How do Globalgig’s mobile broadband plans compare against Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone roaming plans?

Finding the best data roaming plan for your next trip can be difficult, but some companies such as Globalgig are making it easier to decipher the true costs

Data roaming while overseas has always been a sore point for Aussie travellers. Charges have traditionally been astronomical, and usually hard to understand without following tons of links. Things are starting to get better, with one example being Vodafone's $5 per day Roaming feature for those on the network, which is fine for trips taking a couple of days. Dedicated data players such as Globalgig offer better than usual rates if you want to use data in a foreign land, especially on long stays.

As such, our focus for this feature is on Globalgig, and how its data rates compare to the established trio of Vodafone, Telstra, and Optus.

One SIM for almost any country

Mobile data provider, Globalgig, now has high-speed, 4G plans available for use in Australia and the UK, and has expanded its regular 3G coverage to more places around the globe (up to 84 countries). It’s a service that’s useful if you’re a traveller who wants a no-fuss mobile data plan that can be used seamlessly, without having to look for plans and change SIMs when you land in a different country.

The company offers month-to-month plans on a no-contract basis (see below for details), and you can buy one tri-SIM that can be adapted to your device, whether it uses a nano, micro, or full-sized SIM. SIM cards for different plans can be purchased from retail outlets such as Big W, Coles, Dick Smith, and many more, but before you can use the service, you need to activate the SIM on Globalgig’s Web site.

The Web site is the weakest link in the company’s offering. It’s not possible to just log in to view your data consumption, or to change plans. Instead, Globalgig emails you when you have reached certain milestones in your data usage: 50 per cent, 85 per cent, and 100 per cent.

If you want to do things such as change plans or change your payment details, you have to call up a customer service representative. It’s annoying to have to do that, rather than making the changes yourself through a Web interface, but when we tested the service, the call staff were helpful and completed our requests quickly. Globalgig told us that changes to the site are coming, with more self-service features to be added.

It’s important to note that Globalgig’s plans are purely for mobile data; you can’t use these plans for voice calls. This puts Globalgig at a disadvantage if you want to also use your smartphone for calls and messages while overseas, meaning you will still need to make arrangements for calls, either by roaming or getting a local number. Globalgig is best suited to those of you who want to take a second, unlocked device overseas with you, with the intention of using data for accessing maps, social media, and basic Web browsing. You can then 'hotspot' that data to another device, too.

Globalgig used to only offer up to 3G speeds, but now it offers faster 4G speeds within Australia, and also in the UK. All other countries will be limited to 3G. Frequencies supported in 4G are 700MHz/1800MHz/2100MHz/2300MHz/2600MHz, with 3G frequencies being 900MHz/2100MHz.

Tier one carriers are used all over the world, with Optus being the company's network in Australia, Singtel in Singapore, and Three in Hong Kong and the UK, for example. In the United States, Globalgig recently moved to AT&T, after previously being with T-Mobile. We experienced slow results on T-Mobile when we first reviewed the service last year, but Globalgig says the new deal with AT&T will offer much better speeds.

In order to use Globalgig on your device, you need to put in the appropriate APN (access point name). Previously, you had to remember what the APN was for travelling overseas and change to it once you left Australia, as it was different to the one used in Australia. Globalgig has now changed this so that one single APN can be used within Australia and around the world:

Globalgig’s plans follow. They are post-paid plans that can be changed on a month-to-month basis to suit your needs, and there are no lock-in contracts.

4G Flexi

This plan’s data can be used in Australia.

Extra charges

You pay an extra 2 cents per megabyte if you go over your allotted data in Australia. It’s charged in one megabyte increments.

You pay an extra 10 cents per megabyte in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA, Vatican City.

You pay an extra 25 cents per megabyte in the following 17 countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey.

Monthly data pricing: $4.99 for 250MB; $10 for 1GB; $20 for 3GB; $30 for 5GB; $50 for 10GB.

