It seems like almost everyone knows of a horror story or two of someone who has travelled abroad to come back to a whopping cell phone bill. So whenever someone travels abroad, I usually get an email asking how they can ensure that their bank account doesn’t meet the same fate.
Back in 2011 I wrote about how to use your BBM when travelling internationally without incurring huge data cost which is still one of the most popular post on TheTechieGuy Blog – seems likes this is a major concern for people from around the world.
Now that I have upgraded to the BlackBerry 10 platform has travelling with the BlackBerry changed ?
BlackBerry 7 – Service Books
In order to get access to BlackBerry Services such as Internet and that important BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), the BlackBerry device needs to connect onto the BlackBerry Network. With BlackBerry 7 this was done using Service Books which are specific software settings that automatically configure the BlackBerry device. These Services Books are sent over-the-air from the cellular network back in South Africa.
If you travel with your BlackBerry device and simply enable WiFi, the phone will connect and use the locally stored Service books to get your BBMs.
However, when you travel internationally, typically you buy a pre-paid SIM card to avoid the massive international data costs. Here is where the problem lies – as soon as you pull out your South African SIM card and put in the new locally purchased SIM card, these BlackBerry Service Books are no longer accessible on the phone and therefore your BlackBerry does not log onto the BlackBerry Network and therefore your BBM does not work. Even when you put in your South African SIM card, it does not fetch the Service Books again if you don’t have International Roaming (and even if you do it doesn’t always work). This leaves your BlackBerry device as a functioning cell phone with all your apps except BBM (and other related services).
So typically, the advice I give BlackBerry 7 users is NEVER take out the SIM card and simply hooks onto a WiFi network. If you need a locally mobile phone, take another phone with you and put the pre-paid card into that device leaving the BlackBerry 7 phone alone.
BlackBerry 10 – Just Data
BlackBerry 10 does not have any Service Books at all. In order to authenticate onto the BlackBerry Network, all BlackBerry 10 needs is a data connection of any kind. With BlackBerry 10, you can buy your local pre-paid SIM card and without doing any configuration whatsoever, the BlackBerry 10 device simply logs on and BBM come flooding in as normal. I have tested this with the BlackBerry Z10, BlackBerry Q10 and the BlackBerry Q5 and every single one of these devices simply worked using the SIM card in Holland, Italy and France – no problem.
This is a major step for BlackBerry travellers who no longer have to worry about to keep connected whilst keeping you moving…
Traveller’s Tip – SMS Abroad:
Most of the South African banks will send you an SMS at every swipe of your credit card. Banks also send you a One Time Password when you use Internet Banking via SMS so you can top up your Credit Card too. In order to get these messages when you are travelling abroad, you can enable just SMS Roaming on your South African SIM card. This will allow you to receive these SMS but no phone calls and therefore no massive bills.
To enable SMS Roaming:
SMS ‘ROAMON’ to 123
(when you are back in SA, SMS ‘ROAMOFF’ to 123)