back to article Slip your SIM into a plastic sheath, WIPE international call charges

A sticker slapped onto a SIM card can cut international calls by 98 per cent, and guarantee a 50 per cent saving on business spending, without changing numbers or phones. The sticker comes from BiBiTel, and is really a second SIM which sits between the handset and the operator SIM. Most commands are passed straight through, …

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  1. Phil Atkin

    Spelling?!?!

    'Peal back' eh - what's the world coming to?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Spelling?!?!

      Must be for the ring tone...

      1. frank ly

        Re: Spelling?!?!

        I think it's related to the toll rate for international calls.

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
      Coat

      Re: Spelling?!?!

      I think it's a very ap-pealing concept.

      The dirty Mac, thanks.

  2. Mike Bell

    A neat trick

    But what is depressing is that tricks like this continue to be a necessity.

    If third parties like this (and thousands of others) can route calls over existing networks at a negotiated massive discount, there's no reason why the phone providers themselves couldn't do it.

    Of course, the providers are more interested in ripping off users by charging exorbitant international charges when they can get away with it, i.e. relying on the fact that many customers are inconvenienced in having to use another SIM for international calls, going through an intermediary number etc.

    </rant>

    1. AdamT

      Re: A neat trick

      I'm reminded of a science fiction story - probably Arthur C Clarke, possibly "Imperial Earth" - in which he notes the momentous day on which every phone call on the planet, to/from anywhere, became a "local call". I'm also guessing that he reckoned that date should already have passed but it seems that in real life we have some way to go.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: A neat trick

        It was 1 January 2001 in the book. But 1984 is running a few later so we can forgive him.

        1. ravenviz

          Re: A neat trick

          I recall reading the book 2010, the main character had some lyrics in his head and thought that it would take all the worlds computers 15 minutes to trawl through mankind's knowledge to find the author (which I presume ACC thought was very fast). I was sitting on a train (probably in 2010 funnily enough) with a very old Nokia and found the reference in 15 seconds!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A neat trick

        I think it was one of the 2001 series.

      3. JDX Gold badge

        the momentous day on which every phone call on the planet became a "local call"

        Like Skype then. We can already call people anywhere on the world for free, hell we can do it with video.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A neat trick

      > Of course, the providers are more interested in ripping off users by charging exorbitant international charges when they can get away with it,

      The 3rd parties that provide the cheap international calls don't provide discounted handsets or free texts or discounted local calls or free calls to favourite numbers or any number of things that your service provider provides. The 3rd party concentrates on providing international calls so doesn't have to subsidise offering other services for free or cheaply by charging higher international rates.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: A neat trick

        What about 'you get what you pay for'? maybe I don't WANT my provider to give me free local calls to local numbers because I don't make so many. maybe I call a large number of different people so I don't want free calls to a select few numbers. And maybe I make a lot of international calls, in which case why should I be subsidising everyone else?

        Providers should price calls depending on what it costs to them and cut all the BS charges concocted between them (international AND roaming). technically there is no difference from routing a call between Vodafone UK to Orange UK and routing it from Vodafone UK to Vodafone Germany or to Orange France.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A neat trick

          > maybe I don't WANT my provider to give me free local calls to local numbers because I don't make so many. maybe I call a large number of different people so I don't want free calls to a select few numbers. And maybe I make a lot of international calls, in which case why should I be subsidising everyone else?

          Then pick a provider/package that offers what you want.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A neat trick

            > Then pick a provider/package that offers what you want.

            I guess that would be BiBiTel then.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: A neat trick

          "technically there is no difference from routing a call between Vodafone UK to Orange UK and routing it from Vodafone UK to Vodafone Germany or to Orange France."

          Back in the days when some senior Telewest staff used to post to usenet, it was mentioned that the reason some of us customers were having a problems with dial-up 'net access and poor quality non-local voice calls was due to calls being routed via Amsterdam or some such place. Apparently it was cheaper.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A neat trick

        > discounted handsets

        Is that supposed to be funny?

        You do realise that they make much more money out the contract than it would cost you to buy the handset outright don't you?

        1. Kernel Silver badge

          Re: A neat trick

          Not necessarily true - last week I got a new phone.

          On free phone plan, phone = $0, contract = 24 months x $49.00, total cost = $1176.00.

          Buy phone outright = $299.00, same calling plan over 24 months @ $39.00/month, total cost = $1235.00.

