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Feature

Explorer

Passport

Passport Plus

Passport Lite

Mobal

Riiing
(aka United Mobile)

United Mobile Plus

Hop

Local SIM

Intl roaming

Purchase Cost

$59 includes $10 airtime credit

$49 includes $10 airtime credit

$49 includes $10 airtime credit $19 includes $20 airtime credit

$2.50

€39 (US$58 includes €15 (US$22) airtime credit

€29.90 (US$44.50 includes €10 (US$15) airtime credit

$81 includes $15 airtime credit

varies from about $10 to $80

Usually offered at no extra cost on a regular service plan

How long before SIM expires(1)

12 months

Activity every 9 months, recharge purchase every 12 months

Activity every 9 months, recharge purchase every 12 months

Activity every 9 months, recharge purchase every 12 months

Never

9 months

9 months

12 months

varies from about 3 months to 12 months

n/a

Minimum renewal cost(2)

$25

$10

$10 $10

n/a

€25 (US$37)

€25 (US$37)

$25

varies from as low as one outgoing call to perhaps $20

n/a

Fixed monthly cost

Nil

Nil

Nil Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Usually nil

Sometimes if you pay eg $5/month extra with Cingular, you get discounted international roaming rates

Prepay or postpay billing(3)

Prepay

Prepay

Prepay Prepay

Postpay to your credit card

Prepay

Prepay

Prepay

Prepay

Usually postpay on your regular monthly statements

How to pay

Can arrange for auto recharges when balance gets low or can buy extra time as needed

Auto recharge when balance drops below $5

Auto recharge when balance drops below $5 Auto recharge when balance drops below $5

You are automatically billed as and when needed

Can buy extra time on their website

Can buy extra time on their website

Can buy extra time online or through the phone after registering your credit card with Hop

Varies

Included in your monthly statements

24hr Customer Service

24/7 service but not free call.

24/7 service but not free call.

24/7 service but not free call. 24/7 service but not free call.

Yes, free call

No.
Calls to Customer Service are charged (at a discounted rate)

No.
Calls to Customer Service are charged (at a discounted rate)

No
Free call to Customer Service

often but not always

Usually, and may have free calling to customer service

Works with all GSM phones

Yes

Yes

Yes Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes but SMS requires special Soft SIM compliant phone

Yes

Works with the SIM you already have, and probably on all GSM phones

Free incoming calls

Yes in over 40 countries

Yes in over 50 countries

British Virgin Islands only In Britain, France, Italy, Spain

in Britain only

Yes in 86 countries

Yes in 80 countries

No

Usually yes in the country the service is based in; but not in any other countries

Usually no

How many countries it works in

144

110 +

110 + 110 +

170 +

140

140

101

Usually these cards only work in the country they are based in.  Some work in a very limited number of other countries too.

varies - not all wireless services have roaming agreements with all foreign countries, but usually 100 +

Country the SIM's number is based in(4)

Estonia

Britain

Britain Britain

Britain

Liechtenstein

Britain

Monaco

The country you purchased the SIM in

Your home country

Voicemail available(5)

Yes

Yes

Yes Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Usually yes

Usually yes

Cost for voicemail messages to be left

Free

Free

Free Free

The cost of an incoming call plus a call to the UK

Free

Free

n/a

varies

Usually the same cost as if you answered the phone while overseas

Cost for voicemail messages to be played

Cost of a regular outgoing call in the country you are currently in

Free through web interface or regular call cost through phone

Free through web interface or regular call cost through phone Free through web interface or regular call cost through phone

The cost of a call to the UK

Varies by country

Varies by country

n/a

Varies

Usually the same cost as a phone call while you're in the foreign country

Incoming text messages (SMS) supported

Yes

Yes

Yes Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Usually yes

Usually yes

Cost per incoming SMS

Free

Free

Free Free

Free

Free

Free

Free

Varies

Varies - eg T-mobile charge 10¢ per received SMS

Outgoing text messages (SMS) supported

Yes

Yes

Yes Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes on selected phones

Usually yes

Usually yes

Cost per outgoing SMS

40¢

49¢ or more

49¢ or more 49¢ or more

80¢

60¢

55¢

10¢

Varies

Varies, eg T-mobile charges 35¢

Data service

No

No

No No

No

No

No

No

Usually no, but a few prepaid local SIMs do allow data too

Usually yes, but you probably have to request this as an extra feature before traveling

