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back to article Steelie Neelie 'shocked' that EU tourists turn mobes off when abroad

Nearly half of European tourists say they would never use mobile internet in another EU country and over a quarter turn off their mobiles altogether over fears of monstrous phone bills when they get home. The European Commission, which is trying to get roaming charges abolished, surveyed 28,000 EU citizens and reckon that …

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Anonymous Coward

Funny thing is

I live down in Weymouth, I know people who work on Portland. I, and people I know have occasionally been charged 'roaming charges' for going to portland because, for some reason, they get a stronger signal from a french base station, than they do from the nearest UK one. I've had to show my dad how to turn off roaming on his phone, (which he has in turn shared with his colleagues) otherwise he'd have no way of contacting people during the day without risking additional charges.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/white-cliffs-dover-visitors-getting-1755386

Same thing happening near the white cliffs of dover apparently.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Funny thing is

It's surprising it works from that distance, but that's IMHO more an indication that your local signal is weak than one of malicious intent.

I recall that this issue hit politics in the Netherlands and Belgium where people living close to the border paid through the nose because their mobiles hopped across the border for connectivity. I think this eventually hit the EU right of free movement principle, and the companies were ordered to invent some sort of middle zone - virtually extending the border so that even when a mobile logged on abroad, it was billed at local rates (which is not that hard to do as you have a fairly accurate idea where the phone is by triangulation anyway).

So cut a long story short (belatedly :) ), there are solutions for that, you just have to find the right lever to force the companies to put some effort in...

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Re: Funny thing is

I once got a "Welcome to the Isle of Man" roaming text whilst in Wales (Amlwch to be exact).

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Re: Funny thing is

I'm a Weymouth/Portland lad too, and back in the 90's my Nokia brick used to regularly connect to Orange Francais etc. when I was fishing off Portland Bill. Alas, stuck up in Bristol now to get a decent wage.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Funny thing is

Well, the border between the Netherlands and Belgium is a bit mad in places.

i.e. Baarle-Hertog/Baarle-Nassau - which was probably the inspiration for China Mieville's "The City and The City"...

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Re: Funny thing is

I once got a 'Welcome to Iceland' message when I woke up one morning after an overnight English channel ferry crossing. There was confusion in those first terrifying moments of post-slumber. I guess the ship's pico-cell had been misconfigured.

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Re: Funny thing is

It happens occasionally on the beaches between Seaford and Eastbourne too. Whenever I get hit with those roaming charges I gripe at my cellco and they give me a refund.

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Re: Funny thing is

I loved the idea behind that book - fantastic example of using a pervasive concept so mundane that nobody notices it.

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Re: Funny thing is

In Lindau, Germany, you can just sit at a cafe and your mobile will get a new "Welcome to" message every couple of minutes as it picks up signals from three different countries.

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Re: Funny thing is

I once got a 'Welcome to Iceland' message when I woke up one morning after an overnight English channel ferry crossing.

Usually when that happens it's because you're still on the ship and Iceland is outside the nearest porthole. You'll also be extremely hungover, stark bollock naked and supposed to be getting married that day.

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Re: Funny thing is

and the companies were ordered to invent some sort of middle zone - virtually extending the border so that even when a mobile logged on abroad, it was billed at local rates

They may well have been ordered to do it but I can confirm that, when this happens, it gets expensive.

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Re: Funny thing is

Can one actually SEE Iceland from the English Channel?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Funny thing is

I can, there's an icelands just down the street, just gotta get the right angle.

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Holmes

It's not phone calls, it's data

They really charge silly money for data, and with scare stories of paying hundreds of pounds to update Twitbook or Facer (or something), no wonder it gets switched off. Also if you get one of those "updates" that could also kill your wallet. Hence smartphone stays off.

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

There has been a cap of € 50 per month for roaming charges in the EU for some years now that you have to explicitly ask to be remove. So, if anyone is being hit wit hundreds then it's most likely their own fault.

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

But let's be fair, most people wouldn't want to get hit for €50 because their phone was updating weather forecasts in the background, so it's safer to disable data roaming altogether.

And as you can generally get WiFi at airports and hotels, often free, it's probably no great hardship for most either. The big threat is that if people realise it doesn't matter that they aren't instantly notified when a stranger makes an inane comment about their rather dull photo on facebook they might re-engage with real life, and then where would we all be?

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

I used to work for a company based in the UK that sold "Travel SIM Cards" to the USA. The idea being that if you're an American and you wanted to travel Europe or other places you'd stick this SIM card in and use it.

It wasn't uncommon for a user to have a $80,000 phone bill at the end of their 2 week holiday. The primary cause was the data. To use this company's plan it would cost you $2.05/MB. I'm not even making it up.

