Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to use BBM when travelling internationally without huge data charges?

Posted By Ray Nicolini

When we take cell phone overseas, this question always comes up. How do we stay in touch without a huge roaming data bill. for phone calls, we know the trick is to simply forward all calls unconditionally to Voicemail before you leave from your Country. So unless you check your voicemail when abroad, there will be no calls and therefore no bill. but the question is around BBM.
How to use the Blackberry when going overseas  without breaking the piggy-bank ?
If you would like to skip the discussion and go straight to the answer – Below 
Option 1: Most Expensive and Easiest:
The simplest but most expensive option is to simply ask your Cellular Service Provider to enable international roaming on your phone so you can enjoy your Blackberry like you do when you are in Canada (or back home).
HOWEVER, this will be VERY expensive – so be aware and expect a whopping cell phone bill !!!
Option 2: Pre-Paid SIM card:
I spoke to Vodacom who told me to simply get a pre-paid SIM card when I am overseas and “your Blackberry will simply work as the PIN lives on the device”. IT DIDN’T. You need to have the Blackberry services enabled on the SIM and so far the countries I have visited do not have a pre-paid Blackberry enabled service. So that’s BULL – thank you.
Pre-Paid SIM card works very well for making and receiving calls – but not for BBM.
Option 3: WiFi :
Did you know that you can use BBM with just Wi-Fi ?
I tested this on my Wi-Fi network by disabling the Mobile Network (click on Manage connection, and un-ticked the Mobile Network). I then enabled the Wi-Fi Network and connected to the internet, BBM, sent and received emails.
This is all well and good but I am in Canada when I ran this test.
So the question is: will this work when I am out of the Country with no international roaming enabled and only have Wi-Fi on?
Looking on the Net, there is no clear cut answers.
Some say simply YES.
Other say: you need to Turn Data services on for a few minutes, get an email saying registered and then do the following:
  • Manage Connection >
  • Mobile Network Options >
  • Data Services: ON >
  • Whilst roaming OFF.
This will give you the Service books when you are overseas so it has the routing set up on your phone. However this doesn’t say if you need to have international roaming enabled before you go or not. It also doesn’t say if you get home to a huge bill or not.
So as a public appeal: if you are a frequent overseas traveller and can shed some light on what you did to get BBM to work when abroad ? please can you email meor post a comment here.
What we need to know is:
1. Did you have international Roaming active before you left home- Yes or No ?
2. What did you enable/ disable when you were overseas at the Wi-Fi spot ?
3. Did you come home to a huge bill or not ?
4. Other info…
On behalf of the Blackberry community who can not get a straight answer, I thank you if you could shed any light on this…

Update: WE HAVE THE ANSWER –see below 

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 Carrier Feedback:
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 !!!

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 $5 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 your Country that you DO NOT have  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…)
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