Home & Office

Avoiding the telcos' global roaming greed

Vodafone New Zealand is halving its global roaming charges for data. Though welcome, the move hasn't been rapturously received.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

Vodafone New Zealand is halving its global roaming charges for data. Though welcome, the move hasn't been rapturously received.

As of yesterday, the charge will be $5 per megabit as opposed to $10. As we all know, such roaming charges are still many, many times over what we would pay domestically.

For Vodafone, the multiple sits at 50 times what one would pay at home. No wonder such roaming delivers fat profits for the telcos.

Indeed, global roaming is tipped to be a US$70 billion market by 2015, nearly double what it is today, fuelled by a growth of smart devices.

However, such charges, horrendous as they are, are hardly news. Stories of people receiving bills into the thousands of dollars have been around for years.

Such "bill shock" would make headlines in the papers and on TV, so by now you would expect people to be aware of the problem and prepare for it.

There have also been campaigns from organisations like the Telecom Users Association of New Zealand. Its newly departed boss Ernie Newman gave the issue added attention in his final months.

Now, we see governments at both sides of the Tasman investigating the issue.

Interestingly enough, our ICT ministers Steven Joyce and Stephen Conroy first discussed the matter of joint regulation in June last year, with more formal inquiries starting this May. Both government agencies and private businesses have recently produced reports confirming high prices.

It looks like it's time for them to act. But can you regulate against people's stupidity?

Like I say, this is a well-known problem, something anyone with any IT or business nous should be aware of.

Either way, as people advise, this is how you can avoid it:

  • Check what the rates are before you travel.
  • Use a local prepay SIM. If the local prepays don't take SIMs, like Japan, you can buy a cheap prepay. That's what I did in Canada recently and now, in the UK, where prepay mobile phones can be had for a tenner, I use a phone I bought last year. My wallet is also full of SIM cards from several countries too.
  • Use the wireless and broadband systems in the hotels and motels. Many have free wireless nowadays so cost should not be an issue. And in large cities and tourist spots, there will often be cybercafes.
  • Turn off automatic downloads.
  • And if you get a big bill, complain to the telco, your friends and the media!

It does seem like telling people to suck eggs, but there we go. Actions like this can prevent us from falling for the greedy and excessive global roaming charges. Indeed, if the providers charged a "fairer" rate, we might not need to undertake such evasive action.

Editorial standards