The best thing though is that they justify the cost by saying they do a lot of work in Malawi. They do some good work, but I don't think it justifies robbing the people using their service. If you'd like more information on the company (I don't think I should type their name outright), just Google "International Cell Phones and World Phones" and they will be in the top two.

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

And for the telco it would be better having 10000 people hitting the €50 cap than 100000 paying only €2 or €3 reasonable rates.

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

>The idea being that if you're an American

I guess the one advantage to most Americans staying in America is they don't have to deal with this. You can drive 3000 miles and still be on the same network (unless your on a GSM network like T-Mobile or AT&T and then you do have to watch roaming). Yes yes I know the disadvantages quite well and am glad I spent time working in Europe (seeing in many ways how backwards some things we do/have) but damn is it nice to be home.

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

If it is a *smart* phone then the "no roaming" feature may be left on permanently or at least until a text is sent and acknowledged that allows reasonable data for a reasonable charge (thinking of 3 EU for 100MB on Orange last time I went to Europe).

Turning the phone off seems drastic since texts may be received for nothing and sent for smallish amounts - not to mention the usefulness of using WiFi to give back a lot of expected functionality.

The battery-save feature on my phone can be turned on to disallow *all* non-explicit use of data. This means that one can chat in an app like Skype/Whatsapp but nothing unsolicited can come in, like updates etc. - helps control the data use (and increases battery life).#

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

I was on a trip and met a Canadian who had his network off. Upon being asked why, since he couldn't get texts or know someone need to speak to him, he said that texts cost him money to receive and, given how many he would receive, he had no choice but to disable his entire mobile network until he was home again.

He also paid insane amounts for his contract compared to the UK.

Talk about a scam!

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

> I was on a trip and met a Canadian who had his network off.

<sigh> It is all true. In Canada and the US, you have to *pay* to receive calls, even cold calls.

That's one of the reasons why cold calls on your mobile are so annoying here: they cost you money.

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

They made up for it by offering flat-rate pricing for calls, then for texts. Once you're flat, you stop caring. Data's only starting to go there but some of the data allowances can be generous.

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

On Android the top swipe menu lets you turn off "Mobile Data". You can still send/receive calls and txts (not sure about MMS, but I suspect it's no-send, and receive notifications only), but all apps are blocked, until you turn it back on or connect to a WiFi point.

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Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

But it *can* be phone calls. Before data was a regular part of everyone's diet, roaming only affected phone calls. You tell your carrier you're travelling to whatever country, and they'll happily and easily rig it up for you. You realise why it was so quick and easy when you get home. Three bucks a minute for starters - for any phone call. anywhere anyhow.

It was unlikely to turn in to a ten thousand dollar shocker, but not that far from it either. A couple of grand is still *entirely* unreasonable.

The ONLY incentive that carriers have to change their roaming rates, is money. If their customers are stupid enough to use it as-is, then great, they pay. If their customers bail out and use another carrier, then they have incentive to bring the prices down - better to have some money, than none at all.

One thing for sure, government, lobby groups, or that weirdo on their soapbox aren't going to make ANY difference at all - what the carriers are doing isn't against the law, not even near that end.

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Anonymous Coward

I grudgingly pay my 3£/5Eu a day

I grudgingly pay my 3£/5Eu a day and swear madly when I notice that I have forgotten to turn roaming data off when going outside the Eu.

Technically the capability for voice was in there since the dawn of GSM. When roaming you get a temporary ISDN number for any calls and ISDN allows "redirect/divert" so no calls travel remotely. It was quite deliberately turned off my all mobile providers for years to ensure a feeble technical justification for highway robbery.

Data is a bit different, but doable too. In any case, in the days when anything is packet and fiber has been laid down to even the most remote bits of Eu the whole argument is moot. It does not matter if you trombone the data 3 times, cost is still negligible.

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Re: I grudgingly pay my 3£/5Eu a day

Only that they don't if they don't want to.

The situation is: they charge you like 0,01p per MB to you as a client, and about 5 pounds to everybody else. Noy they decided they could charge 20p.

This is what monopolies create.

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Re: I grudgingly pay my 3£/5Eu a day

I seem to remember a case where people were being charged international rates for calls that terminated in London. The numbers were international format (i.e 0031 or whatever), and it didn't make any cost difference to the telco where the number was physically located. Similar to 0898 numbers i suppose, they don't actually cost any more to provision, they just cost more to call.

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Boffin

Two words

Free WiFi.

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Re: Two words

Except that "Free" is an serious piece of misdirection that should not be allowed under advertising rules. If it was truly free you would not have to pay for it with personal data.

Let me quote you an example, directly from The Cloud:

"Your use of the Services is reliant on you providing us with authorisation for the use of your information as set out in this notice. If you withdraw your authorisation, from us at any time, we will remove access to the Service until you refresh your consent.