          Conclusion: do the maths - sometimes the obvious answer is not the correct one.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A neat trick

            @Kernel

            As you've subtly implied, your $1.2k includes a phone AND two years of service - just in case anyone didn;t notice. I've noticed the same thing. The phone subsidy typically exceeds the $10x2=$240 plan discount for the Bring-Yer-Own-Phone option. I've seen $400 discounts off the stupidly-inflated MRSP on my iPhones. People make assumptions that are wrong.

            I've also noticed that the wee feisty tight-fisted Android boys tend to have little tiny, embarrassingly-small data plans or at most 100s of MB (or perhaps none at all), while the Apple sheeple have huge dangling data plans measured in GBs.

          2. Barry Rueger

            Re: A neat trick

            Oooh! Bargain! In Canada the minimum monthly spend is $70, meaning your free phone plus service costs you $1680 over two years.

            Canadian telcos finally eliminated the infamous three year contracts that were required when you got a "free" phone.

            However, they maintain the same level of profit by jumping up the monthly charge, so you pay just as much, only over 24 months instead of 36.

            In my case I have two year old plan that charges $50 a month. If I walked though the door today, or even just wanted to upgrade my phone, I'd have to pay at least $70 per month.

            (In fact, more than that. $70 a month get you 250 megs of data and a voicemail that will only hold THREE messages. To maintain the services I have now (1 gig + 20 message capacity) I'd have to pay just shy of $100 a month.)

            All of which is why I'll just buy my next phone off Craigslist and keep this "cheap" phone plan going until the end of time.

            (Bootnote: 95% of the Canadian cel market is owned by three large ugly greedy companies. There are a couple of tiny upstarts which are supposed to provide competition, but they only have service in major centres, and often spotty coverage at that.)

          3. LarsG

            Re: A neat trick but

            Buy decent up to date phone £600

            300 mins 1000 texts 500 data £12 inc per month on 12 month sim only contract

            Total cost over two years £788

            Same phone locked on contract £100 handset plus £39 per month over two years £1,036

            Additional benefit is that I can change my phone every year, sell the old one and get up to 50-60% value back.

            In fact this year sold an old 2 year old but immaculate iPhone 4S for £190 so that cost of phone and sim only contract over two years is now

            £598 total cost over 2 years.

            If I had sold my iPhone 5 instead of giving it to my wife I could have reduced the cost by another £150.

  3. Tapeador

    Looks great but I'm not sure there's any way of not routing UK mobile calls other than through their service which offers them for 5p per min, plus 1pm connection charge, which is admittedly much better than most UK payg, but much worse than UK pay monthly. Would be interested if they or anyone else knows whether using one's ordinary provider is permissible while retaining Bibitel for other calls. Plus whether there is any UK calling-landline option and tariff.

  4. Simon Rockman

    What does the CLI show

    Presumably those you call overseas will see a different number to your standard number - unless you tell BiBiTel what you want to present and they spoof it.

    Simon

  5. Arachnoid

    Seems like something Bond would do

    When hacking someone elses communications, after all who checks their sim for bugs ?

    1. M Gale

      Re: Seems like something Bond would do

      Anybody who was on Three Mobile last week, when various Google services stopped working?

      Dial the support line. First thing it says? "Switch your phone off, remove and re-insert the SIM card. If that has not solved the problem..."

  6. Wize

    From what I can see...

    ...it works like those international calling companies (like the ones you can find via http://callchecker.moneysavingexpert.com/intcallchecker/ ).

    The ones where you dial a UK number, type your account number and then the international number you wanted to call.

    All this does is detect such numbers and prefixes what you are dialling with the extra info to save you entering it manually.

    Still, its a smart idea.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: From what I can see...

      Agree functionally, this does look like the mobile phone equivalent of the land-line dialler boxes which were very common some years back (and which seem to have totally disappeared - just when I could make use of one...).

      It looks as if the user always pays for a local call ("Your telephone service provider will bill you in the normal way for all calls to our service which billed as local calls and are usually within your bundled minutes."), the cost of which is dependent upon their existing minute package. Then for all calls routed via BiBiTel, BiBiTel charge the forwarded call at their 1p a minute rate, subject to the caveat "All connected calls are subject to a 1 minute charge." ie. the call will actually cost 60p then 1p per minute after 60 minutes on top of the mobile local call charges..

