use the standard frequencies for 3G. You need an AWS compatible phone to get high speed data in the USA using Truphone and unless you’ve got an iPhone 4 or a Nexus One, we just don’t get them in the UK.
Fair enough I thought, I was really only checking Facebook mobile, reading email, Tweeting and light web browsing, a few days in to the trip I thought I’d check how much credit I had left, I was down to a few quid, now I knew before I set off that data on Truphone anywhere was charged in 100KB increments but I didn’t think I’d used that much data. Looking through my call history I saw I was getting charged the full £2/MB, 40p for SMS and 75p/min for mobile calls but I’d paid for local rates and could see it was active on my account.
Helpfully there’s no email support for the Truphone local anywhere product, just telephone numbers (in the USA and the UK), but I didn’t really want to have to add more credit and call one of them at crazy rates so I fired off an email to the standard Truphone support email address, I got an automated reply but then nothing. After a few days I sent another email asking for an update and received a reply kindly telling me they don’t normally support local anywhere via email but would forward my request to a member of the team for me anyway. Two days later an email appears asking for me to confirm all my account details so that they could look for my account (I’d already given them my username) so I replied with everything they asked. Seven days later and rapidly approaching the end of my trip, still nothing so I send another email. Oh we didn’t receive the details you sent us, please send them again… I have done, over and over.
I’m back in the UK now, I’ve still not received a reply but I did send them another email this morning just to see what’s going on. I ended up putting another £10 of credit on to my account, it fluctuated between charging me the wrong rates and charging me the correct rates, a pattern I can only connect with my phone saying that it was roaming or not roaming. I was correctly charged when my phone said it was roaming and incorrectly charged when not, with no mention of having to be roaming on the local anywhere web site.
It was possible to force the SIM into roaming mode when it wasn’t by going into the SIM toolkit and changing the Country Profile setting to default, a pain but it worked most of the time.
The Truphone service wasn’t bad when I was being charged correctly, support options leave much to be desired but and I ultimately saved money by not paying the silly Orange roaming charges. Maybe, just maybe this will help someone else who runs into the same problems I found…
Truphone contacted me today after picking up a tweet, they’re looking into the problems I had. I also found some comments on the Truphone Blog covering the AWS issue, perhaps Truphone need to state network specifications somewhere on the product page.
It all went quiet after Truphone got in touch with me but a week and a tweet later I got another email! Truphone apologised for the problems, gave me some credit and put the USA local rates on the SIM forever which will be useful as we’ve already got another trip to New York planned!