One of the biggest problems travelers have in Britain is staying connected while in London. London is a huge city, but free WiFi is sometimes very hard to find, and it’s impractical to buy a cell phone while there unless you’re going to make many trips. Tep Wireless is a great service that allows you to rent a phone while in London as well as Mobile WiFi hotspots.
We had the chance to test out Tep Wireless (formerly Fonmigo) while we were in London for the Royal Wedding, and here’s our review of the service.
I tested out both devices that Tep offers – the smartphone and the Mobile WiFi.
The smartphone was very useful. It was nice to have a local UK number for people to call. This made arranging TV and radio appearances much easier than having people call my USA number. My grand plan had been to use my UK Skype number and have it forward to my iPhone. The problem, which I didn’t know until I got there, was that Skype call forwarding doesn’t work internationally. I must have missed a half dozen calls before I realized this.
So it was nice having the Tep Wireless smartphone to have people call instead. The phone is also very useful as a social media device. It will keep you connected to Facebook and Twitter, which was critical for us during our coverage. The phone also has email and mobile web. It’s not as good as an iPhone, but it gets the job done and saved me money on roaming charges.
I got more use out of the Mobile Wifi, as it allowed me to continue to make use of my iPhone for data functions. I also heavily used it in the room. Basically the Tep Wireless Mobile wifi creates a Mobile Wifi hotspot wherever you are. It has broadband speeds, and it was very speedy. One thing I noticed while in the UK is that mobile networks are way more reliable and way faster than they are in the USA.
I used the dongle on my iPhone and on my MacBook Air, and I never had any problems with it. It allowed me to sidestep the £15 a day charge for WiFi in my hotel and provided a broadband connection that allowed me to video Skype with the wife back home.
On the day of the Royal Wedding itself, I was going to rely on the Mobile WiFi to keep me connected to Anglotopia to make up all our liveblogging updates. It did the job well for most of the day. That is until the battery died. Despite being fully charged, it only lasted about 6 hours, which heavily interrupted our Royal Wedding coverage as there were still a few hours left. No biggie – I just had to suck it up and deal with iPhone roaming charges.
The best part of the service is that you have several options to pick up your devices. You can pay extra and have them sent to you before you leave for your trip, or you can pick them up at the airport or have then delivered to your hotel before your arrival. When you’re ready to return them, all you do is mail them back with the included envelope. Very slick!
There was also another problem that had nothing to do with Tep Wireless. Because there were so many people in central London on the day of the Royal Wedding, the cell phone networks became jammed. Even with full signals on all my devices, none of them really worked once the Royal Wedding got going. This was very frustrating and wholly unexpected. That’s why if you were following our Royal Wedding liveblog, both Dana and I dropped off the coverage and Jackie back in Chicago had to pick up the slack. I’m not sure how to plan for this in the future, but it was a problem (again not Tep’s problem). What was amazing is that I walked by the extra cell towers they placed in St James Park to boost capacity, and it was not enough!
All in all, I had a great experience with Tep Wireless’s products, and I’m definitely going to be using them on our next trip in October.