01/10/2012 12:16 EST | Updated 03/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Vancouver telecom will end roaming fees in U.S.

A Vancouver-based telecom company has teamed up with a U.S. wireless provider to eliminate pricey cellphone roaming fees by charging Canadians who travel south of the border local rates for talk, text and data.

Roam Mobility plans to launch the service in partnership with T-Mobile USA on Jan. 16. The company will provide the service through its continent-wide network, built for use by its Canadian customers only, that piggybacks on T-Mobile's massive servers.

"It's a game-changer," Roam Mobility CEO Emir Aboulhosen told CBC News in a telephone interview from Vancouver. "The minute you land in the U.S. you're calling home and never have to think about roaming charges again."

Canadians pay among the highest roaming fees in the world – about $800 million a year, half of that for charges incurred in the U.S., said Aboulhosen.

"The shocking part is that for a population of 34 million people, we're generating $800 million in roaming charges, Aboulhosen said. "It's a disproportionate number. We'd like to change that."

Aboulhosen said he got the idea because in his previous job as a software marketer he travelled widely and was spending $500 to $1,000 a month on roaming fees.

To access Roam's U.S. server, customers need to buy a roaming device or a SIM card to put into their own cellphones, as well as an unlimited voice, text or data plan, which range in price from $9.95 for one day to $59.95 for 30 days.

The roaming devices, which can be used with any wireless carrier for an unlimited number of trips to the U.S., range in price from $30 for a Breeze that allows voice and text connectivity for a single phone or computer, to the $100 Liberty Hotspot that lets customers have five wireless connections simultaneously.

Customers can order the devices and plans online at Roam Mobility's website; the company also plans to sell them at airports and border crossings across Canada starting next month.