If there is one topic that is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of the average corporate telecoms manager, it's mobile roaming charges. The level of fees imposed by mobile operators on customers making or receiving calls when travelling internationally has been a bone of contention for many years. When talking about …
Never mind roaming abroad. What about roaming in the UK.
It would be really useful to use an alternative provider if you wander out of range of your own provider. What about it,Telcos?
Roaming at home
Roaming at home was (and probably still is in most respects) not allowed. I believe it was originally a rule by Oftel - designed to ensure that the original networks built their own infrastructure, in line with their promises. Now it seems a bit quaint and of course certain networks are vitrual. Tower sharing has been allowed and encouraged in recent years.
software defined radio
just talk about SDR and Cognitive Radio and ubiquitous 'unlicensed band' 'quality of service' trade-off against paid-for frequencies/access and 'beyond IP networks' to a Telco and watch them squirm! (I have!) The End is Nigh!
not quite true, of course, but I certainly wouldn't invest personally in any traditional telecom organisation, (actually there might be one swedish telco/MVNO that has 21st century thinking), but otherwise...roll on the dynamic spectrum
MNC Roaming costs
I am involved in doing assessments of voice TCO for multinationals. We have foudn that it is about 20% of all voice communication TCO, despite the fact that only around 15-30% of employees have mobiles. On average when you give an employee an mobile the cost per extension is 6 times that for a fixed employee.
Must companies I talk to feel they are being screwed by mobile operators.
Re: Roaming Abroad?
Mike writes: "It would be really useful to use an alternative provider if you wander out of range of your own provider. What about it,Telcos?"
Unlikely ever to happen in such a cut-throat market as telecoms. Remember that cellcos spend most of their time trying to do each other over while filling their pockets rather than actually doing something of benefit to the end-user.
But the really expensive bit....
...is the Packet Data Connection charge.
Is there really a justifiable reason for this? In Sweden, I'm charged almost exactly £1 each time my mobile makes a packet data connection, even to exchange only 2-3kB. Given that Good Messaging on my E61, for some reason, continually disconnects and reconnects, it has lead to bills for £1000 per month, for only a few Mb over the entire period.
After my first bill, after I came round, I put the reins on Good and various other apps connecting to the internet while roaming, but to be fair, it appears to be shoddy connection management by Good/E61 - perhaps it saves battery life(!)
I'm currently evaluating other options, such as ActiveSync, since the cost of a new handset/email client is proportionately tiny!
Orange and Vodafone now do Roaming "at home"
"Never mind roaming abroad. What about roaming in the UK. It would be really useful to use an alternative provider if you wander out of range of your own provider. What about it,Telcos?"
Orange and Vodafone have started doing just such a thing recently.
Sod corporate customers
When I had a fully paid up work blackberry I couldn't have cared less about the cost of making calls abroad, I'd take it with me and use it even on personal holidays. However these days I have to use my personal phone, and unsurprisingly my attitude has shifted slightly..
Orange and Vodafone
Has this actually started and is it roaming anyway? I thought it was just a deal where Orange share Vodafone transmitters and vice versa, but you'd effectively be connected to your operator all the time rather than see Vodafone pop up on your phone.
Anyway at present, I have a situation where I can only receive Vodafone in one place and my Orange sim doesn't register on the network, so I have to use a Vodafone PAYG sim and forward calls from my Orange contract sim. Works okay except I pay for incoming calls that are forwarded, and I can't forward text messages unfortunately.
As for roaming abroad, the only thing I want is cheap data roaming. The charges for data in the US are astronomical! Given the Internet heavy functionality in some smartphones what with mapping and full web browsing, email, it's very costly (e.g. £10+ per MB!!).
Obviously they don't want to make it cheap enough for people to use VoIP, but I don't mind VoIP traffic being charged extra (I'll use WiFi anyway instead), but simple data like browsing and email is far too expensive.
The charges in the UK are still incredibly high anyway, even at £2 per MB.
This is why I bought a phone with WiFi. Just means I have to find a hot spot that's all (thankfully a lot of US hotels have them).
3 and roaming
3 also used to use O2 for their out-of-coverage roaming, but now use Orange.
AT&T international roaming
The most I've been charged for international roaming is $1.75 a minute, in the Caymans. I pay $3.95 a month for that privilege. And my texting is standard rate (I don't have a text plan).
Hrmph, I've never called from sea. I know that Cellular @ Sea charges $2.95 a minute. I've seen people blighthly sitting by the pool, chatting on their mobile for an hour or more.
