When we asked Reg readers to tell us about their experiences with mobile roaming, quite a few of you came back with some interesting insights. And you're not happy. In the world of always available, always connected, where we’re increasingly tapping into websites and servers while on the move at home and abroad, it’s not really …
Roaming data off
On Android phones you can instruct it not to connect to data services while roaming. Using this and downloading maps and info to use offline before I went I was able to happily use my HTC Hero and find out any extra information using random WiFi spots dotted around the city.
I guess most smartphones have a similar facility?
The iPhone has "Data Roaming" turned off by default, as well as the Nokia N-series and I'm pretty sure Blackberries do too.
Mind you, if you turn it on for one trip and then forget...
Generally it would be better if the operators could join us in the 21st century and recognise that we're becoming a global society. Especially the ones who are global companies already and who presumably own the whole network end-to-end anyway.
Bunch of thieving barstewards
The reason for setting insanely high roaming data charges is simple. It is the same reason that so many operators try to disable, or "ban" under their data AUP the use of VOIP services such as Skype.
Who is going to pay £0.75 per call termination when they can pay £0 per call on Skype?
Whilst it is necessary to attract victims (or "customers" as the mobile opcos refer to them) with apparently good call prices all the skipfuls of profit the mobile operators make comes from the other stuff they can stitch the user up for. This includes ripping you a new a-hole every time you call a "freephone" or "local call rate" 0845 type number (if you listen very carefully you can actually hear a shareholder laughing as you are connected). International charges are another good profit fluffer, most people won't select network based on these (and there is no bloody competition anyway, the mobile industry is an excellent example of a failed market which behaves as a cartel through economic forces).
I deal with this by having a series of PAYG SIM cards for each European country I frequently visit in my other wallet, this takes 10 minutes at the airport shops first time in each country. I put my local SIM in a handset on arrival and use for data, email etc whilst in the country. I spent an entire 2 weeks in Kiev using data, making international calls back to the UK, receiving push email (not from Vodatheft's servers of course) all for £6 including the SIM card.
Of course, I won't be wanting the micro-SIM toting JPhone-4.
I wouldn't trust any mobile operator
..any further than I could spit their bleached bones.
Assume they're incompetent, and intent to rip you too, and you'll not go far wrong. We tolerate them because there is no choice.
However, I would drop my mobile operator in a second if there was anyone who didn't suck, who'd be worth all of the upheaval of switching.
Android lets me ban data when roaming
It is one of the wireless settings that I really like.
Now the real legal solution, in Europe, is to say that there is a single market, so operators cannot charge different rates in different countries. Any licence is a European-wide one, not limited to one country. It is up to them to arrange with whoever runs the local masts to carry their calls. They can only charge on time, data transferred, and distance (for voice calls).
It's all a rip off.....
> I can see why there's a roaming charge for voice calls; these are being routed over an international connection (assuming you're not calling within the country you're visiting); but what does the data roaming pay for?
Only incoming calls. The outgoing calls go from the foreign operator to the destination. In an non-rip-off world you should get charged the same rate as the foreign operator charges or the same charge as making the call on the local network as this would still generate vast profits.
GSM actually supports having a local number when you are roaming, though this is very purposely hidden from you.
> The data "call" just needs to be routed to the appropriate internet address, it doesn't require any connection back home (other than to send the billing details); so the roaming charge is just a fee for local usage and billing information.
All Data traffic is routed back home to the GGSN to allow the spooks can keep an eye on you while you are out of the country.
Operators bill each other a fraction of the costs they bill to subscribers for roaming Voice and Data services. If they only realised that when price drops usage and profit actually increase in many cases. The only way to help them understand they are charging too much is by refusing to use roaming services until they start charging reasonable prices, hence my collection of foreign pre-paid SIM's.
The recent intervention by the EU to cap pricing is also another attempt to misdirect and give the impression they are reducing prices. Before this legislation took effect market forces led to per second charging, now most operators are back to charging by the minute for roaming calls, use 1 second for a failed call get charged for the whole minute.
or you could use the VF ireland model
connections abroad are charged as if they were made at home, makes going to blighty with an iphone a much less expensive affair.
So why is data roaming, or any roaming, expensive, again?
I think it's because operators are still firmly stuck in the wrong mindset, to put it politely.
It's cheaper for me to call Hong Kong than to call a mobile phone in the same country on my PAYG phone. That is, the weels are coming off. Slowly, but surely.
Free Market Rules!
Golly, I'm just glad that the free market system of capitalist competition is so effective at ensuring that the end consumer pays the lowest possible price!
Without The Invisible Hand surely we'd all be paying at least $763 a month for mobile service - BEFORE roaming charges!
(Paris, who can barely afford to use her Sidekick in Paris.)
Not to rub it in...
Not to rub it in, but here in the states, free roaming is the norm to fill in those areas they don't cover themselves -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile have free roaming (but if you roam more than 40% for AT&T, or 50% for the others, 3 months in a row your service can be terminated). Verizon doesn't even have the "50% rule" -- you can roam 100% and they won't do a thing about it. This is of course within the US, but I can go like 3000 miles coast-to-coast and not worry over roaming charges.
International data? Verizon's got unlimited international data for $65 (versus $30 for unlimited smartphone/blackberry data within the US). Steep, but no worries over unexpected huge bills. To be honest personally I would likely just shut off my data internationally though.