As my kids are more than happy to remind me, summer is finally here and to help kick it off, the Federal Communications Commission has deemed today the start of Wireless World Travel Week. In an effort to educate international travelers on global communication challenges, the agency is supplying a daily informational video, blog posts explaining device and service strategies while abroad and a useful communications tip sheet for travelers, with topics ranging from overseas calling options to using less expensive VoIP services on the go. The FCC will also be tweeting relevant travel communication tips during the week.
According to the FCC, Americans take more than 60 million international trips each year. Given that Verizon Wireless, the U.S. carrier with the most customers, still uses CDMA technology, it’s a safe bet that many travelers don’t have a phone that works outside of the country. Verizon does sell a few dual-mode, or “world phones” that use a GSM SIM card and radio, but most Verizon handsets aren’t usable worldwide. And even GSM phones from AT&T and T-Mobile can face compatibility issues outside of the U.S. as networks in other countries can utilize different radio frequencies.
Overall, the FCC has done a nice job with this week’s kick-off blog post and tip sheet. The post is a straight-forward overview of GSM information and roaming challenges, complete with a list of do’s and don’ts before and while traveling. And the tip sheet provides contact information for all four major U.S. carriers for research purposes, a bullet-point list of “Savvy Traveler” strategies and a brief discussion on VoIP services, including some we’ve covered in the past: Skype, Fring and Truphone. Regardless of where you stand on the FCC’s broadband reclassification and net neutrality challenges, you have to give the FCC a little credit with this week’s public awareness effort, which is perfectly timed with vacations now that the kids are out of school.