US companies will certainly care if their partner or parent is global
I work in the US for an EU country-owned company. IT has been gifted the task of analysing and managing our telecomm costs. Our mobile users incur very large roaming fees (voice and data) every time they have to travel there for meetings/training etc. which is frequently. Any time there is a global meeting in another country that a large group attends, each of our users adds a few hundred $ to their normal bill. This is a hidden travel cost that only recently the accountants became aware of, when estimating the average cost of a trip. I'm now considering looking into our users buying SIM cards locally - I hear that can help, but I'll have to convince Cingular/AT&T to unlock the BlackBerrys first, a conversation I'm sure I won't enjoy. I'd love to hear any other suggestions of working around these high roaming rates.
To roam literally anywhere on earth I use a satellite phone (voice & text only). Cost is the same no matter where you are, between $1 & $2 / min, depending on your plan. Doesn't work so well indoors or in very built-up areas, though.
Pay up and shut up
I have been a world traveller since the 1960s, when I had to queue at post offices and report back to the office by telegram, at 7.5 "gold franks" (a notional international currency used for telecom accounting) per word. I've used morse code schedules, HF radio link calls, 66MHz half-duplex "car radio" links, and telex. I have booked an international call, and sat in a dusty hotel room for 12 hours waiting for the line to become available. 12 hours when I could have been on site working.
Mobile phones are by and far the best method I have ever been involved in. It costs me 30p per minute of my own money to call home from Brazil on my own phone - it would be half that if I queued at a telephone lounge, and called from a ramshakle plywood booth with everyone listening in, but I am prepared to pay the difference. For Glod's sake, have people no idea what sort of infrastructure has been built in every corner of the planet in the last 15 years? Surely the people who risked that much money are entitled to a return? Especially from corporate people who can afford it, rather than from the urban poor who can't?
If you compare the cost of mobile roaming to hotel room phones it is far from extortionate.
If executives are paying too much for their phone calls, then perhaps it would be worth analysing the calls - how many are about golf matches or calls to the mistress? It was some self-important executive in our own business who caned his expenses in the mini-bar, and got all mini-bar purchases banned. That means when I go to Tadzhikstan and want to buy bottles of drinking water for use during the day I have to pay out of my own pocket because otherwise they come up on the bill as mini-bar.
If the only thing that international companies have to moan about is mobile phone roaming charges, then they have nothing to moan about at all. If they don't want to pay for Sir Justin BigBelly-Smythe to call his wife 3 times a day, don't buy him the airline ticket. That will save even more money.
I just read about a new company called CallBlue GSM, they seem to offer 20 cents/minute for an incoming call in EU, Middle East, some parts of Africa, Australia and NZ, and about 50 cents/minute for calls from EU back to states. It'll save me about 65% compared to my current plan with AT&T as well as buying local SIM in every country I visit with a different number.
It will work out in the end
Having just returned from a trip from here (NZ) to USA and Australia, I really would have liked to have GR with me.
Mobile phones have really killed the phonebooths available in airports etc compared to last time I travelled (many years back). I could not find one that took credit cards.
The hotel in the US ripped me over USD 50 for a 5 minute call to NZ. That would have cost me approx $3 from NZ.
While the infrastructure is still in such a mess, providers will charge huge for roaming etc. However with some time and competition GR will become just another low-cost commodity feature.
and what operators would those be, then?
In your article you blithely say:
"One way of dealing with this for notebook PC users is to look for services that bundle cellular and Wi-Fi access, and again there may be advantages in looking at service providers that have a direct international Wi-Fi footprint or solid favourable arrangements in place with Wi-Fi network operators."
I work for a small business with 3 full-time employees, we have staff who routinely have to travel to European countries, it costs £95/month for such a service. It is an absolute rip off. EU to US fair enough you expect some inconsistencies. But UK to Spain? UK to France? It's nuts.
Better than the alternative?
A bit of a divergence of opinion here. The dilemma (quite literally, two precepts which contradict) is that on the one hand, mobile roaming costs are far inferior to what they replace - hotel bills, calling cards etc; whereas meanwhile, on the other hand such costs do not compare well to local call and internet costs when roaming. It is fair enough perhaps that people should be miffed when hit with a large bill - but the research itself suggests that the size of the bill is a less important factor than the ability to predict. £1000/month may be sizeable, but for some, preferable to not having any comms at all. Meanwhile, I know I speak from experience that an unexpected bill of that size can be the single factor that causes a change of service provider, whether or not it is justified.
As for the bundling question, we pick this thread up here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/23/mobile_services_mix/