International Roaming with Blackberry – here is how

Ladies and Gentlemen – we have the answer to the question which has ben bugging the International Traveller: How to user your Blackberry overseas without insane data bill ?

We have finally managed to crack the mystery of international roaming. From various sources including personal accounts and official Vodacom and MTN feedback I have compiled the following:

Before we begin, the normal disclaimer applies – this is general information that may or may not apply to you. I take no responsibility whatsoever and suggest you verify anything you do with your Service Provider. Ie. Don’t call me if things go wrong !!!

UPDATE: Here is how to travel with BlackBerry 10  

SMS whilst overseas:

From both Vodacom and MTN users there is a facility that allows you to send and receive SMS only when overseas. With this facility, all other services are cancelled and all calls go direct to Voicemail  –  only SMS will come through to your cell phone.

Note: The service can only be activated while you are still in South Africa.


If you are with Vodacom:
To activate: SMS ‘ROAMON’ to 123


If you are with MTN:

Dial *111*14#


Blackberry Messenger (BBM) whilst overseas + Blackberry Email:

One of Blackberry’s key features is of course BBM – this makes keeping in touch a pleasure but also very expensive if you do it wrong as Data charges can be up to R150 per Megabyte !

Thankfully the clever people at Blackberry have allowed the usage of BBM and Email via the phone’s WiFi facility.

So in order to get BBM to work regardless of which cellular network you use, the steps are the same.

1. Make sure before you leave South Africa that you DO NOT have International Roaming enabled on your contract.

Suggest when you call the Customer Service to disable this that you make a note of the date, time and person you spoke to. Ask for a reference number too. This is a just-in-case you need to use it to defend an insane bill when you get home.

2. When you get to your overseas destination, find a Wi-Fi zone and connect to it. You might need to put in a password (follow the instructions as if you were connecting with your laptop)

3. Once connected, do the following:

  • Click on Manage Connection >
  • Click on Mobile Network Options >
  • Make sure that Data Services: ON >
  • Make sure that Whilst roaming: OFF.

4. It can take Blackberry a little while to logon and authenticate on the WiFi network. So don’t panic if the BBM don’t instantly flood in.

To test your connection and see if the WiFi is working: click on the Browser on your phone and make sure you can browse the internet. If you can, then it means that your WiFi is working and your BBM and Emails should also start to work now. If you can not surf the internet, it means that the WiFi isn’t working and you need to get someone to help you get connected.

5. Once you have connected to the Internet view WiFi, other applications such as WhatsApp, Gtalk etc. should also work.


Finally, don’t forget to take your charger and a local country adapter or else you will be highly irritate spending valuable holiday time going shop to shop to buy a ridiculously expensive charger you don’t need ! (been there…)


Important info links:

Vodacom International Roaming:

MTN International Roaming


By the way:

As an added bonus with MTN – you can use iMail to listen to your voicemail from the website:

iMail (Not available at the moment for PAYG and TopUp customers). You can go to and register on the website. Once done while on the website go through the following links: MTN Services/ My MTN/ iMail. Once you are registered for MTN iMail you can log in at any time and listen to your messages on the internet instead of on your phone! Here is a scenario on how it could work: Before Jo left for India he diverted all his calls to go directly to voicemail. This means that Jo cannot receive any calls while he is overseas. Knowing that he must have many voicemail messages he logs onto from the computer in his hotel room. He logs into iMail and listens to his messages by simply clicking on them.


    1. hi! im from Philippines but I traveled hero on Guam. I follow your steps above to use my BBM on my first day here it works but afterwards it stops receiving and sending messages through BBM. what should I do? by the way I owned BB curve 8520. tnx in advance!

      1. If it was working on the first day and you didn’t take out the sim card then try another wifi spot. Check that you can browse the Web to make sure you have Internet access.

      2. Your BIS as to be working this means if u activated until 10 of october 2012 and go overseas on 8th and use wi -fi , you BB internet will work with wi fi only untill 10 october

    2. Hi. I tried to deactivate International Roaming by dialling *111*14# as directed. I was givento 3 options. When I gave Response no. 2 (to Deactivate International Roaming) the response came back: “Supplementary service error: System failure!”

  1. I NEED HELP!!

    I’m South African
    I live in Denmark
    I have a prepaid Vodacom sim card, which of the roaming is activated.
    Yesterday I received a package, A Blackberry Bold 9780.
    The phone was bought in South Africa at Vodacom, and shipped to me.
    I tried to activate BIS by doing the *111# thing… buying the BB bundle.
    I received a SMS from vodacom saying that BB sevice is active and that i should turn off the device, remove the battery and insert it again to insure i receive all my service books, and i have them now.
    My Host Routing table is still empty. And when I say: register now, it says: Registration message queued. It will be sent once data coverage is available.

