I have a product suggestion for Wade Oosterman at Bell Mobility, and I’d be happy to have other telecoms in Canada and worldwide follow suit.
Dear Mr. Oosterman:
Mobility should offer a package that includes a microSIM, along with a pre-paid amount of data transfer for travellers. When a visitor arrives, stores, boutiques or kiosks at airports and other points of entry would sell the package, so that visitors to Canada can pop the microSIM into their iPad (or other tablet) and be able to use it on the Bell network. I suggest that Bell also sell and ship the package from bell.ca, so that vacationers can order it in advance and already have it installed as they cross the border, or when their plane touches down.
For most travellers, the alternative (using roaming from their own telco) is expensive. It’s certainly not something that I’d consider – I’ve changed the settings on my iPad to make sure it never uses data roaming.
I’ve recently returned from a vacation in Europe (Holland, France, Italy) and obtained local microSIM cards for my iPad in Holland and France. Even though I was able to do it, obtaining a card and then purchasing some pre-paid data proved to be a complicated and time-consuming challenge. So much of a challenge that I didn’t even bother in Italy.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the data to create a business case, but I imagine it’s not hard to figure what percentage of travellers have and would like to use iPads in Canada. I also don’t know how much the project activity would cost at Bell to create and promote this package – but I’m pretty sure this would be minimal.
You may worry that this would be competitive with your existing offers, but I would suggest that travellers, who are just looking for a few gigs and a few weeks of service, would happily pay a premium. The alternative (the roaming fees) is ridiculously expensive. So Canadian residents would stay with your current plans.
And I know what you’re thinking, that if everyone does it, this is going to cut down on your roaming profits. But lets be real here … no-one is happy with the roaming charges and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that every data roaming charge (if iPad owners haven’t already turned on the setting to suppress it) results in a call to dispute the charge. And if another telco gets the idea, what’s to stop them from doing it?
You could get fancy and provide an app that allows visitors to register and then purchase more data when the need arises (or on a subsequent visit) but that’s icing.
Sincerely, your customer;
PS: Here’s what happened in Holland:
I’d contacted the independent telco store at Schiphol and they told me that they could sell me a T-Mobile microSIM for fifteen euros. It came with a few megs of data. They said I could purchase a prepaid card for more data at the magazine stand, but in order to activate the additional data, I’d need to enter a code that they would send to a mobile phone number. It may be unreasonable to travel without a phone, but with Bell’s roaming charges, that’s what I do.
I eventually found a T-Mobile store where they were able to sell me the prepaid data and although it was a complicated process, activate it on the microSIM.
I’d obtained an Orange microSIM last year on our vacation, so all I needed was to purchase some prepaid data. The Wednesday we arrived turned out to be a national holiday, so between waiting for a rep and the ten minutes it took for him to process the transaction and re-activate my card, this took over an hour.
But the bottom line is, I love my iPad. Between maps and apps like tripadvisor, it’s a most useful tool for travelling. I can’t imagine leaving home without it. In the end, the aggravation has been worth it for the functionality it provides. So here’s Bell’s opportunity to make it easier for travellers to Canada.