      As for calling UK mobiles, I would hope the service is sufficiently intelligent so that if I'm on Three's 321 PAYG tariff my UK calls get routed via Three rather than via BiBiTel.

      The 'roam'/call-back mode looks interesting as effectively it presents your call to your network as a received call and hence causes your network to charge you at the lower rate, obviously BiBiTel's roaming charge will be additional, but they say the total price will still be 30~40% cheaper than your network.

      About the only real negatives I can see are:

      1. You need a BiBiTel PAYG account with credit to use the service.

      2. There is no data tariff.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: From what I can see...

        "BiBiTel charge the forwarded call at their 1p a minute rate, subject to the caveat "All connected calls are subject to a 1 minute charge." ie. the call will actually cost 60p then 1p per minute after 60 minutes"

        eh? what you're describing is that all calls are subject to a 1-hour charge.

        The way I read their description is that the call will cost 1p per minute, and that any call lasting less than a minute will be charged for the full minute i.e. 1p.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: From what I can see... @James Micallef

          Oops! misread, got confused etc etc. thanks James you are right!

  7. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Oh dear...

    I simply touch the Skype icon instead of the Phone icon. It's like - *so* difficult.

    <rolls-eyes>

    1. Dave Fox

      Re: Oh dear...

      Yeh, because that really works well when you've not got a data connection......

      1. aidanstevens

        Re: Oh dear...

        You can use Skype To Go (using your Skype credit via a local rate access number), you don't even need a smartphone. Good for freephone numbers too.

      2. Martin 71 Silver badge

        Re: Oh dear...

        If you've not got a data connection, surely you don't have a cellular connection at all? I've certainly never come across a point (O2, UK) where I have cell service but no data coverage.

        Not trolling, I genuinely want to know, is that possible, I thought they used the same backhaul?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh dear...

          Okay, let's assume roaming...

          I've been around the world and it's been years since I've seen cell service that didn't include a data connection. 3G is ubiquitous.

          The ratio of costs for voice roaming to the costs of data roaming is a case of YMMV.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Oh dear...

          >If you've not got a data connection, surely you don't have a cellular connection at all?

          Well at home with Orange/EE I get a good connection to their voice service and depending on many variables I occasionally get their data service but need to be in the back garden. With 3 I get their data service loud and clear but only get voice by stepping outside my front door...

          So the Skype on 3 app is of limited use since this uses the voice service, but obviously I can use Skype via WiFi over the data service...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh dear...

        "...when you've not got a data connection..."

        You mean like all the folks that are too cheap to pay for data service and spend their hollow empty lives wandering around trying to find a free wifi hotspot?

        Or have you found a spot on this planet where there's cell service, but not even EDGE data?

        1. James R Grinter

          Re: Oh dear...

          Parts of Lincolnshire are like this (the Notts/Leics borders). You can just about get a phone signal, but you won't get even GPRS

    2. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Oh dear...

      I simply touch the Skype icon instead

      Coz like mobe companies are so mega generous at not charging giga bucks for data roaming.

      Of course using Skype via WiFi saves a fortune, one Dork of an ex Mate once managed to run up a £1700 monthly mobile bill without any data, just by talking too much when abroad. Skyping has saved me a not particularly small fortune over the years, but you do need the free WiFi to match if you don't want to run up and even larger bill.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Oh dear...

        Coz like mobe companies are so mega generous at not charging giga bucks for data roaming.

        Oh dear, did you not read the article? This is not about roaming, this is about calling international numbers from your home territory.

  8. David Thorn

    Not really a SIM

    It's not a "Subscriber Identity Module" as all it's doing is using the SIM Application Toolkit commands to intercept the dial request and presumably dial an indirection service first.

    If you note their tariffs are all plus your normal calling plan and require your number not to be witheld so you're using your normal SIM identity.

    Their international piece is slightly more interesting in that it seems to be an automated callback but again that can be done using the call control features (ie auto answer when the callback occurs) of the STK.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    JeffyPooh doesn't always pay roaming charges

    But when he does, he's sure to pay roaming data charges. Because they're reassuringly expensive...

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: JeffyPooh doesn't always pay roaming charges

      It depends.

      Recent reductions in data roaming (from Canada in the USA) mean that Skype calls over 3G roaming would be cheaper than a roaming telephone call within about 10 minutes. You can check your own sums.