    When I try to use the Facebook or Twitter apps, it says: You are currently on a service plan that does not support this application. If you want to use this application; please contact your service provider to upgrade your data plan:

    I have a Wi Fi connection available here, and I can use it on my BB for the internet and Whatsapp.
    I just want BBM and the BB app world to work. I need it to work.

    I can’t use the phone to call anyone if I try to call, it just disconnects. Even Vodacom Customer Care.

    Can anyone help? Please?

        1. hence the problem.
          for BIS to be enabled you need to have it activated in South Africa – you can not have it enabled when you are on a roaming network.

          the only thng to do is either courier your sim to SA and get someone to stick it into a Blackberry phone to active it and set it up or get a DUAL SIM set up in SA, get it set up in a Blackberry phone and then enable international roaming and once all that is working send it back to you.

  2. Another quick question, is it going to be a recurring bundle or will it only be the once off thing?
    What im trying to ask is: as long as its activated in South Africa, will still work if I buy the bundle from here the months that follow?

  3. Hey I need help, I have a bb 9300, bought it 2months ago bt I try to install my bb software on my pc but no luck, when I click install it opens my web browser, plz need to connect my phne through usb, any suggestions?

  4. You are a lifesaver! Please could you just clarify for me though – must ALL roaming be off – including sms roaming – to avoid the hefty bill? Thanks so much!

  5. Hi, looking for some assistance.

    I am currently in Lithuania with an MTN sim card and a bold 9700, everything was working till i swapped sims to a Lithuanian sim card. after i swapped it back, bbm and bb app world no longer work, I am connected to the wifi at home, whatsapp, facebook and twitter still work. so not sure what is wrong…

    1. Once you remove the SIM card to a local SIM card you are stuffed. Even if you put back the old SIM card all the required information such as Service Books and Routing Tables are no longer there and cant be added manually.
      Other apps that use the normal internet such as Whatsapp, Facebook will work but no BBM

      1. I’m having the same problem (switch to local sim & put bakk old sim).
        Been doing all the stuff like “host routing table”, “service book”, pulling battery. but still cannot get my BB back.
        My BIS are not activated.
        Is the any other way to fix this?

        1. unfortunately NOPE.
          Once you remove the original SIM card that has all the Blackberry services on it – there is no way to add them back manually.
          What you can try do is put your old SIM back in, enable international roaming on it, and ask them to resend you the service books.
          Not sure this is even possible I am not sure as you are out of the country already.
          IF it does work, then after you receive the service books and Blackberry services start to work, then select the option to switch off data whilst international roaming is on and only connect via the WiFi.

  6. Hi sir,
    I am a bb 9800 india user.I was earlier using vodafone carrier and that time I was able to use bbm and mails over wifi but then I changed my carrier and now I can’t use bbm and mails over wifi. There is no blackberry icon coming next to wifi icon. Pls help I will be really thankful to you

      1. Sir,
        I have bis activated on the carrier but still dese services do not work on wifi. Pls suggest something or is there any way to register the wifi so that blackberry services can work on wifi

  7. So I cannot have sms roaming and BBM/email, I have to choose between the two? I am on prepaid, and not sure if I’m willing to risk not putting my sms roam on before I leave the country, bc if BBM doesn’t work with wifi for some reason, my phone is then rendered useless. I have used wifi abroad before, and connected succesfully, but I have not chosen the “with roaming: off” option. Help? Should I risk it and not put my sms roam on?

  8. Hi Guys
    The issue is that RIM has a secure algorthim, this certain countries and carriers hate,as they cannot snoop.
    I have 2 blackberrys, one o2, the other orange, have been given the run around for 4 days by orange, and still no bbm, the o2 blackberry works fine.
    So the issue is either orange wont pay the bill to the service providers, (eplus) or orange are trying to get more money out of its customer base.
    The fact the o2 service works fine, and the orange with wifi allows connection to whatsapp etc proves that orange/eplus are up to corporate tricks.
    Orange now tell you blackberry does not work in Germany! and there is no guarantee even if you have bought a bundle.
    They say nokia, samsung, iphone work fine, (I don’t know but I smell a rat) as none of these phones are secure, the blackberry is.
    Answer someone needs to start a campaign and use collective power to switch contracts to carriers who support blackberry.

  9. Hi there – wonder if you can help me. I have the opposite problem, I have given my son our old blackberry curve (old meaning 12 months). he has inserted a local sim with a pay as you go data account, but can only get phone and sms – no data (bbm or email). is there a series of settings he needs to insert in order to activate his data option

    Many thanks

  10. what if my blackberry doesnt have wifi? how can i send/receive bbm messages? can i connect my tour via usb to a laptop and send/receive msgs via the laptop’s connection to the internet?

