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Real World testing and Review of the Roam Mobility Service

technologyEdward Kiledjian2 Comments
I took an 8 day florida family vacation in August and used this as a testing opportunity for some cool products and services. The first service I wanted to write about was the cell phone service provided by Roam Mobility.

What is Roam Mobility?

Roam Mobility is a Canadian telecom provider that sells mobile phone service (aka cell service) for travellers to the US. They offer various plans to suit the needs of various travellers
  • Voice and SMS service
  • Voice, SMS and Data service
  • Data only service
They sell their services by the day (for everything except the data only service) and by quantity of Data (for the data only service).
You can use their service with your own GSM unlocked device or by buying a dedicated device from them.

What I used with Roam Mobility

I could have taken a Nokia, Samsung or iPhone but I wanted to conduct a real world test that would reflec the experience of an average user so I chose to travel with an unlocked iPhone 4s.

Before Travelling

A week before the trip, I ordered and received my Roam Mobility SIM card and I called my carrier (Fido/Rogers) to unlock my device. Fido/rogers charge $50 to unlock the device but this is money well spent.
I tested my device to ensure it was actually unlocked (by inserting another cariers SIM) to ensure I didn't have any nasty surprises while in the US.
As recommended by Roam Mobility, I added their data APN information to my device when in the plane right before switching my device to airplane mode. On the iphone, all I had to do was visit a special website and accept the new profile (incredibly easy).

Testing their customer service

When dealing with smaller third party telecom providers, I am always concerned about support. I "had an issue" and had to switch my plan from 1 Roam SIM card to another one 10 minutes before boarding the airplane. I called their support number, spoke to an agent within 10 minutes and he immediately fixed my issue.
Support was fantastic (fast, easy and painless).

Quality of Roam Mobility Service

Roam uses T-Mobile so the quality of service really depends on your device and the availability of T-Mobile Service.  

The first issues is the fact that T-Mobile uses different bands than most Canadian carriers but they are adding 3G service to"our standard bands" and I saw this while in Orlando. Since my device does not support the AWS bands, my speed was highly dependent on using a T-Mobile tower with upgraded 3G service and it worked fairly well. In most Orlando locations (all touristic) I was connected with 3G which meant I had acceptable data speeds. Compared to Rogers or Fido, it was about 30-40% slower but still very usable. I was able to browse the web, use Google Maps navigation, use social media and check emails. 

Even though my hotel offered free WIFI, it was so unbearably slow I kept my device on Roam's 3G service. Roam's 3G service was much faster than the hotel's free WIFI

The minute I left the main touristic areas, I started using the non-upgraded T-Mobile towers and had 2G (Edge) speeds. Edge means I was connected and able to use services light internet services that support higher latency (browsing, emails and iMessage) but services like Facetime, Google Maps (etc) were unusable. Even when in Cocoa Beach, the T-Mobile service was 2G Edge based.

Had I bought the Roam Mobility WIFI Hotpot device or used an AWS compatible device (some new iPhone 5s and some Android devices), I would have had a bigger 3G coverage zone.

The Cost

You can buy a 1 week voice, text and data plan for $27.95 which includes:

  • Unlimited talk and text within the US and back to Canada
  • Free voicemail and caller ID
  • 700MB of data
  • No risk of over-spending

You can buy 50MB a day for $8 from Rogers or Fido. For 7 days, I could have spent $56 for only 350 MB. Needless to say the

Roam Mobility offer is much better [compared to Rogers and Fido] because it's cheaper and offers calling, text messaging and much more data.

Cons

One shortcoming of the Roam Mobility service was the fact that they do not currently offer a way to check your data usage (I had 100MB a day). I emailed support who quickly provided the information but I wish they offered an app that more easily provides usage information and allows you to top-up or buy additional services.

I was told by support that they are working on a mechanism to provide this information to users in a more automated and timely manner.

Rumors

Everything in this "Rumors" section is pure speculation and nothing has been confirmed by the company. The current rumor is that Roam is in talks with other network operators [in other countries] to build the same type of roaming service for other countries (likely Europe and Asia).

I would welcome this and hope this rumor is true.

Verdict 

Overall I really liked the Roam Mobility service and recommend every Canadian travelling to the US use it [as long as T-Mobile offers coverage at your destination]. 

You can check T-Mobile coverage on their website  or by reading the dozens of user forums talking about T-MO coverage. During my next trip, I may buy the WIFI Hotspot and test it out.

Considering the amount of data I used and the cost from FIDO, I saved close to $500 dollars by using the Roam Mobility service instead of paying my carriers US roaming fees.

You could go to the US and buy a prepaid SIM there but its so much easier to deal with all of this before you leave.

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