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Telestial News

January 22, 2015


Picture the scene: you’re on vacation. You’ve spent the last four hours on an ‘off-the-beaten-track’ trek, most of it uphill. The first hour was lovely. A gentle walk among the rolling hills in a place you’ve never been before. You marvel at the strange plants, waving or talking to the friendly locals as they make their way past you, with most of a small forest piled precariously onto their shoulders. The second hour is a bit less enjoyable. The incline has increased, and you’re just not used to this tropical afternoon sun beating down on you. You’re also wondering whether flip-flops were the best choice of for this adventure. By the third hour, you’re absolutely certain that flip-flops were in fact a terrible idea, and vow to immediately burn them on your return to sea level. Now the descending locals seem a little less chipper and more like they’re mocking the out-of-shape westerners, struggling to complete a climb empty-handed that they’ve already done twice before breakfast with a goat under each arm. You barely have the energy to raise a hand in acknowledgement, let alone stop for a chat. By the time you’re into the fourth hour, you are a mass of aches, pains and resentment, mostly toward the tour guide who told you that it was only a gentle walk. You vow that you’ll put up with it and get there, just to throw the miserable swine off the top. You have to remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun, mostly by chanting a mantra through gritted teeth, something along the lines of “I. Am. Having. FUN.

But then you get to the summit, and suddenly, the pain and exhaustion melt away. There is no need for words, even if you weren’t too exhausted to speak. You, and the rest of your small group, sit upon the rocks with the dazed surprise of people who were told that it would be worth it, but somehow forgot this along the way. But yes, it was worth it. So worth it. You’re looking at the best, most impressive sunset you’ve ever seen in your life. The light reflects off the water of the bay, turning the whole sea gold. You stare in awe at the trees swaying gently in an afternoon breeze, the poor fools stuck on that lowly beach in the distance, and you remember that this, exactly this, is why you chose to come here in the first place. It was to see and experience things that you never would back home... which is when you remember a friend or family member. How they would love this. In fact, after a quick look at your watch and some gentle mental arithmetic, you realize that it’s only just 10am there. You could give them a call. So your hand reaches for your pocket… and time stops.

Time has stopped because there are three distinct timelines you could go down, depending on the decisions you made before you set off. Each timeline is very different.

In the first timeline, you reach into your pocket and pull out your phone. Up here, you’ve got a nice strong signal, and the person you want to call is on speed-dial. But just as you’re about to hit the dial button, you stop. If you make this call now, you have no idea how much it’s going to cost you. It could be as much as $20 per minute, and while you’d really like to spend five minutes describing the scene from your mountain-top, it’s not really worth the $100 you’d be spending. I guess they’ll like the photos, but it’s not the same. Maybe next time, you think, and the phone goes back in your pocket, unused.

In the second timeline, you’ve taken precautions about such things. For a start, you have ensured that your handset is unlocked (after all, you don’t want to spend four hours climbing just to discover that it won’t work anyway). You also purchased a local SIM at the airport to ensure the best quality service and the lowest rates, and you have plenty of credit. You could spend the next hour up here, gabbing happily away, and it wouldn’t cost you a cent since you’ve already bought the credit. Patting yourself on the back, you dial the number, and wait. And wait. And wait a bit more. After the third attempt you give up, a bit downcast. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. You wonder what you’ve done to upset your friend back home.

Of course, your friend isn’t upset. It could be that they’re at work, where taking personal calls on office time is strongly discouraged, no matter who you are.  Or it could be that they didn’t recognize the number. In a poll from 2012, it was found that the overwhelming majority of cellphone users do not answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize, period. Given that you just bought your SIM card a couple of days ago, there’s no way that the person you’re calling will know it’s you. They’re especially unlikely to answer a call with an international dialing code that they don’t recognize. You could leave them a message and tell them of this wonderful moment that you wanted to share, but that’s not quite the same thing, and besides, it’s beginning to get dark.

The third timeline is the one in which you went online and visited Telestial before your trip. You received your SIM card, which came with a US and UK number (so no unexpected mystery country dialing codes), before you travelled, giving you time to share the number with your family and friends before you travel. You have some free credit on the SIM and the rates are much lower than they would be with your regular SIM, so you can still talk as long as you want. If you want, you can wait until the person on the other end fires up Facebook and takes a look at your Travel Journal. They’ll see you right there, a little red location tag on top of the mountain. They can also take a look at the photos you’ve uploaded. It’s the next best thing to them being with you.

Disclaimer – nor any of its affiliates can do anything about your blisters. Sorry about that.

December 17, 2014


Yes, it really ‘tis! And just like many of you, we are a little preoccupied at the moment thinking about what gifts to get people. Fortunately, we have just launched a new range of products that will make your Christmas vacation easier, cheaper and hassle-free.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the site (and I can’t think of a single reason why you wouldn’t be), you’ll already know that we have just launched a new European SIM card. With excellent savings on calls, SMS and data for 30 European territories (plus a further 6 global destinations), we might be forgiven for resting on our laurels. But we just don’t operate that way. There’s always more we can do. That’s why we’ve launched a brand new Smartphone, the Smart 3. With a 4” touchscreen, dual SIM slots and running the latest Android OS, KitKat, it’s our best Smartphone yet.

We’re also very pleased to announce the launch of our first tablet system, the JT Tab. This also has dual SIM slots and runs KitKat, and offers all the same features as other, higher priced tablets such as a 7” colour LCD touchscreen, 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 8GB of internal memory. At $119 (with an Explorer SIM card and $10 free credit) we think it’s one of the best, most affordable devices on the market.