  11. I am from India and I use Docomo Pre Paid sim with BB services activated..
    I am going to Dubai tomorrow.
    Do I have to cancel international roaming to activate BBM on wifi ?

    thanks in advance for your help

  12. Hi, I am in New York and using WIFI, I agree and BBM and mail will work when connected…but when away from the hotspot using 3G (AT&T) I can only receive email,…unable to send a mail, BBM or open a webpage. Incoming calls and SMS’s working so roaming must be on. Is it a SMTP setting on the handset I need to change?

    1. Is the sim card you are using enabled for Blackberry services? pop into the nearest mobile shop and ask them to check your settings. If you can get mail but not send it will be the smtp setting. If you want to send or receive bbm it will be the phone not registering on the bb network.

  13. Hi. I have a blackberry on mtn south africa, I will be going on a european tour of 7 countries, how will I be able to keep my bbm, facebook,ect on my phone?

    1. the cheapest way is just use WiFi from your BB phone. However you obviously have to be in a WiFi zone for this to work which thankfully in Europe there are plenty of free spots. The other option which is more costly, is in Europe – NOT IN SA get a prepaid BIS BB contract and that is enabled for Europe at a set rate.
      You can also use:

  14. Going to USA next week.Will use my BB with WiFi most of the time but need a phone to call within US on 3 or 4 occasions.
    What if I activate international roaming but only turn on 3G when required.Emails will come through but if I do not open them surely I will not get charged for attachments.Then when calls are over back to wi-fi and turn off 3G.Do you think this will work?

    1. technically you could do that. However, it will charge you even just to check your mail. In fact it will charge you for every facebook check, every tweet, everything that involves an internet connection. I suggest that you simply take your old phone, get a US prepaid SIM card and you are safe

    1. Blackberry services work as long as the service provider has enabled them on the phone. If your contract or prepaid service expires then Blackberry services will not work. As long as they are acitve, this should work internationally as the device is being used over WiFi to connect to Blackberry services

  15. HI

    I bought an unblocked Black Berry Storm 9530 in the USA for my wife to use with her cell C contract. Cell C told me they do not support oversees Black Berries. (If I use the phone with vodacom it will work. Any way around this?

    1. what ???!!!?? I have done the exact same and it works perfectly fine.

      What you can do is go buy a prepaid SIMcard from MTN, Vodacom, Cell C or 8ta – they cost virtually nothing (just take your RICA documents with you).
      Then put it in the phone and it should work perfectly fine.
      Other option: go into another Cell C shop and dont mention where you got the phone, just ask them to put a sim card in to test it.

  16. If I hv two sim cards with bbm service activated on both cn I switch sims if I want n nt get affected by service book issue once I m overseas I m goin to Paris Mexico n u.s. Plzz reply asap it’s urgent

    1. I wouldnt change the SIM at all. As you take the sim out and put the new one in it will try get its own service books and it will fail. If you need another sim, take another blackberry device (get old ones from cash convertors or mates who have changed their phone)

  17. Can you have the sms roamer (vodacom) active together with BBM ?
    Or do you have to choose between the two.

    Thanks in advance.

  18. hi there,

    I am going to europe and need to get bbm and emails etc on my cell but not only via wifi – so I need it to work when im also outside a wifi area… any sim card I can get that would work with that?

    please help…urgent…

  19. HI

    i recently relocated overseas and the country does not have the BIS support. but i followed the steps and connect to a wi-fi spot and i recieve all emails and BBM messages.

    i then bought a sim card in the new country and put it in my phone just to see what it does. this must have changed my email setting because once i put my original sim card back in and connect to the wi-fi spot im not receiving my email or BBM. the internet works and facebook apps on the phone. but not the BBM or email.

    when i try to go into email setting it asks me to connect to the mobile network. my sim card is not roaming so when i do switch on the network there isnt signal.

    how can i do the setting of my email because im sure thats whats causing it not to work ant longer. ?


  20. Hi

    Very useful post…but I think I’m doing something wrong…on Vodacom, only SMS roaming enabled, currently in dubai en route to germany…wifi works, can browse internet, but no bbm capability. My settings are as per your instructions (data services ON, while roaming OFF). Am I missing something, or doing something wrong?

    Any help will be appreciated!

    Kind regards,


    1. that sounds perfect – did you take out your SIM for any reason at any stage ? If you did it will not work.
      Also sometime over wifi it takes a while for the phone to log into BB services so you just got to leave it and wait

  21. Hi

    Im going to Germany soon and want to keep in touch with the family via BBM> thanks for all the tips i hope they will work.