Marketing:

You can choose not to receive marketing information and the Services from the Cloud by writing to Data Protection Compliance Officer, Third Floor, Victoria Square, St Albans, AL1 3TF.

You can also choose not to receive marketing information and the Services via the 'unsubscribe' link in marketing communications we send you.

Any choices you make will be held separately from any marketing preferences you may have given to Sky and any of its Affiliates.

Well spotted if you missed something in there: you may be able to opt out of some marketing, but not from all of it. To me, this makes all the statements about it being "free" quite simply lies.

Your personal data has value, so be careful with it using it as a currency to pay for "free" services. If the data leaks, you will pay forever because you cannot change who you are.

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Re: Two words

Who said anything about Sky? 'Free' wi-fi can usually be found in your hotel or a coffee shop. Your probably going to visit those places on holiday anyway, so why not make use of it?

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Re: Two words

Not in all countries. In Germany, for example, the operator is responsible for all activity on their network; so free wi-fi is a rare thing indeed.

Outside of the UK I disable roaming data, never make calls, never take calls and only use texts if I absolutely have to.

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Big Brother

Re: Two words

Don't go on holiday in the UK then. The weather is miserable anyway. Clouds everywhere.

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Re: Two words

Your personal data has value, so be careful with it using it as a currency to pay for "free" services. If the data leaks, you will pay forever because you cannot change who you are.

The "personal data" that these providers tend to receive from me consists of an entirely separate and unused email address along with whatever other arbitrary and entirely fictional information I am forced to supply at the time. And I'll definitely never install their "helper" apps that appear to exist solely to fuck things up and liberate more information.

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Re: Two words

@Nick,

Maybe for you but what about aunty mabel, uncle fred, my mum etc. They barely know how to operate their own email (jebus, my father in law is STILL using an old supanet webmail account from the days he had dialup.)

The fact is it isnt free and not available everywhere. Plus have you tried to use free wifi in theme parks? Sometimes you have to use phone data (granted the cells are usually just as croweded in theme parks too although disneyland seem to cope ok)

Typically I use a cheap "holiday sim" if im going somewhere, generally for a €10 I have enough to hotspot my phone for a holiday.

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Re: Two words

I disable roaming data, never make calls, never take calls

...err, why bother taking your phone with you at all then?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Two words

> ...err, why bother taking your phone with you at all then?

Alarm clock function.

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Re: Two words

Who needs alarm clock on a holiday???

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Anonymous Coward

"Roaming makes no sense in a single market – it’s economic madness."

Agreed, but would also add:

"Different charges / rules for the same content based on where you are in the EU makes no sense in a single market - it's economic madness"

Good luck with telling that to the football thieves - sorry, "owners of territory-based football rights within the EU 'single market' - that no EU person has the * to take on. </rant>

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Bronze badge

Single market.

What part of that do the telcos not understand ?

Well, perhaps the word market as they obviously operate a cartel.

Witness Vodaphone-sponsored UK Gov opposition to previous cuts in roaming costs -- many UK civil servants jumped ship from regulating telcos to working for them.

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Anonymous Coward

Single market.

What part of that do the telcos not understand ?

The bit that says they should somehow agree to making fewer profits. Telco's are dreadfully inefficient because they have always been making serious money as monopolies or quasi monopolies - I cannot see them trim that fat because it's almost embedded in their processes.

Having said that, there is something for the argument that they should be allowed to recoup investment in new services (although not in 1 year if the tariffs are anything to go on), so here is my proposal:

Give people 3G at a sensible speed for the one charge that rules it all (as long as they're in Europe). If anyone wants it faster (4G to nG), fair enough, let that be sold at a premium for a couple of years (maybe every time they upgrade, drop the "old" version into flat fee EU roaming). Personally, I'm OK with 3G but I can see that some people need more, and somehow this investment has to be paid for or innovation will slow to a crawl.

Witness Vodaphone-sponsored UK Gov opposition to previous cuts in roaming costs -- many UK civil servants jumped ship from regulating telcos to working for them

That's not exactly a new event. Microsoft pretty much walked into UK government after someone who originally worked at a high level joined them, even though the previous government set out on a course based on Open Source and Open Standards - they're only now recovering that direction. Naturally, that person did very well out of it...

However, this doesn't always have to point at something insidious. Given how complex government can get, it makes sense for companies to get hold of an insider.

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Unhappy

What does she expect

The Telcos have been "stealing" money from punters for long and weary with these damned "roaming" charges which represent no value whatsoever for the client.

Since I live/work on the French/Swiss border I am only too aware of what it means to forget to turn off roaming- my bills remind me very quickly . Like many people that live/work around the European borders there are few solutions.

1 : Possess two telephones, one for each country.

2 : Turn off roaming on all phones.

3 : Have dual SIM cards.

