Mobile communications for international business travellers are fraught with irritations. If you buy a range of local SIMs, you'll have to swap them in and out of your handset as you travel around. If you want to stick with your 'home' SIM, you can expect to pay hefty roaming charges to your mobile operator.
Finnish company Uros offers a neat solution with its Goodspeed portable wi-fi hotspot, which provides mobile coverage in no fewer than 60 countries. The coverage list is growing rapidly and stretches way beyond Europe into areas such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The Goodspeed device can accommodate ten SIM cards at once. One of these will be your standard SIM, with the remaining nine covering the countries on your itinerary.
There are three price plans.
On the Lite tariff you pay a day rate of £13.70 and can get between 500MB and 1GB of data per day, depending on geographical location. On this tariff you have to buy SIMs from the Uros website. With the Pro option you pay a monthly fee of £8.20 and then purchase day passes from £4.90 — and you can use any local SIMs you buy in the Goodspeed device.
There is also a Business tariff with the same £4.90 charge for day passes and a £12.40 monthly fee. Again you can use local SIMs. The Business tariff is for a minimum of five Goodspeed devices and includes a range of added services such as centralised management and usage statistics.
All of these fees are in addition to the one-off £198 cost of the Goodspeed unit itself.
The device functions as a portable (2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n) wi-fi hotspot that can connect up to five client devices at a time — allowing you, for example, to use a handset, a tablet and a notebook, and/or to share it between several people.
The iPhone-sized unit measures 63mm by 123mm by 13mm and weighs 127g. The shiny front has a small 123-pixel by 64-pixel LED that displays several screens through which you can cycle using a side button. This delivers information on battery life and connection speed, data usage stats and the wi-fi password.
The Goodspeed is battery-powered and so is another thing you need to remember to charge, although thankfully its Micro-USB connector type is one you are likely to have a cable for in your luggage already. The battery is a 2,550mAh unit that Uros claims will last for up to eight hours. The device doesn't support 4G (LTE) connections, maxing out at 3.5G (21.1Mbps downlink, 5.76Mbps uplink).
You need to register at the Uros website before you can start to use the Goodspeed, and if you're on the Lite plan or don't want to use local SIMs on the other two plans, you need to think ahead and buy SIMs from Uros before you travel. There's no detail given on which operators are being used in each country, so you might find coverage patchy in places.
One practical point: I struggled to get the back off the device to get a look at the SIM card slots, which are neatly ranged along the long inside edges; my review units also came without any instructions.
The Goodspeed looks like a convenient proposition for frequent travellers, but you'll need to do some calculations to determine exactly how well it works for you in cost terms.