Roaming is synonymous with steep bills for many mobile phone users travelling outside their own country.
An Israeli startup, Cell Buddy, is trying to find a solution by developing a universal SIM chip that would turn any smartphone into a local one.
Travellers are assigned a local phone number and can choose from an array of offers with carriers in dozens of countries. As a result, they pay local rates instead of their carrier’s pricey fees.
Cell Buddy vice-president Erez Doron explains how it works:
“So this is our app, and let’s say you just landed in France and you open up the app. You click on ‘purchase a plan’. The app already knows that you are in France, so you just click next. The default is one week so let’s stick with the default, and over here you see the different operators that are available. You can also see comments on the different plans and how we also edit stars, which lets you figure out how good the operator is. Once you press confirm, you’re done and you can just go ahead and use your phone,” he says.
But there is one major problem: Cell Buddy’s SIM chip works only with unlocked phones, making it difficult for the owners of devices tied to contracts with national operators.
The chip is nearing the end of its testing phase and developers hope to launch the service next year, at a cost of 44 euros a year or 3.6 euros a day.
For travel within the European Union, roaming fees could soon become a thing of the past as legislators seek to abolish them across the 28-nation bloc as part of a wider package to streamline the telecoms sector.