November 21, 2014
IS IT A BIRD? IS IT A PLANE? NO, IT’S BILLSHOCK
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.
November 19, 2014
Without mentioning a certain high-profile company’s reported high-profile design flaw, there are plenty of other ways to damage your Smartphone. Insurers Squaretrade have compiled a survey showing which US states are the clumsiest when it comes to looking after their handsets. Utah, take a – careful – bow.
Of course, dropping your phone into the sea, a hole in the ground or even a large animal is not a solely American pastime. Squaretrade have done their due diligence and surveyed Europe as well. The winners here are Greece, Italy and Spain. Congratulations, guys!
Of course, if you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you’re watching your phone disappear from view, it’s not just your phone that’s gone – it’s your SIM card too. Fortunately, you can insure your Telestial roaming SIM card against damage or loss with lifetime protection – just select the option at the checkout!
November 19, 2014
INTRODUCING THE NEW EUROPE SIM CARD
Here at Telestial, we are committed to providing the best roaming experience possible for our customers, which is why we are proud to announce the launch of our new Europe SIM card! We know that you want low, consistent rates for calls, SMS and data while you are away, which is why we offer just 25c per call, message or MB of data. We also know that you may want to call elsewhere, which is why we have added reduced rates to an additional six territories, including the USA, Australia and South Africa.
Whether you are visiting one of the major tourist centres such as London, Paris or Barcelona, or going off the beaten track to explore some of the continent's less-visited countries, the Europe SIM card is just what you need. All rates and charges are detailed on the product page and if you have any other questions, our customer service team is on hand to answer any questions you might have.
November 7, 2014
WORLD WAR WEB
It has been 25 years since the World Wide Web was developed, and no one could have predicted the vast impact it has had on our lives. Had they been able to so, it seems unlikely that it could have been allowed to grow and evolve unimpeded in the way that it has. It has now come of age, and is proving, to some, to be an unwieldy and complex creature, in need of taming. For every benefit, we are finding a hidden threat. The list of disturbing news stories related to the web in recent years is almost endless: Net Neutrality, Edward Snowden and the NSA, Wikileaks, hacked celebrity photos, cyber-bullying, Anonymous and other hacker groups, internet piracy, rick-rolling… the list goes on and on. Faced with a constant barrage of these issues, governments, tech giants and consumers are having to fight for control of the internet – and usually against each other. Make no mistake about it – this is war.
Nowhere was this clearer than Hungary last week, when Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced a plan to introduce an internet tax to help bolster the country’s ailing finances. The proposal involved charging Internet Service Providers for each gigabyte of data that they processed at a cost of 150 forints, or 60c per GB. To put this in perspective, a digital download of a new computer game would cost each user approximately $30. To say this was an unpopular decision is an understatement – this last weekend, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, and consequently the decision was reversed.
If you think this sort of draconian behaviour is limited to former Soviet States of Europe, think again. In the USA, one of the hottest political topics (one that doesn’t involve actual politicians, sadly) at the moment concerns ‘Net Neutrality’. This is the principle that all data on the web is accessible by all people without discrimination in terms of cost, content or anything else. In May, the FCC approved a proposal that would allow ‘internet fast lanes’ for those that paid a higher premium. As part of the process, the public were allowed to air their views, which they did, and in great numbers. Over a million US consumers commented on the issue, far more than any proposal ever had before. While most ISPs seem to be interested in keeping the web open, Verizon is set to pursue litigation.
The internet’s global reach is both a blessing and a curse. The fact that it is a vast, online community, without borders, means that activists are able to organise themselves much more easily than many other groups. But it is also the means by which hackers from one country can disrupt websites of other countries and global mega-corporations can take advantage. The revelations last year about the NSA’s widespread data collection methods caused a great deal of concern around the world, and governments are now working to protect themselves. For example, from 2015, any data collected by cloud storage facilities must remain in Russia, and such services must be physically located on Russian soil. This has huge implications for Apple’s iCloud and anyone already using or reliant upon such technology in Russia. Germany is also looking at introducing new safeguards to protect themselves, by demanding that US sites reveal their source code to prevent sensitive information from being passed on.
In Spain, the issue is slightly different, but no less contentious. Here, the goal is not so much to protect people from intrusive spying by foreign governments, but more to protect local businesses from the influence of globally dominant companies. A copyright law has just been passed to prevent Google and other news aggregator sites from posting links or snippets from domestic Spanish newspapers. Other sites that host links to Spanish papers will be at risk of a €600,000 ($750,000) fine if they do not remove them. Opponents say that the government could abuse this law, which could allow them to censor anything they don’t like. However, the downside of this is that websites lose out if they are not featured by Google. For proof of this it’s back to Germany, where powerhouse publisher Axel Springer, who had also opted out of the Google snippets, are asking to be let back in because of an 80% drop in visitor numbers.
The web may be world-wide at the moment, but increasingly it seems that individual states are exercising more and more control, while networks and ISPs struggle to keep the power they currently exert. Governments, corporations and citizens are squaring off against each other, in a battle royale for the soul of the internet, and early indications are that things may end up working differently depending on where you are, and will be of great importance to international travelers. Be sure to check back here for the latest developments.