Every Friday I try to share one of my favourite finds of the week – a web-site, tool or app that has impressed me. My Friday Favourite this week is TEP Wireless – a portable Wireless Access Point that allows you to travel abroad without incurring Data roaming charges.
International Data Roaming costs
I typically travel Internationally a few times a year and one of my pet peeves about such travel is staying online in a cost-effective manner. I’ve shared my thoughts on Why Hotel WiFi should be free but away from the hotel, the data roaming charges levied by mobile operators can make your eyes water.
For instance, T-Mobile (UK) charge customers £10 for 100MB of data – valid for 24 hours only. £10 for a days data, half of which will probably be eaten up as soon as you turn your Smartphone on and it starts downloading background updates – outrageous!
Kudos to UK Operator Three who recently introduced their “Feel At Home” package which allows customers to use their standard contract allowances in certain countries abroad – including the USA. If you’re visiting those countries included in your plan, then you can avoid roaming charges altogether. But for the rest of us who want to stay connected abroad, you’re facing hefty roaming charges, that is unless you opt to rent an International Wireless Access Point (AP) from TEP Wireless.
Renting a Wireless Access Point
TEP Wireless are an International hotspot rental company. In a nutshell, you let them know which country you’re visiting via their website, pay the charges upfront, and they’ll deliver to you at home – or your destination hotel, if you prefer – a small Wireless Access Point which you can then use at your destination to connect your Smartphone, Laptop, Tablet or any other Wireless devices to, giving those devices data access via the TEP AP rather than using expensive network data roaming.
Most popular destinations are covered – UK, USA, Australia, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, China and more – but there are some exceptions so it’s worth checking first.
Cost of Renting
I travelled to Miami, Florida in the USA and ordered a TEP AP. Cost-wise, 7 days rental for the USA costs £31 – or £4.50 per day – for 150mb per day. Not too shabby, and a lot less than roaming charges levied by a mobile network.
Upgrades to unlimited data are also available from TEP Wireless for an extra fee.
Once my order was placed, I received email updates advising of the shipping status and two days before my trip the TEP AP was delivered to me at home.
The AP comes in a carry case and the device itself is small – about 10 cm big – making it easy to carry in a rucksack or pocket. The AP is charged via Micro USB cable, which is also included along with a power plug featuring local pins for the USA.
My wallet also contained a spare battery – which was a nice addition – and instructions on the name of the AP and password to allow you to connect devices to it.
Connecting to the TEP AP
Once in the USA, connecting my Smartphone to the AP was easy. As this is a Wireless AP rather than a new SIM card, you don’t need to be worried about your Smartphone being “unlocked” – just connect via WiFi as simply as connecting to any other Wireless AP in a Cafe or hotel.
Up to 5 devices can be connected to the AP in total and so I was able to share Wireless with my iPad and a couple of travelling friends who were otherwise facing network roaming charges. Obviously, the more devices you share the AP with, the slower the speeds you experience – but I’d suggest this isn’t a device for watching videos or listening to streaming music through, it’s there to keep you connected for email and web browsing, and it was good at just that.
Once back home, I popped the TEP AP in the provided pre-paid postage bag and shipped it back to TEP.
The alternative to either roaming charges or renting an AP from TEP would be to buy a local SIM card, but in some countries this isn’t always cost effective. There’s also the consideration that if you want to be connected to the Internet as soon as you get off a plane then having a TEP AP would be convenient.
As mobile carriers get pressured, roaming charges will drop – and the “Feel At Home” deal from Three that I mentioned earlier in this article will hopefully soon become the norm for all carriers. But until that time, and as somebody who likes to stay connected wherever I am – for work and pleasure – I’ll be renting a TEP AP when I travel abroad.
I’m intrigued to hear others who have used TEP, perhaps in other locations worldwide. What has your experience with TEP Wireless been? Please do leave a comment below!
Update – November 2014
I wanted to share an update to my blog post as my latest experience with TEP Wireless has not been so positive.
I was due to take a trip to Dubai, and ordered my TEP Wireless device a couple of weeks ahead of time.
When the device didn’t arrive the day before my trip, I started to get nervous. When I contacted TEP Wireless via email and telephone to chase, I was assured the device would arrive. I was made even more nervous by the fact that TEP Customer Support didn’t seem willing to contact the courier company to chase the delivery.
Despite more telephone calls on the day, the device didn’t arrive and TEP came across as rather disorganised in being unable to meet my order.
A full refund of my order was given, but obviously the experience — and the feedback I’ve had from others who have also been let down in the same way — has changed my perspective on TEP. I’ve lost faith that they would be able to serve me for future trips.
A great shame, as the idea behind the product is sound, it’s just let down by execution.