I'm going to Whistler this weekend, and a friend asked me a very good question.
Could he purchase a new SIM card in Canada and pre-pay for minutes so he isn't charged exorbitant roaming rates by his U.S. carrier?
In theory, this sounds like a great idea. As long as you have a GSM phone -- from either AT&T or T-Mobile USA -- you could do this. I hear all the time about people traveling to Europe who get a pre-paid SIM so they can have a local phone number to make calls much cheaper.
So I started looking into it.
The most viable option looked like a pre-paid phone provider called Fido.
According to its Web site, the service costs $30 for a kit that includes a SIM and then it was $10 for the cheapest phone plan. The plan seemed reasonable, as it included such features as free incoming calls for $1 a day.
Together, that means a minimum start-up cost of $40.
At that point, you have to ask yourself how many phone calls are you going to make, and whether it would be below $40 in roaming fees?
For comparison, I looked on AT&T's Web site. It said it was 79 cents a minute for calls in Canada. Text messages were 50 cents each. So that's 50 minutes of talk time or 80 text messages for $40. (Standard home rates applied for receiving text messages).
Sounds too close to call for a three-day trip to Canada. That's too bad. Getting a Canadian SIM could be an easy solution, but the barriers seem to high.
These are the kinds of things carriers could make a lot easier for the consumer. With all this talk about open access networks and letting the consumer choose their own device and network, you wonder how serious they are? They can keep the cost prohibitive for many or make things a hassle to do.