Roaming data

My last few weeks have been spent in China, Korea and Japan. I’ve been roaming with my cellphone, with my data connection turned off. The question is for how long?

It’s interesting to note that in both China and Korea, you can roam, with unlimited data for about RM36/day (USD$12). This is common in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and several other countries that have roaming agreements.

I landed in Korea and the first thing I heard? The familiar sound of Whatsapp. I’m sitting here now in Haneda, and it’s again the familiar sound of Whatsapp.

The way I see it, roaming data is becoming more affordable. It can only get cheaper.

Why is this big? The way Blackberry Messenger (BBM) has disrupted SMS amongst blackberry users is what I see Whatsapp doing as long as you have data.

Applications like Yes Life which gives you a real 018-number, and does SMS and work entirely over data? Brilliant, especially if you plan to send more than 36 SMS messages per day, or even want to entertain phone calls. Imagine forwarding your regular number not to voicemail, but to your 018 number. You pay a flat rate for data, and you enjoy really cheap call rates. Similar deals with pfingo (Singapore), PennyTel (Australia/Malaysia), and so on.

With data, you can also run Skype. That also does cheap calls and SMS messaging. Incoming calls work too via a real number, though there is no option to grab a Malaysian number.

Apps for mapping and navigation on iOS and Android? They will flourish with on-net connections, meaning there is little reason to cache.

Walking around Japan, we had a mifi, with an amazing battery life. Three connections, on-net, 6 hours! And it was close to 20mbps down, on a mifi!

I see lots of roaming companies (Flexiroam, for example) saying they provide foreign SIMs for cheap. I’d rather just always have a data connection, unlimited, for a flat rate anywhere I go. And a configured mifi. Maybe an extra portable battery pack ;)


  1. Heya Colin … $12 per day is pretty expensive. Why not just get a prepaid sim card? At that sort of rate, you’d probably come out ahead after just two or three days. I had the same issue myself while travelling around Europe, so I started building a list of what prepaid plans were available…

    (Sorry, haven’t got Japan or Korea on my site yet, but I added one of China’s mobile operators this morning)

    • colincharles says:

      Hi Paul!

      Long time no chat

      It seems that its much harder to get SIMs with data enabled :( SIMs work, but with data, a lot of countries make you go thru hoops.

      Recently we had a chap from Brissie visit Malaysia, and he’d purchased a Maxis SIM, and it basically led to timeouts, etc. that would not enable data easily. It needed an SMS feedback loop, and it was delayed and so on. Overall, I think he was in the country for about five days, and had data working on the third or fourth day only :(

      Do they make “world” mifis? Mine requires configuring via a web interface, and the SMS app itself doesn’t work on Linux/OSX, and I don’t carry a Windows laptop around

      Wouldn’t it be cool if more providers also just provided a prepaid SIM that had data enabled out of the box? MicroSIMs seem to be the other request I see a lot of — people want to plop it into their iPad’s…

      But cool site Paul – rocks! I’ll be using this a lot more