      Wrapping sim cards in plastic and trying to jam them into the phone is something one might try with a cheap $50 Android toss away phone. If you have a nice reassuringly-expensive phone, jamming stuff into the tiny slot is not really an attractive approach.

      For what it's worth, I've got several phones and tablets covering many eco-systems.

  10. Sooty

    a handier use, if you dont make international calls

    "Hackers quickly produced a wrapper which would pass through all communications except the request for a network identity, to which it would respond "AT&T" without alerting the underlying SIM."

    If I understand this correctly, then this technique could be used to produce a 'sticker' that you put on your sim, that would let it work in exactly the same way as it always did, but when your network locked phone queries it it returns whatever network the phone is locked to.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks useful to MI5 if they wanted to intercept calls or send them via a specific gateway although obviously they would have to get hold of your phone in the first place to plant the second SIM (or whatever it is)...

  12. c:\boot.ini
    WTF?

    WTF?

    What, International calls are not like local calls ? since when are we back in the dark ages ?

    Free telecom, in France ... free unlimited calls to 40+ countries, EU, North America and some other places all from my mobile ... for under 20 euros/month with 1Gb data plan, slow data after that...

    Sorry, guyz ...

    1. Martin 71 Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      Some parts of the world are still in the dark ages. Friend of mine is in the US, god bless her, and can't even text internationally, apparently that 'feature' costs extra...

  13. David Beck

    What happens when you are outside the UK?

    Last time I looked at these things (they are not new), the problems were -

    1) if you were not in your home country, they either didn't work at all or you got charged twice,once for the call to the interception company and then by that company for the call to the final number and

    2) if they only intercepted "international" calls they used "+" as the trigger. All of my contacts have the numbers recorded with the full number, that is all UK numbers start "+44", for obvious reasons if you spend much time travelling.

    If one of the suppliers would like to comment I appreciate, it took a couple days of phone calls to get the above info the first time (about a year ago).

    1. David Beck

      Re: What happens when you are outside the UK?

      Replying to myself, I just found the FAQ for the service.

      "Most operators will provide the option to take your ‘bundled’ minute abroad ..."

      This is of course completely wrong, most UK operators do not provide this. So they are assuming the punter is too thick to know or notice. They further suggest that even without these cheap (non-existent) minutes, it's still cheaper if you are calling outside the EU. Huh? I missed the part about how you can control the routing of the call, I was busy reading the part about how you didn't have to do anything for the call to automatically route via the service.

      Looks like they almost have a product if you don't look too carefully, don't travel or always use local SIMs when you do.

      1. Martin 71 Silver badge

        Re: What happens when you are outside the UK?

        Why would you NOT use a local sim?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: What happens when you are outside the UK?

          >Why would you NOT use a local sim?

          Obviously, you have little need to frequently travel outside of the UK to unspecified countries and be contactable on your UK mobile number.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: What happens when you are outside the UK?

        Reading the BibiTel website, it seems that the call from outside the UK to the UK is handled as follows:

        The phone initiates an outbound call request which will contain both the calling and called numbers, this can be picked up without the call being connected (along with any data that may have been attached to the request). BiBiTel can use this information to initiate a UK call to your phone (the calling number) and a UK call to the called number. The phone can auto answer the call from BiBiTel UK (via your mobile operator) and BiBiTel can then connect you to the number you called. A similar scheme is probably used for non-UK to non-UK calling.

        If you look at your network's roaming rates, you will see two rates for every country/region one is the cost to you of dialling a UK number and the second the cost of a call to your mobile being forwarded to you. BiBiTel are taking advantage of the difference between these two rates to offer reduced cost calling.

        So they do have a product, only they don't do a very good job of explaining how it works and how things are costed.

    2. dave 93

      Re: What happens when you are outside the UK?

      3 have thrown down the gauntlet with 3LikeHome. My EU based contract lets me visit the UK and several other countries and use my bundled minutes, texts and data. You do need to check the carrier ID before you call though.

      I pay around €30 a month including a few hundred minutes of international calls, including mobiles.

      I think Nicholas Negroponte (remember him?) said that the cost of calls is trending down to zero...

  14. Nifty

    How long

    ..before sticker tech offers you in effect a dual SIM phone

  15. DougS Silver badge

    If it is this easy to 'hijack' a SIM, wouldn't this be great for spying?

