Stop the data-roaming madness

Data-roaming rates are unjustifiably high, because the operators see no reason to change. Let's give them that reason
Written by Leader , Contributor

After the introduction of long-distance phone services in the 1920s, telephone operators learned that no price is too high to justify. Once a line was installed, a long-distance call cost the operators very little more than a local one — but it could be charged at hundreds of times the local rate. The users had no say but to pay.

It took many decades of regulatory pressure and, in the end, the flat-rate global internet to break that monopolistic exploitation. The same thinking lives on, however, in international data roaming. With no international regulator, network operators are free to charge each other what they like — and the punter always pays.

It turns out that what the operators like is mark-ups that, in some cases, approach 80,000 percent. With that drug in their nostrils, they have no interest in anything else.

Like everyone on the planet with a passport and a mobile phone, ZDNet UK has felt the pain of funding the operators' habits. For years, we've asked operators how they justify this. We've never had an answer that stood up. Now, we've asked you what you think: this time, we've had no shortage of replies.

The level of customer misery, frustration and anger is the highest we've ever seen, on any topic. You know that when you can video-call over the internet from the UK to Australia for free, there is no justification for the same service costing £700 an hour over 3G. You know that one bad configuration setting of a smartphone abroad can lead to a bill costing more than the flight there and back. You know that operators have no interest in this changing.

It must change. It's holding back the entire industry; it's frustrating customers at the very time they need mobile internet the most; it's entirely, enormously and unambiguously unfair. With the extortionate rates of roaming removed, the benefits to everyone — including the operators, despite themselves — will be undeniable. There is no technical, operational or practical reason for these rates to continue — none, that is, except greed.

But with no global regulator, the only way it will change is through consumer action. That's why, with support from our sister sites in the US, Asia and Australia, we've started our Campaign for Fair Data Roaming — and why we need you to help.

Read our findings. Read our Charter for Fair Data Roaming. If you want the network operators to commit to fairness, sign our petition asking them to agree. You can also talk to us at dataroaming@zdnet.co.uk.

It's a cliche to say that your voice counts: in this case, nothing else will work.

Over to you.

Sign the petition for fair data roaming.

Editorial standards