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At last, a global phone solution that doesn't involve massive cost and with all the features of your regular phone service.

Easy to use and affordable, the Global Riiing product may well be your best choice when traveling internationally.

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Global Roaming with Global Riiing

A new and better value way to stay in contact internationally and with more features than most other options.

Part 7 of an 10 part series - click for Parts One  Two  Three  Four  Five  Six  Seven  Eight  Nine  Ten 



Cell phone airtime rates continue to drop, except when you're traveling internationally.  The wireless companies will eagerly charge you an arm and a leg when you take your phone and use it in a foreign country.

Over the more than three years we've been writing these articles, we've seen a series of lower and lower priced international cell phone products come (and sometimes, go, too), but each usually had one (or more) disadvantages.  Now (April 05) we have found what, for most people, is the cheapest - and best - service of all.  Global Riiing - such a good value that you can almost excuse its silly name.

One phone number for all your international travels

We would all love to have a single phone number to use wherever in the world we're traveling.  Unfortunately, there are three barriers to achieving this :

  • Roaming Agreements :  Not all phone services have comprehensive international roaming agreements, and many pre-paid phone services don't allow international roaming at all

  • Cost :  When you roam internationally, costs can go way high

  • Technology :  Only GSM phones can roam around most of the world, and in the US, T-mobile and Cingular (including AT&T) are the only two major carriers with GSM technology

The Global Riiing service solves the first two of these problems.

Technology for Global Roaming

The technology requirements for global roaming - ie the type of phone you'll need - are discussed in parts one and five of this series.

In quick summary, you need a GSM type cell phone.  If you don't already have a GSM phone as part of your US wireless service, you can easily buy an unlocked GSM phone (ie one which can be used with any/all GSM services, everywhere in the world) from companies such as Amazon.

Alternatively, if you have a GSM phone that was provided by AT&T, Cingular or T-mobile, but it is locked, it can probably be unlocked.

Note that when you get a GSM phone, you need to be certain that it supports the frequency bands used in the countries you plan to visit.

What Global Riiing does for you

When you plug the Global Riiing SIM into your GSM cell phone, the phone takes on a phone number from Liechtenstein.

People can call you at this number, no matter where in the world they are, just so long as you are in one of the 100 different countries in which Riiing has coverage.

Incoming calls are free in 64 countries, including most of Europe plus other countries as diverse as Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Egypt, Israel, Nigeria and South Africa.

Incoming calls, for the other 36 countries, range in price from €0.19/minute (add about 30% to get US$, ie €0.19 = $0.25) up to €0.99 (for only seven of the 36 countries).

And you in turn can dial to any person, anywhere in the world, from your phone.  Outgoing calls range in price from a low of €0.39 a minute (for most countries) up to a high of €1.89 (for only 2 countries), or sometimes a bit more if calling to a cellphone in a country that charges callers extra to reach cell phone numbers.

A €0.25 fee applies to start an outgoing call in addition to the applicable rate per minute.

Placing outgoing calls is very simple.  You simply dial the number you want to call, including the country and area code.

Added Value Services

In addition to placing and receiving calls, you can send and receive SMS.  Incoming messages are free, and outgoing ones are €0.49 each.

You also have full voicemail support, so you can safely turn your phone off at night and not be troubled by people calling you and getting the time zone calculation wrong.

Voicemail is a bargain.  Unlike many other SIM products, you don't pay anything for the time it takes people to record a message for you.  You only pay for the time it takes you to listen to your messages.  Voicemail rates range in price from a low of €0.39 a minute (for most countries) up to a high of €1.79 (for only 2 countries).

One of the nice features of the Global Riing is that if you're in an area of bad service in a country, you can usually get your phone to switch to a better signal from a different wireless provider, because in most countries, Riiing has roaming agreements with more than one carrier.

Other cost related issues

The Global Riiing SIM costs $69.  Included in the $69 is €15 (about US$20) worth of free airtime, so the actual net cost of the SIM by itself is only $49.

Extra airtime can be purchased in multiples of €25, either through a reseller or directly from the Riiing service.

To keep your SIM valid, you need to buy some airtime once every nine months, otherwise your number will expire and you'll need to buy a new SIM next time.  Cost-wise, it is a bit of a wash between paying to extend the life of your present SIM or simply letting it expire, then buying a complete new SIM next time you plan to travel internationally.

If you travel frequently, best to keep the SIM current, so you don't have the hassle of changing phone numbers each time you travel, but if you travel only seldom, perhaps just buy one as needed and let it expire (or give/sell to a traveling friend when you're done with it).

Global Riiing compared to other global roaming cell phone services

Note - this information is now massively obsolete and out of date.  It is left up for posterity, not for present value!

There are now five main alternatives for you to choose from when traveling overseas.

(a)  International roaming with your US GSM service

This is the most expensive option, but is also the simplest and easiest - but only if you already have GSM service in the US (ie, mainly AT&T, Cingular, or T-mobile).

Note that you'll probably need to tell your US wireless service that you want them to enable global roaming on your account before you travel.

(b)  Hop

Hop has some disadvantages compared to Riiing - it doesn't have SMS or voicemail services, and much of the time, its airtime costs are more expensive than with Riiing.  It is also more expensive to buy up front, and more complicated to make calls with.

But in some countries, Hop is cheaper, and in a few countries, Hop provides service but Riiing does not.

We think, for 95% or more of travelers, Riiing will be the better solution.

(c)  Mobal

Mobal is the lowest priced option to buy, and if you don't already have a GSM phone, they have great values on mobile phones, too.

A unique feature of the Mobal SIM is that your number is given to you for life.  You never need to pay money to renew it.

They also have free incoming calls, but only in the UK.  Much of the time, their airtime costs will end up higher than Riiing.  But if you want a phone only for emergencies rather than as a convenience aid that you'll use regularly while traveling, Mobal may be the lowest priced solution.

(d)  Riiing

If you are anticipating a moderate amount of usage, and if you will be primarily visiting countries where Riiing has free incoming calls and low outgoing calls, then Riiing may be your best choice.

(e)  Local pre-paid SIMs

Not strictly speaking a global roaming option, but if you're spending a reasonable amount of time in a single country, buying a local SIM for that country might be your best choice.

Incoming calls will probably be free, local calls might be cheaper than with Riiing, and it will be much easier for other people in that country to call you.

Help choosing what is best for you

Here is a summary of the different rates charged by the different services.

And here is a decision matrix to help you match your needs to the different product options open to you.


It is now easier - and more affordable - than ever before to enjoy the security and convenience of a cell phone while traveling internationally.

If your travel and phone usage patterns fit well with Riiing, you can choose it with confidence.

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Originally published 1 Apr 2005, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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