Europe – SIM cards, data & landlines

Information valid as of June 2022

It’s a changing environment with roaming data when we’re touring overland in Europe. Over the past 20 years as UK SIM providers have gone from charging horrendous prices for roaming, to charging a fairly hefty daily rate of £5 to use your data allocation, to decreasing the daily rate to £2 with fair usage policies (which tended not to be enforced), to having access to use your full data allowance in Europe (briefly) and then to find ourselves where we are now where the majority of providers have re-instated the £2 daily charge with fair usage policies. But, I can confirm, as of spring of 2022, O2 promised never to re-instate the additional daily rate but they do enforce a fair usage policy of 25Gb per month. I can also confirm that whilst way in France and Spain this May/June 2022, we had access to network speeds of 4G+ and 5G where these were available and we were able to tether our laptops to our phones. So no throttling back to 3G speeds (like Three) or not allowing tethering.

The 25Gb per month is more than enough to use for maps for routing (Google Maps), email, social media, voice/audio calls and web browsing. Although you can easily stream at these speeds, if you’re an avid movie/TV users or stream regularly for work, this probably won’t be sufficient.

We found that it was really easy to buy a PayAsUGo SIM in Spain – where we were spending the majority of our time. We found that Movistar had the best offers around and bought a 5G-capable SIM (allowing tethering) with 110Gb of data for €20 every 4 weeks. Easy to top up online and keep an eye on usage and data. All you need is your passport and 10 minutes for the card to be registered and issued. Configuration of the SIM in our phone was automatic as the config file is sent via a text message. Easy peasy and cheap.

Landlines

This does get a bit technical from here but I just wanted to briefly try to describe how you would be able to manage issues with communications when you’re away from home or business or to try and reduce costs when roaming outside of UK mobile area.

One of the issues we were a bit worried about was clients being able to get hold of us. We also needed to ensure that calls to our mobiles come through to us seamlessly where-ever we are in the world and at no additional cost to us.

So we set up VOIP (Voice Over IP or digital lines that use data via an Internet connection) landlines. There are several online companies that offer landline (VOIP) telephone numbers with all different benefits and costs. Drop me a Contact Us email and I’d be happy to share who we use. I don’t want to be including the information here as we are not selling this nor wanting to advertise.

We found one that suited us, that gave us

  • a landline number with the same area code for our business,
  • that is free to receive calls,
  • that we top up as and when we need to make calls (mostly 1p per minute),
  • that can be diverted to voicemail that then gets recorded and emailed to you so no calls are missed,
  • But the most important benefit was that we could register it to our home or business address. Once this is done, you can make emergency calls from this number. The benefit of this, is that while you are away from home, if your home/business burglar alarm is activated, if you ring from your VOIP number, the call goes through to the police response closest to your home/business.

Once your VOIP line is set up, you install a VOIP app on your mobile and register the account on it.

There are 2 ways to use this VOIP landline:

You can divert all calls to it before leaving the UK, which because it is a local number, costs nothing. This means that all calls despite it being to your mobile, rings through to your VOIP number with a UK ring tone for the caller and not the usual European ringtone.

Or you can continue to receive calls to your mobile whilst in Europe but before leaving Europe, divert all calls to your VOIP number. Because the VOIP app uses data, this means that all calls will be received where-ever you are in the world to your mobile at no cost and you can make outgoing calls (if you have credit) at very little cost to you.

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