Cost for data

n/a

n/a

n/a n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Very expensive

Very expensive, eg T-mobile charges $15.36/MB

Fixed establishment cost/call

No

25¢

25¢ No

No

30¢

35¢

No

Usually no

Usually no

Billing increments(6)

60 seconds

60 seconds

60 seconds 60 seconds

60 seconds

60 seconds

60 seconds

1 second

Usually about 30 secs

Usually about 30 or 60 secs

Special features

Toll free access for callers in the US calling to your phone (but it adds 35¢/minute to your cost)Website interface to send free SMS to Explorer users
No surcharge for calls to mobiles phones in any country

Call forwarding
Conference calling
Call recording
Online call detail records
Toll free access for callers in the US calling to your phone (but it adds 39¢/minute to your cost)

Call forwarding
Conference calling
Call recording
Online call detail records
Toll free access for callers in the US calling to your phone (but it adds 39¢/minute to your cost)
Call forwarding
Conference calling
Call recording
Online call detail records
Toll free access for callers in the US calling to your phone (30 mins free then it adds 49¢/minute to your cost)

Call forwarding
Call waiting
Online call detail records

Call forwarding

Call forwarding

Call forwarding
Online account management

Common to find call forwarding and call waiting

Common to find call forwarding and call waiting.

People calling your regular cell number back home get forwarded to wherever you are (but at extra cost to you).

Feature

Explorer

Passport

Passport Plus

Passport Lite

Mobal

Riiing
(aka United Mobile)

United Mobile Plus

Hop

Local SIM

Intl roaming

 
Sample inwards/outwards (local and international) calling costs for selected countries

Pricing Policies

See Note 7

See Note 8

See Note 11 See Note 12

See Note 9

See Note 10

See Note 13

Flat rate pricing in all countries

Varies widely from SIM to SIM

(sample rates are from T-mobile)

