Last February I reported about abroadband, an idea as simple and easy that it makes me wonder that no other carrier launched it earlier: Austria's A1 abroadband is a no-frill data offer for international roaming and offers EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA-based mobile Internet access around the world for one price - which is all over the world (at supported partner networks) the same: 0.59 Euro per MB! Right before I left for last week's Microsoft MVP Summit in Redmond, I've ordered a abroadband SIM from the company's online shop which I received 48 hours later. However abroadband also offers a Huawei USB modem including an abroadband SIM as well as a Micro SIM.
The abroadband SIM, which neither supports voice, SMS or MMS but data only, comes via DHL in a package that includes everything a user needs to get started immediately. It comes with the (Micro) SIM card as well as an English and German quick start guide; that's it!
The SIM card is more or less pre-activated but not active and has to be activated through abroadband's online portal. Here, the user can add his/her name, address, VAT ID (for European company's only) and the payment method (Credit Cards and PayPal are supported) as well as setting up a password which is later used for the portal login.
And while abroadband isn't prepaid but postpaid offer, user only have to pay what they used, there's no contract or commitment required. Furthermore, the initial SIM card activation seems to be free of charge, at least this connection haven't appeared on my online bill which is quite good. To activate the SIM card, it has to be plugged into a USB modem or smartphone which can be either tethered with a Notebook or used stand-alone and the quick start guide guides through the activation process.
Later on, the personal "my abroadband area" is where users will find the online bills - new bills are online every 14 days - but if abroadband isn't used at all, no bills will be created. Furthermore and this is even more important because abroadband isn't a prepaid offer but a postpaid offer, the costmanager allows to keep the users costs under control by easily tracking the online use anytime.
At the moment, abroadband has roaming agreements with carriers in more than countries and therefore it's a great option for business travelers or personal use.
And while in Europe, European residents are protected by the EU's 50 Euro bill shock protection, abroadband makes a lot of sense while travelling abroad. For sure, a local prepaid SIM card makes more sense in most countries but quite often it's either difficult to get such a prepaid SIM, prepaid SIMs aren't offering affordable data plans or there's no use for a prepaid SIM because the stopover is rather short because a user is only waiting for a connecting flight. That's the scenarios where the abroadband offer jumps-in and offers an initial treatment at way lower prices than using the home SIM.
During the Egyptian revolution, some European bloggers reported live from the ground and by call, German carriers charge for 1 MB between 15.36 and 16.18 Euro. With abroadband, 1 MB costs 0.59 Euro only which is a saving of 96 %. Later this year, I plan to visit Israel again and my carrier, O2 Germany, charges me 15.36 Euro per MB while the same connection costs with abroadband 0.59 Euro. And if we go even further, for instance to the U.S. where I was last week, O2 charges me there 12.29 Euro per MB while abroadband again charges me 0.59 Euro only.
While I still think that mobile data is insanely expensive while travelling internationally, A1's abroadband offer is a great start into the right direction. At least it allows to connect the Internet at reasonable prices which is even important for business travelers. And while - in most cases - a local prepaid SIM is the better option, it can sometimes be difficult to get such a SIM, especially if you don't speak the language or you are at a certain destination for a stop-over only. Within the European Union, abroadband makes less sense, especially because you can easily cross the 50 Euro limit after which carriers are not allowed to charge European Union citizens anymore but as soon as you leave the territory of the EU (plus Switzerland and Norway), the abroadband SIM offer can become handy. If only for providing an initial treatment until you got a local prepaid SIM card.
The order process and SIM activation is painless and straight forward. All you need to know are the abroadband settings (APN: mdata.com - User ID: firstname.lastname@example.org - Password: ppp) you have to add to your mobile phone or USB stick/wireless hotspot. However, since abroadband is that new, all the devices I've tested so far identified the SIM card as an Austrian A1 SIM and therefore offered the wrong settings. Hopefully A1/abroadband will work with the device manufactures to make this a better experience.
Nevertheless, the network selection after was rather painless as well and is working like with any other SIM card. After the appropriate network was selected, the device can connect the mobile Internet. And since abroadband neither supports voice nor SMS or MMS, I suggest to use a wireless hotspot like the Huawei E5 or the Novatel MiFi since this allows to share the connection with the mobile phone which can continue to carry your home SIM and allows you to stay available for voice calls.
The abroadband SIM and/or USB stick can be ordered within the EU but A1 is working to expand it to outside the EU as well. The SIM and Micro SIM only versions cost 19.90 Euro each, the Huawei E173 is available for 49.90 and comes with a SIM card.
Cheers ~ Arne