I travelled overseas to Europe last year and trying to stay connected was probably the most frustrating aspect of the trip. Setting up the flights, hotels, and tours was a walk in the park even if most of the time I couldn’t speak the native language very well. As for mobile service, it required me to change phones to a GSM capable device and then activate the international service with my carrier.
“Excuse me, how much did you say? $100 for 200MB of data. Is that a joke?”
Unfortunately, the agent did not laugh. The voice costs weren’t much better.
So I decided that I would use my native carrier’s service only as a backup and I would get a SIM card when I landed. I thought this was a brilliant plan until I realized that I would have to get three or four SIM cards because of the countries I would be visiting. I made it work, but it was a hassle.
This little anecdote was the reason my ears perked up when I heard that The Netherlands became the first country to legalize carrier-free SIM cards. This means that a SIM card would be built into your phone and you wouldn’t need to go through the hassle that I did when travelling to other countries, or even switching carriers at home.
With this change in the law, residents of the Netherlands can be completely detached from a wireless carrier. They could have an unlocked device (i.e., Google Nexus) and now an unlocked SIM. Imagine the freedom. No contracts. No ETF’s. Ability to change carriers at the drop of a hat. Sounds pretty good to me.
This could also be a big change for the device manufacturers, as they would not need to develop models of phones specifically for each carrier to guarantee connectivity to the network. Google has already moved into the space, and don’t think that Apple doesn’t have it on its mind. Apple had a rumored project to create a carrier-agnostic SIM card, but it was supposedly closed down in light of the legal issues.
The time is coming when your mobile phone is universally accepted by carriers, just like your home phone is… if you still have one. If the move made by the Dutch takes hold, this might just be the start of the transition.