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Communications Connecting - internet cafes, laptops, smart phones - how to connect, use, which one, and intercom/radio systems.
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  • 1 Post By PanEuropean
  • 1 Post By 7800

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  #1  
Old 11 Jan 2020
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Mobile wifi

Hi Everyone

I am off to West Africa in a few months and looking at communications. I want to keep it to an absolute minimum but still need to maintain contact with the outside world. I am taking a mobile phone which I want to use for everything. I will be using it for banking, WhatsApp calls and messages, some navigation although I have a Garmin and Polarsteps. I don't really want to go swapping sim cards in it all the time so I'm thinking of getting a mobile wifi and changing the sim card in that, so I can use all of my phone functions as normal. Has anyone done this? is this a good idea? which one is best? Any advice is good advice as I am a bit of a technophobe

Thanks

Paul
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  #2  
Old 19 Feb 2020
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I managed to sort this with advice from Drumacoon Lad on UKgser. He is in east Africa at the moment and uses a spare sim free phone. He changes the sim in the spare phone in each country and uses it as a hotspot. Thanks Drumacoon Lad(its a great RR by the way)
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  #3  
Old 19 Feb 2020
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Originally Posted by 7800 View Post
...I don't really want to go swapping sim cards in it all the time so I'm thinking of getting a mobile wifi and changing the sim card in that, so I can use all of my phone functions as normal...
Hi Paul:

I don't understand what benefit you would gain from swapping SIM cards in a mobile Wi-Fi device vs. swapping SIM cards in your phone. If anything, it sounds more complex than just swapping SIM cards as you move from country to country.

Based on my own experience in North Africa, I think you would be better off to buy prepaid SIM cards and use them in your phone (the conventional approach).

You didn't mention which countries you plan to visit, or in what order. Be aware that some sub-Saharan GSM operators cover multiple adjacent countries, which means that if the stars line up correctly for you, you might not have to change SIM cards each time you cross a border.

Perhaps do a little research to see who the 'regional operators' are in the area you plan to travel, and whether they sell prepaid cards that work in more than one country.

Michael
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Old 23 Feb 2020
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Hi Michael

I am not the most tech savvy person so am probably blundering through this. I am travelling from the Uk to Cape Town via the west Africa route. I will be using my mobile phone for all communication including internet banking if required. I don’t know if internet banking, WhatsApp and Polarsteps would work on my phone if I changed the SIM card. I thought that it would be easier to use a mobile wifi instead. I have subsequently learned that my travelling buddy has an iPad that’s sim free so will use that as a hotspot. Like I said I’m crap with technology so mostly guessing.

Paul
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Old 24 Feb 2020
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Hi Paul:

Tasks such as internet banking, which are accomplished through a web browser on the phone or a bank-specific app, will work regardless of what kind of SIM card is in the phone. This I know from personal experience, having used Moroccan, Italian, etc. SIM cards in my Canadian iPhone when travelling through those countries.

I also know that Skype is SIM-agnostic.

As for WhatsApp, I think that particular app is tied to the phone number of the device, which means that you might have to re-register each time you change a SIM card. But, an easier work-around would be to just use Skype.

I am not familiar with Polarsteps, but from a quick look at the documentation for that application, I don't think it cares at all about your SIM card. So you should not have any problem with it.

A possible way to check ahead of time to see if everything on your phone would work with a foreign SIM card would be to simply remove the SIM card from your phone, then connect to the Wi-Fi network in your home (or local coffee shop), and test the apps to see if they work OK without a SIM card installed - in other words, via Wi-Fi alone. If they do, then that assures you that the app has no dependency on the SIM card.

For sure, though, it would be a heck of a lot simpler for you to just buy prepaid SIM cards in the various countries as you pass through them. Keep in mind that in lesser-developed countries, GSM telephony has leapfrogged way ahead of landline-based telephony. The Wi-Fi that you might find along the way in locations such as hotels, restaurants, etc. relies on landlines, which typically have poor throughput in sub-Saharan Africa. GSM, on the other hand (connecting via a SIM card in your mobile) offers a much faster and more modern connection to the internet.

Michael
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  #6  
Old 25 Feb 2020
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Hi Michael

Thanks for a great explanation and also great tips regarding trying the apps without the SIM. I will definitely give it a go
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  #7  
Old 23 May 2020
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We used to use a portable MiF device as you suggested. But we have stopped now, it's just do much easier to out a local sim in the phones. In fact the MiFi is rather more difficult to set up with a new SIM. And critically, local help will be harder to find.

Yes, Wattsapp needs to know you have swapped phone numbers - not a big deal.

And fir walking around it's do much easier to just use the phone.
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Old 25 May 2020
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PanEuropean View Post
As for WhatsApp, I think that particular app is tied to the phone number of the device, which means that you might have to re-register each time you change a SIM card.
Many phones have dual SIM slots. Why not just keep your main SIM in there, to be recognized by Whatsapp and two-factor SMS, and buy a local SIM for data? Turn off the data for your original home SIM, and you won't be charged (much).

Also, make sure you have a plan for what to do if you lose your phone!
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  #9  
Old 25 May 2020
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I don't know if you have sorted this issue yet and if you are still looking for a mobile WiFi device, but for almost 3 years now, I have been taking my WiFi with me from the city to the countryside and back.

I do it with a Huawei pocket router like this one.

It's the size of a smallish smartphone and about as heavy. The battery lasts for about 6 hours tops and it chargers with a usual micro USB.

It accesses the internet using the mobile phone network as would your smartphone.

If you want a dedicated WiFi access point, then this might be it.
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