International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

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, Wi-Fi

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  • Old scam, new face

    Remember how hotels gouged you every time you picked up the phone in a room? This is the same thing. And it's so profitable that they can afford to bribe regulators into letting it happen.
    terry flores
    • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

      @terry flores
      Thanks for such a nice and updated information. I got some interesting tips from this post.
      <a href="">donna cerca uomo milano</a>
  • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

    At least action is being taken in some areas
  • Apparently you want to be robbed

    This is why you should buy your phone UNLOCKED and OFF-CONTRACT. Because then you just pop in any pay-as-you-go sim card, bought locally wherever you are in the world.

    But you don't do that in the US, do you? You really, really want your phones subsidized by the carrier. Because full price is "expensive". Guess what's even more expensive? 2-year-long contracts and roaming charges.

    Where I live 2-year-long contracts have been made illegal to protect the consumer from excessive carrier lock-in.
    • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

      @Ronny102 Can't argue with you, really, but let me try. ;) Once T-Mobile is bought by AT&T, there will be only one national carrier using GSM in the U.S. The other two national carriers use CDMA. That presents a rather large barrier to changing carriers.
    • Bang on


      I just picked up two used BB 8520 for international travel. One was already unlocked and the other my son unlocked. They will first be used in the US and later in Europe. Get a local prepaid SIM, and you are set to go.

      I have never understood the "subsidized" phone pricing in the US. Are the consumers really that gullible? Apparently yes, including some of the ZDNet bloggers.
  • It is a rip-off - and it should be stopped.

    There is a new push for lower roaming fees going on at least in Europe and there are some campaigns against that rip-off now, like this one:
  • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

    A rip off here in Europe - EU regulators have started regulating whilst useless British government (I'm a Brit) is fighting them, taking Telcos' bribes
  • European Roaming rates

    I am about to try abroadband - 59eurocents per megabyte in 50 countries, apparently
    • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed


      Get a sim card for the country you're travelling to for under $10.00, then pay as you go. At the price you are paying, 1GB will cost you about $800.00 US. Robbery!
  • It's all about the profit

    In Canada I recall hearing that the major GSM operator's annual financial statement reported they made half a billion dollars one year just on roaming revenues. Fleecing tourists is very profitable! As long as they are only robbing foreigners the Canadian telecom regulators could not give a damn.
  • Verizon in Canada

    I live in the USA and have Verizon. I travel to Canada regularly in which I use to just change my plan to Nationwide plus Canada with Data, and it was only like $20 more a month while in Canada. Three weeks ago I tried to do this same thing and Verizon changed it plans, and the most data I could pay for is 200MB for $100.00. This is pure and simple robbery. No one at Verizon could explain why this had changed and why it was so outrageously expensive. This will be a major problem now when I travel to Canada and want to use my phones data plan. Guess I will just have to find an alternative to Verizon!
  • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

    I travel frequently to the UK. My North American carrier uses CDMA and my phone will not work there, so instead I bought a cheap UK phone and use that when I am in the UK. I have done the same with my wife so we have two UK phones now. It is still expensive but a lot less than paying roaming charges.
  • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

    My Nexus One has never been worth more to me, than on a trip to Norway. Just buy a local pre-paid SIM and forget the mess. Add the number to GV...
  • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

    Up until last year, Sprint/Blackberry had an unlimited global roaming plan for $60/month. Guess they realized they were missing out on a gold mine.
  • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

    Every time I read this kind of article I'm more convinced that I've made the right choice. There is nothing easier and cheaper than buy an International Sim card.
    Me and my husband have two from WorldSIM and we use it in every travel (business or leisure). With free incoming calls in over 90 countries you can't go wrong, check their rates and you'll find out for yourselves.
    • My husband and I........

      @soffiass <br><br>You would never say "me have ...." you would say "I have....". Furthermore, it is impolite to mention yourself first.<br><br>I know, millions of native English speakers make the same mistakes. Frankly, I often wonder if they learned anything in school.
  • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

    Yup, this is my biggest bugbear when I travel. All those talk about ubiquitous Internet access is a bull. I have turned Data Roaming permanently off after being hit by bills that shocked me. The next best thing I do is to buy a local SIM card for data access but not all countries have it and some require you to register.
  • Yes, International Phone & Data Roaming is a Ripoff

    My solution was to transfer from Verizon's CDMA network to AAT's GSM and get an iPhone. I activated the ATT international calling and also bought their 25MB per month data package. I kept data roaming off unless it was necessary to occasionally check e-mail or Google maps for directions while in Europe. I was fortunate to find a few free WiFi hotspots. I reset the data counters on the phone monthly and checked the amount used frequently.

    Yes, it was expensive, but nothing like the costs quoted in the article. I did check the costs for local SIM cards. There are restrictions and and registrations that are difficult for non-residents. It was much simpler to use Skype and other data services from a free WiFi at a cafe or restaurant.

    It comes down to personal responsibility: research before you leave, activate appropriate phone & data plans, and monitor your usage.
  • RE: International data roaming rates: You're being robbed

    I found another interesting option for beating roaming rates on twitter :