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Expo Notes: Gigsky app offers international data without expensive roaming charges

I was standing at the Gigsky booth on the floor at Macworld/iWorld when a middle-aged man walked up and told a plaintive tale: He'd flown to Japan, turned on his phone quickly to check his mail--and got hit with a $50 roaming charge for the split-second decision.

The story brought a smile to the face of Gigsky's Tony Wyant. Gigsky--pronounced like "big sky"--is designed to help travelers evade onerous roaming fees and still have access to heaping helpings of mobile data when they leave the country.

How? The company will offer both a universal SIM card and, for families that like travel with multiple mobile devices, an international router that can be set up anywhere.

But the heart of the Gigsky system is a forthcoming iOS app--due in the App Store "any day now"--that lets Gigsky customers compare available data plans on the road and purchase the one the makes the most sense. Users can even pre-shop and purchase data plans before leaving the country, if they want.

The service should help Gigsky customers save money in two ways: First, they'll be more conscious of roaming charges and work harder to avoid them. And Gigsky is negotiating with data providers to offer cheaper rates to its customers.

"The current prices we have are cheaper than roaming," Wyant said. "We're trying to make it so there's no barriers to using as much data as you want."

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