    I have one question; in the blog you state ” Make sure before you leave South Africa that you DO NOT have International Roaming enabled on your contract.” is enabling international SMS’s going to affect the process at all? I that considered international roaming?

    Kind regard

  22. Hi,
    I am on MTN Prepaid and have a Blackberry and i will be leaving for Switzerland next week, i had made a call to MTN and they have told me that SA does not have rights for Roaming in Sqwizerland and i will have to purchase a new sim card, i will be staying at a hotel that has Wifi, will this work for BBM overseas, i will be travelling alone and i dont want to feel alone and still communicate with the world back in SA as i will be gone for 3 weeks.
    Please can you assist?

    1. Do not take out the sim card. If you do your bbm will not work even over wifi. Just take your bb and use bbm in the hotel wifi zone. If you want a local sim rather take another phone with you. If you pull out the sim card all your south african setting will be lost and will not work until you get back to South Africa.

      1. Thank you for the help, i will not take the Sim Card out at all and hope and pray that this works when im in Switzerland, would like to stay in contact with everyone…. thank you very much for all your help – appreciate it alot.

  23. Hi, im overseas and my BIS just expired and im here for another week, is there a way that i can activate the BIS for MTN prepaid again, i see on FNB you can buy for Vodacom but not MTN? Is there a way to activate it again somehow? i dont have roaming activated and have been using BBM over wifi in the hotel but now its expired 🙁

    1. yiks – tough one. Best to call the MTN help desk and ask them how to reactivate your subscription. If you didnt take out your SIM your service books should still be there and so it should just work again once you are activated.

      1. Hi – I should have read this before taking my sim card out to put a local sim card in. I’m based in the Maldives and have no lost my bbm functionality. Would it work if I managed to activate my international roaming to get BBM working again and then deactvated roaming once done? If so how would I go about doing this? Can I activate roaming from the Maldives? The problem is that i am already in the Maldives and wont be heading to SA for at least another 12 months.

        1. ouch…got bad news. I dont think its possible to activate international roaming when you are out of the country. A simple solution would be to get someone in SA do a sim-swap for you, activate BIS and mail you the sim card. Only thing I can think of since you are not getting back to SA soon.

  24. Hi! Im from the philippines and will travel next week to dubai. Im using a blackberry 9780 bold. I would just like to ask, if i do not activate the roaming services of my mobile provider will i still be able to use my bbm, whatsapp and viber on just wifi alone? Your reply would be really helpful. thank you!

  25. I should have checked out this site before I left for Canada about 2 weeks ago. The people at MTN do not tell you about all the additional charges when all I wanted was to be able to make calls while overseas. I have a contract BB Torch and applied for roaming just before I left. I spent only a week and made less than 10 calls but I’m now faced with a ridiculous bill of R7000 for data. I must also mention that I only used wifi services for internet and my 3G card on the laptop. On the statement it shows that I was on the internet 24 hours which is ridiculous.

  26. Hi There,

    I am going to the UK and croacia on Friday, I do need my bbm and my wattsapp to work? PLease help. I am on Vodacom pay as you go? Please advise??

    1. make sure you dont run out of your BIS whilst overseas. Also make sure you DONT take out your SIM card when you are there. Just switch on WiFi and that will work. Make sure you turn off international roaming too. If you do need a local SIM card, rather take another phone with you as the moment you take out the SIM card out of your BlackBerry your BBM will not work even when you put the SIM back in

  27. Hello there!!

    I am currently situated in Germany but i booked my BIS today at MTN because i Need it when i visit in 2 weeks. I booked it an d recieved the email to confirm that it has been booked however my BBM is still not working. Am I correct to understand that once I am back in South Africa in two weeks,, that it will then be activated and although it has been activated, it is not working because I am in a foreign Country??? Or does this mean that it will not be activated at all??

    Kind regards

    1. hmmm sounds right although I have never seen it like this before. When you come to SA and switch on here is should send you the service books and you can use BBM. Whilst you are overseas it cant do it.

  28. I will be travelling to London for 2 weeks and need my email and BBM to function – without the hefty bill! If I follow the great advice you give here about using BBM and email on wi-fi networks, will I be able to purchase any old sim card and put it into my current BB handset?

    1. as soon as you pull out the SA SIM card you will not be able to BBM ! Keep the SA Sim card in just switch on WiFi. If you need a local UK SIM card to make calls, rather take another phone with you.

  29. I have been using blackberry z3 phone in india. After some days i am traveling to south arica. Will the phone works in SA by inserting the southafrican SIM. Please advice..

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