    Who here actually checks that their SIM hasn't been tampered with? Be a simple black bag job that would probably work on 90% of people, other than those who live in parts of the world where SIM swapping is done regularly.

  16. Tacitus

    I'd be surprised if there's any real gains on the basis of the same scheme with analogue phones...they were little more than a scam. The fact is that the industry is laden with parasites

    and the dregs of society born with myopic minds fleecing a couple of generations who'll believe anyting so long as it is ugly, unnecessary, overpriced, can't sing or play in tune or supports drug and alcohol abuse.Look at thses Turkeys...in school, at the dinner table, name anywhere...can't stop texting....it's a very citizen-sick era and I suppose because wealth is power and there's not a leader

    worth the term in government of ny Nation, to give good example, slow down the waste of money and resources and focus on human decency....

    A different example I bought into an $8/month VOIP. Unlimited-time overseas calls 8c...unlimited Nationwide mobile at a few more...unlimited nationwide for less. Four or five years ago it claimed the service provider, OPTUS, wouldn't do what they wanted...the Service provider told me the VOIP phone company penny-XXXX had not paid its bills. Now we had an option of Vodaphone (which I'd left over its exhorbitant charges adnd its agents lies....or Telstra, which I loathed with passion. On great claims I went Vodaphone and it was dearer but manageable. In the last couple of years it has gone though the roof...money forever beig taken from my bankcard...in other words, having been sucked-in and bent over Hutchison Vodaphone is now right up us.Do I go "skype"....how does that make my mobile fees become less and how reliable is it....and howavailable is allmy data to hackers and hi-jackers, even to microsoft which seems to be forever collecting data.

    When I hear of Internet millionaires and internet bragging, social media and other assorted crapola I want to puke. I hear what is spoon fed to my well employed, highly intelligent, extemely capable trusting but otherwise unwise children ...yes, one watches 'big brother 'and the other every cooking show possible..... so there's something seriously wrong with them..could be genetic! and grandchildren also.

    I have no admiration, for these machinating millionaires...just a dirty taste in my mouth.I look at what entertains my lot and others today and then at the wider world and it's pretty obvious why it's like it is...they are being mushroomed.

    Those of us who are not are ridiculed mantra-shallow if not stupid people, are tolerated dismissivly as we and our objections to this totlitarianism by the filthy rich and their 'entertainment henchmen are dying out anyway....

    The objective of this farce called 'politics' and 'terrorism' and 'democratic process' is to enable a world of dunce-serfs, entertainable by slicing a beetroot or voting someone off the island to be a new era of suckers and lame-brained forelock-tuggers under the totalitarian new order of bankers.

    To aid them is a nest of data sellers known as the owners of the "Social Media" and "breakfast shows" posing as new reports which are of less quality than the looney-tunes we once had before what was by todays standards a first class movie....but today also regarded as Booooorrrriiiinggg" because the violence was not brain spattering graphic , the wounds not punctured artery mist-spraying and there were not close-ups for the duration of two males or females or some other combination, giving each other an oscular stomach pump or a close-up of every variation of humping. They can't see it because they are too dull, too self absorbed, don't research anything other than their pretty well talent-free idols and know nothing of having to stive for a better world....all they need now is the assurance 'all is well" and a remote to change channels. Voila

    1. Caesarius
      Pint

      @Tacitus

      Have my up-vote! A couple of points:

      I have heard that in the UK regulations or laws were made to stop "unreasonable" roaming charges. That was quite a few years ago. I presume that similar regs. or laws are not present in every country, and that, even where they are, the telcos find ways of gouging customers, and it all slides downhill for Joe Public. It seems that democracies don't have the will and money to aggressively update regulations, and a benevolent dictator is as likely as a benevolent telco. I wonder if, when Tony Blair said he was “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, he was aware that they could only get rich at the expense of their fellow countrymen, and that this was a betrayal of the Labour Party.

      I reckon that the rich have exploited the poor everywhere forever, with some minor variation on the scale of say 100 years. I must say that advertising has become so prevalent, sophisticated and insidious that it is difficult to withstand it. To your comfort, whereas my children rejected my oft expressed cynicism about advertising when they were teenagers, they now seem better protected than some people.

      The same timescale applies to obscene content. Think gladiators, temple prostitutes, etc etc

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