An investigation by ZDNet UK has exposed the massive charges levied by mobile phone operators on users who download data when abroad.
Data services are increasingly being promoted by mobile phone operators; they let users connect to their corporate email and browse the Web even when they're away from a fixed Internet connection.
When used in the UK, these data services are usually covered by monthly subscriptions, but those who use data services on a pay-as-you-go basis can get a nasty surprise — and this can include contract customers when they travel abroad.
Charges of up to £20 per megabyte mean that it can cost 24p just to view Google's famously light front page over GPRS or 3G data services from abroad — and that is before users have even searched for the information they need and incurred a series of much higher charges as they navigate through destination pages.
A download of a single iTunes track could cost up to £100. One ZDNet UK reader found himself lumped with a bill for £769 for using Orange's data services in France and Germany to download around 80MB. The same usage in the UK would have cost under £10.
[? /*CMS poll(20003887) */ ?]Although Orange is the worst offender, all mobile phone networks charge disproportionately high rates for roaming.
The problem is compounded in many cases by a lack of clear information from the operators. Some users who use 3G data cards in their notebook PCs are not provided with any form of metering to tell them how much the services are costing in real time. In these cases, users will not know what they are being charged until they receive their bill, which can easily be six or seven weeks later — more than enough time for them to have run up even higher charges.
ZDNet UK asked the operators whether they would warn a user if they suddenly incurred huge costs due to using data services abroad, but at the time of posting this story none had responded.
ZDNet UK's investigation also found that...