As if that wasn’t enough, we’ve also got a couple of special offers available, because we know that many of you are headed overseas for the holidays. These include our Smart 2 handset (3.5” touchscreen, dual-SIM slots, 4GB of internal memory), a choice of either Explorer or Europe SIM card, $10 credit and a travel adapter.

No matter where you are spending the holiday season, we’ve got your calling and data needs covered. The only thing that remains is to wish all of our customers happy holidays and we look forward to seeing you all again in 2015!

December 10, 2014


2014 has been a big year in terms of roaming. Faced with the rise in popularity of free VOIP apps such as Skype, WhatsApp and many more, the major operators have realized that they stand to lose out if they don’t get in the roaming game. But have things changed enough that you can just use your regular SIM anywhere, or are you still better off with an international SIM card? Let’s take a look…

Here in the States, the debate over Net Neutrality has dominated the conversation for some time. Hardly surprising, when 4 million petitioners and The President have a personal opinion on the subject. Behind the scenes, the major operators are fighting with each other over the cost of data roaming in the US. On one side, you have the new kids, led by T-Mobile, who have complained to the FCC about the cost to other providers for roaming on AT&T’s network. AT&T (with the backing of Verizon) have responded that since they put in the work creating the larger network, they should reap the benefits. T-Mobile (with the backing of Sprint) want the FCC to set a standard rate for data roaming across the country.

This suggested system would be similar to the one adopted by 31 countries in the European Union. As previously reported in this blog, they had planned to phase out roaming charges altogether by the end of 2015. However, telecoms operators have pushed back, claiming that the loss of revenue would render them unable to continue expanding their networks. While they have complied with current legislation that caps roaming rates across the board in Europe, some operators have been raising the cost of roaming elsewhere in the world. In some cases, prices have doubled.

Elsewhere around the world, the outcry over high data roaming rates and unexpected bills (which still make the news) have caused many other global players to reconsider their strategy. From Canada to Australia, Zimbabwe to Russia, telcos are slowly (very slowly in some cases) lowering their roaming rates. The news looks good. But is it really?

As indicated by the raising of non-EU roaming rates by Irish Telecoms operators, perhaps we’re not quite there yet. While it makes sense to lower the rates in countries close to your homeland, the further away you travel, the higher the rates will remain, and for as long as possible. Given that telecoms operators stand to make $50 billion from data roaming revenue alone by 2019 (and that’s just over half of the total roaming revenue at stake), it’s no surprise that they would be reluctant to give it up. It’s possible that these projected figures will be dented by frustrated customers either turning to free VOIP and WIFI services, or turning their cellphones off altogether while they are out of the country. One thing is clear – for truly global rates and freedom from billshock, usage caps and other hidden surprises, your best bet is still a Telestial SIM card.

November 21, 2014


Another day, another story of Billshock. However, this one is a little different: a Canadian man flying from London to Singapore last week accrued charges of $1,171 by using – or rather overusing – the airline’s WIFI.

There are of course two sides to the story. The WIFI provider, OnAir, claim that their usage and rate policies are absolutely clear, both before and during the data session. Certainly, it has never been easier to see what data you are using, with most devices featuring graphs that track usage in real time, and break down what types of data you have viewed. They also claimed that once the customer reached the end of his allotted 30MB, he was given a choice to end the session or continue at a higher rate. The customer, of course, has a different view. He claims that he was not using the WIFI too heavily, looked at maybe 150 pages and uploaded one small spreadsheet. It’s possible that he pressed the wrong button when his allocation ran out, and mistakenly chose to continue using data when in fact he was planning on going to sleep. The bottom line is that you always need to be aware of what you’re doing when you go online with your phone, so here’s a quick guide:

- Always read the small print – well, not all of it. After all, these things run as long or even longer than some of Shakespeare’s plays. But you should make sure you’re aware of all the charges and costs that you could incur. If there is a limit to the amount of data you are buying, make sure you know what that limit is, and adjust your browsing time accordingly.

- Be aware of what you are browsing – take a look at our handy chart, which breaks down how you can use an average data bundle. Pages comprised of just text and no images (such as emails) will cost you less than pages with images, which cost less than pages with videos, and so on. While this seems obvious and intuitive, it is not always as clear-cut. Take Facebook, for example. You could visit a Facebook page with the intention of just reading text, only to find that you are downloading videos as well. Check your phone’s settings to keep control of this.

- Check your apps – in the same way that websites may be doing more to your data allocation than you exepct, apps can also do the same. Push notifications, location services and automatic updates – these are all things that can accrue data charges without you even being aware that it is happening. You can find some great tips for taking control of your apps here.

- End your session when you are done – this sounds more obvious than you think. If you were using a laptop or PC, ending a data session is as simple as turning off your browser or computer. It’s not necessarily as simple with a smartphone, which usually stays on and may be doing other things in the background. Go to your handset’s settings screen and turn off mobile data to end the session with certainty.

- Ask yourself if you need to be online right now – this is less about being patronizing and more to do with awareness. The man in the story could easily have uploaded his spreadsheet either before or after he had landed. Most airports and hotels have WIFI facilities that were no doubt much cheaper than in-flight WIFI. After all, at 30,000 feet, you are not in a country but rather ‘international airspace’. This means that there are no designated providers and no cell towers. Companies providing data can charge whatever they want, and if stories like these are to be believed, they certainly will. If there’s the risk that you could go over your allocation and start using data at vastly inflated rates, consider whether it is worth the risk. It could mean the difference between $30 and $1,000.

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