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Old 07-10-2017, 14:12   #1
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Best Phone/Cell Provider for sailing from USA to Australia

I have been using an iPhone from ATT here in the USA for the past few years, and I am now getting ready to go sailing hopefully to Australia across the Pacific.

What is the best cellphone to have? Single SIM or dual SIM?

Who is the best provider to use on a world cruise?

I want to be able to receive texts so I can pay my bills.

I have an old iridium phone without a data plan, and that is a possibility for texts, but something less expensive would be preferred.

The last time I did major sailing, I used win link and sail mail for most communications via pactor.

I just want reliable no frills communications so that my bills get paid on time.

I am open to all options that do not cost an arm and a leg.
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Old 07-10-2017, 17:21   #2
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Re: Best Phone/Cell Provider for sailing from USA to Australia

Easy. Google Project Fi. Google it for details. I have been using it for a few months across 5 counties, so I might be able to answer a few questions.
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Old 07-10-2017, 17:27   #3
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Re: Best Phone/Cell Provider for sailing from USA to Australia

The 'best' service you'll get is by buying a new SIM card in each country to show up at.
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Old 07-10-2017, 18:11   #4
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Re: Best Phone/Cell Provider for sailing from USA to Australia

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Originally Posted by fallingeggs View Post
Easy. Google Project Fi. Google it for details. I have been using it for a few months across 5 counties, so I might be able to answer a few questions.
Dear lord, looks too good to be true. So the first question is...is it? lol

Are you really paying the same rate voice/text/data internationally? How does that work, in terms of carriers and SIM cards when you enter a different country?

Any other anecdotal info you have would be most appreciated. My interest has been piqued quite seriously.
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Old 07-10-2017, 18:55   #5
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Re: Best Phone/Cell Provider for sailing from USA to Australia

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Originally Posted by Suijin View Post
Dear lord, looks too good to be true. So the first question is...is it? lol

Are you really paying the same rate voice/text/data internationally? How does that work, in terms of carriers and SIM cards when you enter a different country?

Any other anecdotal info you have would be most appreciated. My interest has been piqued quite seriously.
The OP wants South Pacific coverage. There are quite a few countries on the SP route that are not covered by Fi, including Samoa, Niue, Cooks, etc. Not sure about French Polynesia, but I doubt it. Also, FI international does not offer 4G connects, or at least they didn't when I checked into it awhile back. I believe the Fi network internationally is the T-0Mobile international network, all at slow speeds.
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Old 07-10-2017, 18:58   #6
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Re: Best Phone/Cell Provider for sailing from USA to Australia

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Originally Posted by Suijin View Post
Dear lord, looks too good to be true. So the first question is...is it? lol

Are you really paying the same rate voice/text/data internationally? How does that work, in terms of carriers and SIM cards when you enter a different country?

Any other anecdotal info you have would be most appreciated. My interest has been piqued quite seriously.

Google Fi is the nuts but you need a US address & a Pixel or Nexus phone.
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Old 07-10-2017, 19:25   #7
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Re: Best Phone/Cell Provider for sailing from USA to Australia

We are currently in Fiji and have been using a Fi phone across the Pacific. In general I like it, but yes, there are several countries on the milk run that don't have Fi service. Really no service from French Poly through Niue. Service picked up again in Tonga and Fiji.

The advantage to Fi is that it also works easily on WiFi. So, in places where we don't have coverage we buy a data SIM, put it in another phone, turn on the hotspot and connect FI through there. The local SIMs can be a pain, but it allows us to keep the same US phone # regardless of location/carrier/etc.

Here in Fiji we can get 4G cell data for US$0.50/GB from Digicel. Compare that with US$10/GB from Project Fi. We have a Digicel SIM in another phone, don't care about the local #, and use Fi through the hotspot. Gives us the best of both worlds.

For the western Pacific Digicel seems pretty comprehensive, it is possible (though not necessarily cheap) to carry the same service from Tonga through to Vanuatu. For overall use Vodafone seems to be everywhere here (starting in French Poly), but you will be roaming after leaving the place you buy the SIM.

Bottom line, we like that for US$20/month Fi allows us to keep a US # and receive texts and calls. Where there is no service or service is significantly cheaper we get a local SIM and then connect FI through a hotspot so that we can still keep the US # and texts.

[Edit] - Also, ported my AT&T number to Fi, so still have the same cell # I've had since Cellular One days. [/edit]

[Edit 2] - On Fi I get LTE connections and speeds in town in Fiji, but in most places it is 3G. That isn't much of a problem because the data speeds on the Pacific networks in general don't get much above 100kB/s. Doesn't seem to matter what cell type you have, the backhaul from smaller islands/towns is the bottleneck. If you're in big cities you may get 4G/LTE at speeds that match the first world, but once you leave the metropolitan areas you may still get a 4G connection to the cell tower, but the backhaul is much (much) less. [/edit]
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Old 07-10-2017, 21:48   #8
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Re: Best Phone/Cell Provider for sailing from USA to Australia

Lots of good information here.

Keeping my US number is a high priority as now there is two point verification on many websites that I use. I need to be able to receive a text or email when I do my log in wherever I am in the world. Project Fi or Fi plus a data hotspot sounds like it could do the job.

This is good news, and it does not sound like rocket science or a total walletectomy.

This is very helpful and I have printed the responses out to refer to as I make my plans. Thanks.
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Old 07-10-2017, 22:15   #9
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Re: Best Phone/Cell Provider for sailing from USA to Australia

We reviewed a lot of options for the same use case as yours - allowing friends and business to call us as a 'local' number and two-factor authentication for banking while traveling - and selected Project Fi. After a year of use we're quite satisfied. If we don't plan to use a lot of data we just accept the $10/GB pricing for data, otherwise we check out local options.

There are other options, Google Voice (with/w'out Hangouts) and a few other services will allow you to receive SMS at a virtual phone number. Then, as long as you have internet (which you'll need for the banking anyway) you can get the two-factor messages. However, do your own research, there are some risks if your Google Voice (or other service) account gets hacked, then the hacker can get your two-factor SMS online from your account.

We've met a couple of people who use international SIM cards, we find them pretty expensive in comparison, but if it's only a few calls and texts might work. National Geographic has a plan that some people we know use. You get free incoming SMS pretty much everywhere. The rest can get expensive.
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