Calls to other mobiles on same network

Charged at the same rate as a call to Estonia

Charged at the same rate as a call to Britain

Charged at the same rate as a call to Britain

Charged at the same rate as a call to Britain

Charged at the same rate as a call to Britain

49¢ to $2.49 depending on location

40¢ to $2.70 depending on location

Charged at the same rate as other outgoing calls

Often offered at a discounted rate

Usually no discounts when roaming internationally

Australia

Free/50¢

Free/49¢

29¢/29¢ 99¢/79¢

$1.25/$1.25, $1.50

Free/49¢, $2.09

Free/40, $2.15

35¢/95¢, 95¢

$1.49/$1.49

Britain

Free/60¢

Free/49

29¢/29¢ Free/99¢

Free/$1.25, $1.50

Free/49¢, $2.09

Free/40, $2.15

35¢/95¢, 95¢

99¢/99¢

Canada

$1.50/$2.00

$1.29/$1.49

$1.39/$1.39

$1.79/$1.99

$1.25/$1.50, $1.50

79¢/$2.69, $3.99

$1.35/$4.05, $4.05

35¢/95¢, 95¢

49¢/49¢ plus long distance charges

China

75¢/$1.25

$1.29/$1.49

$1.39/$1.39

$1.79/$1.99

$1.75/$1.50, $2.95

Free/49¢, $2.09

55/$2.15, $2.70

35¢/95¢, 95¢

$2.99/$2.99

France

Free/60¢

Free/49¢

39¢/39¢ Free/99¢

$1.25/$1.25, $1.50

Free/49¢, $2.09

Free/40, $2.15

35¢/95¢, 95¢

99¢/99¢

Germany

Free/60¢

Free/49

39¢/39¢ 79¢/99¢

$1.25/$1.25, $1.50

Free/49¢, $2.09

Free/40, $2.15

35¢/95¢, 95¢

99¢/99¢

Italy

Free/69¢

Free/49

29¢/29¢ Free/99¢

$1.25/$1.25, $1.50

Free/49¢, $2.09

Free/40, $2.15

35¢/95¢, 95¢

99¢/99¢

Mexico

$2.50/$3.00

$2.29/$2.49

$2.39/$2.39

$2.99/$3.49

$1.95/$1.95, $2.95

$1.09/$3.99, $3.99

$2.05/$5.45, $4.05

35¢/95¢, 95¢

$1.49/$1.49

Russia

Free/45¢

$1.29/$1.49

$1.39/$1.39

$1.79/$1.99

$1.95/$1.95, $8.95

49¢/$2.09, $2.69

55/$2.15, $2.70

35¢/95¢, 95¢

$4.99/$4.99

United States

$2.50/$3.00

$1.29/$1.49

$1.39/$1.39

$1.79/$1.99

$1.75/$1.50, $1.50

$1.09/$3.99, $3.99

$1.35/$4.05, $4.05

35¢/95¢, 95¢

n/a

Feature

Explorer

Passport

Passport Plus

Passport Lite

Mobal

Riiing
(aka United Mobile)

United Mobile Plus

Hop

Local SIM

Intl roaming

 

Explanatory Notes

1.  Most SIMs are automatically canceled if either they aren't used for a certain time, or if you haven't purchased more airtime within a certain period.  The notable exception to this is Mobal where their SIM is active pretty much for ever, whether you use it or not.

2.  The amount you need to pay (or, in the case of the Passport, the usage required) to prevent the SIM expiring.

3.  Prepay billing is when you pay an advance sum into your account and then use it up.  When it is used up, your SIM stops working until you pay more money into the account - this can be a major inconvenience in an emergency!  Some SIMs (eg Explorer and Passport) will automatically add extra funds into your account by charging your credit card when your airtime balance is getting low.  Postpay is where you're sent an invoice after you've used the airtime - this is like a regular monthly service contract with your home phone.  With postpay you can avoid the problem of running out of airtime at the wrong time.

4.  If someone wishes to call you, they need to dial your SIM's phone number.  This number is based on where the SIM's service provider is located, not on where you're located.  Some SIM companies are located in obscure countries with potentially expensive international calling costs for people to call to them.  An advantage of a local SIM is that people in the country you're visiting can call you by simply making a local call.

5.  We suggest voicemail is essential when you're traveling.  That way you can turn your phone off (or if you don't hear it ring) and not miss any calls, and you don't have to worry about people forgetting what time zone you're in and calling you at 3am.

6.  The shorter the billing increment the better.

7.  Outbound call rates vary depending on the country you are in, but are the same, no matter where in the world you are calling.  Calls to cell phones are more expensive than to regular landline phones.

8.  Outbound call rates vary depending on the country you are in, but are the same, no matter where in the world you are calling.  Calls to cell phones cost an extra 35¢/minute, except to US and Canadian cell phones which have no extra surcharge.  There is a flat 25¢ fee per call in addition to the per minute costs.

9.  Outward call rates vary depending on where in the world you are calling to.  We show two rates are shown below, one for a local call within the specified country, the other for a call to the US.  Rates are generally appreciably more expensive to countries other than the country you are in, UK, US and Canada.

10.  Riiing has seven different pricing bands which determine the rate based on which country (band) you are calling from and which country (band) you are calling to.  We show prices for incoming calls, local calls within the country you are in, and thirdly, calls to the US.  There is also a flat 30 fee per call in addition to the per minute costs.

11.  Outbound call rates vary depending on the country you are in, but are the same, no matter where in the world you are calling.  Calls to cell phones cost an extra 40¢/minute, except to US and Canadian cell phones which have no extra surcharge.  There is a flat 25¢ fee per call in addition to the per minute costs.

12.  Outbound call rates vary depending on the country you are in, but are the same, no matter where in the world you are calling.  Calls to cell phones cost an extra 50¢/minute, except to US and Canadian cell phones which have no extra surcharge.

13.  Riiing has seven different pricing bands which determine the rate based on which country (band) you are calling from and which country (band) you are calling to.  We show prices for incoming calls, local calls within the country you are in, and thirdly, calls to the US.  There is also a flat 35 fee per call in addition to the per minute costs.

Originally published 19 Jan 2007, last update 18 Mar 2011

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 

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