4 : Pretend that Europe doesn't actually exist and that France /Switzerland are actually Beelions of Kms apart and that that is the justification for the excessive charges...

Anything but anything to avoid those charges which are nothing more than pure and utter theft.

And it makes no difference whatsover that I use Orange France and Orange Switzerland for both contracts, it appears that Orange doesn't actually speak to it's fellow Europeans counterparts/subsidiries unless of course they are fixing the roaming charges..

It cost me almost nothing to use my "landline" to phone 60 odd countries in the world and yet it costs me the price of a leasing a small car to phone my neighbours ( 2kms away) when I use the mobile phone.... go figure..

What's the point in having One Europe. Why can't we have One Physical Network, ie all the operators share the same masts/technology, they all provide the same services anyway and completely eradicate the ramiog charges once and for all.

C'mon Neely, push the laws into effect NOW. Stop the bribes and backhanders and show us that Europe really is a community.

[Rant off]

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Re: What does she expect

I heard rumour that CERN (its campus straddles the Franco-Swiss border) tried to solve the issue by making a deal with a Swiss provider. They got the telco to put a cell or two on the French side of the campus so that they wouldn't get stung by roaming charges just for getting a push message while they popped down to the canteen for a coffee and a croissant.

Mind you, it is very good coffee, so it's almost worth the roaming charges :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What does she expect

Last time I looked, Switzerland wasn't in the European Union so it might as well be beelions of miles (or should that be kilometres) away!

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Unwanted roaming data

During a trip to Portugal, my GF was surprised to find a few €s in data roaming charges, when she had disabled data roaming on her phone before leaving.

Turns out that due to some kind of bug in Android, there can be a small window of time, right after connecting to the network, during which the phone is connected to the network, but it doesn't know it's roaming. If the phone decides to download an update at this point, sure enough it will download until it figures out it's roaming.

Yeah, I know - I wouldn't believe it either, but I saw this happen with my own eyes. I googled the issue, and I'm not the only one either. I don't know what versions of Android are affected; the phone in question was 2.3.

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Coat

There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

Some holidaymakers want a holiday away from people who pester them day and night at home, and away from electronic gadgets that interrupt relaxation and pester for attention every few minutes. I quite happily choose to switch the phone off when I am on holiday and just turn it on once a day to pick up any messages.

Of course roaming charges still need to be reduced/got rid of. Coat because it is probably still cold and wet on holiday.

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Trollface

Re: There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

Cool story, Grandad. Some people just ignore/block the pesterers for the duration, and make their tech work for *them*.

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Silver badge

Re: There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

I can see you point, but how about these:

You're on holiday to enjoy yourself. If your form of enjoying yourself includes being in (near constant) touch with friends and families then there's nothing wrong with that.

You're on holiday to get away from it all and isolate yourself. Turn the phone off. Until, of course, you find that you'd like to know exactly-ish (GPS) where you are on your maps that are rather more convenient on a mobile device than the paper variety. Then the maps need to be downloaded. Then you find that you'd like to locate the nearest good taverna rather than the flea ridden cess pit you "found" the previous day. You can, of course, do things the way these things were done 20 years ago but technology is available to assist so why not use it?

Now the trick is to manage it all and exercise self control. Will finding out the local, to your home, sports results improve your day that much? Are you able to ignore or turn off the work emails so you can deal with them when you return to work, not in your free time?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

I had mobes in the late-'80s/early-90s, initially as they were a job requirement - and already pocket-size! Used to turn it off at times because of being pestered by the office. Also used to have to go to Vodaphone at Newbury to get it fixed from time to time! After that job I bought - and lost while riding a motorbike - a few mobes of my own. And gradually grew to dislike them; the anxiety of not being connected. So I carried one, but turned off.

In the early-00's had a visit from mum and dad and we went for a drive in his car. On Dartmoor. And we only just made it to a petrol station before the reserve went dry! I was glad I had the mobe 'just in case'. Worst case I could have turned it on and climbed a hill to get a signal.

A couple of years later dad was seriously-ill - heart trouble. We gave him a mobe, but he wouldn't use it. About the same time his sister - osteoporosis - crashed her car in a ditch; sat in it a couple of hours before a friend happened upon her. Her daughter gave her a mobe after that but true to form she wouldn't use it either.

There was an argument for dad and his sis - both gone now - to have mobes but not turned on. We, their children, needed ours on all the time though.

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Silver badge

Re: There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

I used my phone for data abroad. I take pictures and email them to my Mum ('cause she asked me to). Sometimes I check the local traffic if im driving, especially when im in france. I look at the snow forecast and see which are the better slopes. I download vouchers if I happen to change my plans. Email on roaming is STILL cheaper than MMS in the UK so emailing the kids info is also good.

etc etc

Not all of it is facebook (although some of that does happen especially with the kids).

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