GPRS roaming stirs up an old kettle of fish
When silicon.com heard about the prices some users are being asked to pay for GPRS while roaming across Europe, we thought a knee-jerk reaction wasn't called for.
Operators around the world, typically burdened by debts incurred from 3G ventures, must have some high-margin areas. Something like GPRS abroad - allowing decent-speed connectivity over phones, or through laptops or PDAs suitably connected with PC cards or to the same phones - is a high-value service that wasn't even possible just a couple of years ago.
The problem materialises when end users have no idea what their bill is going to look like. O2's costs for customers going to Austria and Spain are high because of the deals it has struck with operators in those countries. These things happen.
However, for it - or anyone else - to assume users will know that before they travel or not balk at a bill many times its usual level is, at the very best, naïve.
The introduction of flat rate pricing for GPRS - something that is well on its way domestically and has happened with other types of mobile data technology in certain parts of the world - should help matters. All-you-can-eat buffet pricing gives users certainty and a reason to experiment with mobile data services.
Perhaps most importantly it is incumbent on operators of all varieties to be clear with their pricing. Watchdog Oftel has looked into roaming costs for voice calls in the past - using the examples of Britons visiting France and Ireland - and has a boring but sensible message: Consumers should check prices before going away.
When those prices are buried in small print there is a very real problem and that's when people really start to begrudge tariff levels.