International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

Summary:International data roaming charges remain a big issue for travelers and many respondents to a ZDNet survey noted that the billing process wasn't transparent enough. The only edge you have is Wi-Fi.

International data roaming charges remain a big issue for travelers and many respondents to a ZDNet survey noted that the billing process wasn't transparent enough. The only edge you have is Wi-Fi.

Horror stories about data roaming stories were everywhere. It's not surprising that the wide majority of ZDNet readers around the globe thought international data roaming rates were a rip-off. To wit:

  1. Difficult to know exactly how large the bill waiting at home will be. Costing is not transparent.
  2. "Telcos are the only border keepers in Europe. Nobody ever remember exactly where borders within EU are, then you look on your mobile, and see border's nonsense, carriers fighting to trap you."
  3. "While I haven't been hit with roaming charges, a friend very quickly ran up a phone bill of nearly $2,000, the main component - 77 megabytes of data downloaded in Germany. The going price was $20,000 a gig (though 3). Comparing that to my home plan, were I to use it all at that price I would be up for $1,000,000 - totally unacceptable. If nothing else, they should at least apply a bulk discount. Other people I know have run up large bills overseas, but for a more realistic mix of calls and data, where you expect to be hit for not buying a local pre-paid SIM."
  4. "I knew I wanted to use very limited data on a recent trip to the US (occasional Twitter/Foursquare updates, maps, Google search occasionally) so rang Telstra and asked for a data roaming pack before I left. I have no idea what that was for, as I still ended up with over $1,600 in data charges in less than a week."
  5. "Outrageously expensive, daylight robbery. I have been stung twice now with ridiculously high bills. They just let you rack up costs without informing you. And I still do not know what caused these high charges, you just get a bill. In Moscow the costs for a WiMax box is around $30 per month, unlimited downloads, and I paid $1,500 in roaming charges for I don't even know what. Thieves they are."
  6. "I avoid data roaming - no one has died yet because I avoided data roaming. So far. I have done great with Wi-Fi at the business sites and lodgings I have visited abroad."

The survey had 1,308 respondents and was conducted between March 14 and March 24. Among the key findings:

  • A wide margin of respondents in all regions thought international data roaming rates were too higher or much too high.
  • Most respondents had to foot a big chunk of the data roaming and Wi-Fi charges when traveling. Not surprising at least 77 percent of respondents thought international data rates were an important issue.
  • Folks in Asia---63 percent of respondents---were the most savvy at buying pay-as-you-go SIM cards to avoid data roaming charges. In Europe and the U.S. only 41 percent and 42 percent of respondents bought pay-as-you-go SIM cards, respectively.
  • Generally speaking, data roaming is a bigger issue in Europe, which juggles multiple carriers, than other regions.
  • However, respondents in the Asia felt the most hosed by their data roaming bills.

  • Europeans tend to do the most bandwidth intensive activities on both the smartphone and laptop/tablet.

  • 60 percent of respondents in Asia used their phone for laptop connectivity, followed by Australasia at 40 percent; Europe at 35 percent; and Americas at 28 percent.
  • Data roaming price drops would alter behavior.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Networking


Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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