International cellphone roaming is slowly getting cheaper, but Vonage’s new ReachMe Roaming system wants to bypass carriers altogether for those going abroad, though still letting them use their existing cellphone number. The app uses VoIP, capturing incoming calls made to US cellphone numbers and pushing them over an internet connection instead: assuming you’re on WiFi while you’re traveling, there’s no roaming fees involved in answering the call.
Only the recipient of the call needs the Vonage Mobile app, and the ReachMe Roaming feature can be toggled on and off manually to control whether it captures incoming calls or not.
Optionally, Vonage Mobile can be set to use 3G/4G connections, though of course that could result in some serious data fees if you’re roaming on foreign connections.
There are still a couple of limitations, unsurprisingly. The ReachMe Roaming feature is currently limited to the Android version of Vonage’s app, and you’ll need to be on a GSM network – i.e. AT&T or T-Mobile – rather than a CDMA one like Verizon in order for it to properly intercept your calls.
It’s also not going to be free forever. Vonage says this preview will last “for a limited time” after which it will start charging for the service.
We’ve seen a few efforts to reduce the cost of going abroad and still using the voice, messaging, and data features of your smartphone in recent months. AT&T offers LTE roaming, for instance, while T-Mobile has its own global plans.
Meanwhile, the EU is looking to cut roaming charges between European countries altogether, though the new rules wouldn’t affect those traveling from the US to Europe.