Best suited for those of you who just want a data plan for a tablet, laptop or a spare smartphone, that you will be using within Australia. However, you still have the freedom to use the same plan overseas at the countries specified above.

Go Europe+USA

This plan’s data can be used in Australia, as well as the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA, Vatican City.

Extra charges

You pay an extra 2 cents per megabyte if you go over your allotted data in Australia. It’s charged in one megabyte increments.

You pay 25 cents per megabyte for the following two countries: Hong Kong, New Zealand.

Monthly data pricing: $20 for 250MB; $30 for 1GB; $50 for 3GB; $70 for 5GB; $100 for 10GB.

This plan is best suited to those of you who want mobile data for use while travelling in Europe, and the United States.

Go Global

This plan’s data can be used in Australia, and 69 other countries: Antarctica, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mayotte, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet, Turkey, UAE, United Kingdom, USA, Uruguay, Vatican City.

Extra charges

You pay an extra 2 cents per megabyte if you go over your allotted data in Australia. It’s charged in one megabyte increments.

You pay 25 cents per megabyte extra for the following 14 countries: Albania, Cambodia, Colombia, Fiji, Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Indonesia, Isle of Man, Israel, Jersey, Kosovo, Philippines, Qatar.

Monthly data pricing: $30 for 250MB; $50 for 1GB; $100 for 3GB; $170 for 5GB.

Choose this plan if you’re a regular traveller and want a plan that can be used in a multitude of countries around the world.

What about competing offers?

Vodafone allows you to pay an extra $5 per day to use your existing plan’s data allotment for international data roaming in up to 47 countries. It’s a feature that’s available with many of the company’s month-to-month, 12-month, and 24-month plans. Considering that you can get 4GB of data on a $60 Red SIM-only plan, or 6GB on an $80 Red SIM-only plan, paying $5 extra to use that data for a couple of days while overseas might not be that much of a hassle. However, it's not worthwhile for longer stays.

You can use Vodafone’s data in the following 47 countries: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, USA, Wales.

Extra data is charged in 1GB blocks that cost $10. Pay-as-you-go roaming for countries not covered by the $5 Roaming feature incur a cost of $1 per megabyte.

Telstra has a Travel Pass that’s available for existing customers to purchase for $5 per day in its ‘zone 1’ countries: New Zealand, Indonesia (but not Bali), and Thailand.

Its ‘zone 2 countries cost $10 per day: Cambodia, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), United Arab Emirates, United States of America.

The Travel Pass needs to be purchased in blocks of days. It’s available for 3 days with an allowance of 150MB, 7 days for 350MB, 14 days for 700MB, and 30 days for 1.5GB. Extra data is charged at 3 cents per megabyte before your Travel Pass elapses. It is charged at $3 per megabyte after the Travel Pass has elapsed.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge pricing: Vodafone vs Optus vs Telstra vs Virgin

What this means is that a 7-day pass to a ‘zone 2’ country, for example, can cost $70 for only 350MB of data. This is in addition to what you pay for your regular mobile access. Furthermore, using excess data after the Travel Pass has elapsed could really hurt your wallet.

Optus offers data roaming for post- and pre-paid plans to a set of ‘zone 1’ and ‘zone 2’ countries as well, which can be viewed on a map on the telco’s site. Zone 1 countries are charged at a cost of 50 cents per megabyte, and zone 2 countries at $1 per megabyte. This is in addition to what you pay for your regular mobile access.

Which should you choose?

If you have little to no intention of using your mobile phone for voice and text messaging while overseas, but instead require a good amount of data, Globalgig’s data-only plans are worth considering, primarily for their simplicity, and for their adequate data allowance. The expanded list of countries in which the service works, as well as the benefit of one APN for home and abroad, also make it a good choice for businesses.

Existing users of Globalgig can use current SIM cards to upgrade to the new 4G Flexi and Go Europe+USA plans, but a new SIM will be required for the Go Global plan, mainly because it carries a lot more profiles that it needs to work in all of the new countries that are now supported.

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Elias Plastiras
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