Mobile Connectivity for US-Bound Canadians

I recently traveled to Seattle. The last time I went, I did not arrange for US-based connectivity for my cell phone, so I was on roaming mode while updating Facebook, taking and uploading photos, and looking up information on the go. I got clobbered on my next phone bill. Well in advance of my more recent trip, I decided to prepare by signing up for a travel-friendly service.

Enter Roam Mobility. This Canada-based company provides mobile connectivity to Canadians traveling to the USA.

To use Roam Mobility, one must have a Roam Mobility SIM card. While this can be ordered from the company website, it is likely also available in local stores. I was able to purchase one in London Drugs for $20. I then had to register the SIM on my Roam Mobility account:

Roam Mobility - Managing Devices

With the SIM attached to my account, I then set up a service plan for the duration of my trip. The offerings are surprisingly inexpensive compared to the prices offered by the Canadian carriers – the comparisons are revealing. There are a number of overall plans available:

Roam Mobility - Plans

While I did not anticipate needing phone calls or text messages, there were no data-only options, so I selected the Talk+Text+Data option. The next view revealed specific options:

Roam Mobility - Plan Selection

Fortunately, I was in Seattle for much of three days (over a weekend), so the 3-day option suited me. Selecting that, I was able to select my already-registered SIM to attach the service:

Roam Mobility - Attaching Service to a SIM

The option is provided to specify what days/times the service should span. The website notes that multiple plans can be set up consecutively for continuous service over a longer period, if needed.

I then went through the payment process which was straightforward. I purchased the SIM, created an account, and set up the service a few days in advance of the trip.

On arriving in Seattle, I took the cover off my phone, removed my normal SIM, and inserted the Roam Mobility SIM. There is then a little configuration to be done on the mobile device – Roam Mobility provides directions for common smartphone platforms. It’s really just a matter of updating the Access Point Name setting. I made sure to keep my normal SIM in a safe place during the trip; on my return home, I switched the SIMs again to go back to my regular service.

This was overall a straightforward process. The website provided enough information on how to make the network change when appropriate. The network was quick where there was good coverage, which applied to most parts of downtown Seattle that I passed through.

The primary caveat is that the phone must be unlocked so it will work with SIM cards from other carriers. I thought – assumed! – mine was already unlocked, so started my stay in Seattle with a phone that could not use the local network. Oops. Fortunately, my hotel had secure guest Wi-Fi, so I was able to purchase an unlock code and have my phone on the T-Mobile network the next morning. Once I got past that hurdle, all was good.

To sum, I had to purchase a SIM, purchase service for the weekend, and purchase an unlock code. Added up to more than I planned on, but the SIM and the unlock code are one-time purchases. In advance of a future trip, I can just use the same SIM and attach another service plan to it. Lesson learned: make sure the phone is unlocked before traveling!