Done roamin' - be sure to check GPRS costs before travelling

O2 blasted for Spanish prices - clarity the order of the day
Written by Tony Hallett, Contributor

O2 blasted for Spanish prices - clarity the order of the day

Mobile phone users returning from trips abroad this summer are being shocked when they receive bills for GPRS data access they've used while roaming. One anomaly in pricing - affecting O2 customers from the UK travelling to either Austria or Spain - has caused particular concern, though experts are warning all operators must be clear about their charges One silicon.com reader, Fred Perkins, wrote in about a recent trip to Spain. He said O2's "service folk" were very helpful in getting his GPRS-enabled phone to connect to his laptop via Bluetooth but was surprised when he saw his eventual bill. While O2 normally charges £7.05 per megabyte (MB) plus £1.38 per day for GPRS roaming around the world, charges for its 'Tier B' partner networks are £21.15 per MB and £4.13 per day. The problem arises in Austria and Spain because there are only Tier B options available. This means somebody downloading a sizeable presentation while on business in Madrid, for example, faces a bill of tens of pounds. A spokeswoman for O2 told silicon.com: "We'd hope to improve the clarity [of what we offer] with the introduction of flat rate roaming, which is something we're looking at introducing soon." Perkins, however, has been left with a bad taste in his mouth. He ended his email: "These charges are positively onerous. How on earth can they be jusitified?" O2, like all operators, has to strike deals in countries where it does not own network infrastructure. In Spain, none of its agreements lend themselves to 'Tier A' pricing. Otherwise its charges are fairly similar to those of other operators. Orange mainly charges £8.51 per MB downloaded with no daily fee, though that price goes up to £10 in Poland and Switzerland and £25 in Hong Kong and Singapore. T-Mobile charges £7.68 per MB and claims to have the most extensive roaming network of al operators in the UK, even extending to GSM-based T-Mobile in the US. One of its packages promises "up to" 3MB for £5. Vodafone, known for having the most extensive list of networks which it either owns completely or partly, charges £8.75 per MB, though a promotion on at the moment takes that down to £3.50. A spokeswoman for Oftel pointed out GPRS, as a roaming product, is still fairly new. Its advice - as with costs for voice calls and as per past investigations - is to check pricing before going away. A representative from one of the UK's best-known telecoms user groups suggested it is an issue that should be handled more at an EU level.
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