The Samsung W531 – a real roamer or a kludge?

We suggest you wait until June if you want to do the dual-mode roaming thing right

Telecom had to act quickly thanks to Telstra closing down its CDMA network this year. No CDMA in Australia means Telecom customers can’t use their phones over there.

Given the high charges associated with doing so, some would say that’s a good thing, but business people for instance need to be contactable on the same mobile phone number always, and wherever they are.

While plotting a GSM/UMTS network build in New Zealand, Telecom came up with an interesting method to allow its customers to remain contactable across the Tasman, without having to swap phones and numbers for the trip.

It’s called “WorldMode” by Telecom, and it’s essentially phones that can run on both CDMA and GSM networks. ‘

That is, when in New Zealand, you’re on CDMA through Telecom; overseas, GSM through one of Telecom’s partners.

How well does that work then? To find out, I asked Telecom for a Samsung W531 phone to use during a trip to Australia. This is a pretty nice phone overall; it doesn’t quite pass the “scrunch” quality test, and the keypad is annoyingly easy to mis-type with, but call quality is good and it’s a nice, small size.

There’s a small LCD window too that displays information when the W531 is shut — very useful. For $300 street price, it’s not a bad phone.

Before I continue though, I should point out that GSM/CDMA roaming currently means voice only.

You can’t use the phone for data connections overseas, and most features available on the CDMA network at home are not there abroad.

Inside the Samsung W531, there’s a thing never seen in a Telecom phone before… a SIM card.

In my case, from O2 in the UK; this meant I got a British (+44) number while roaming in Australia on Telstra’s network, together with the 027 one for New Zealand use.

Calls to the 027 number were diverted to voice mail.

This is of course not a good way to do it, and Telecom will launch single numbers for both CDMA and GSM in June.

We suggest you wait until then if you want to do the dual-mode roaming thing right.

Oh, and please don’t ask me about unlocking the W531 so that you can use Vodafone SIM cards in it, because Telecom asked me not to do that.

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Tags RoaminggsmNetworking & Telecomms IDtelecomcdma

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