Posts tagged roaming
Making calls with your cell phone while traveling abroad can be a hefty investment. Domestic carriers have a wide range of international calling plans and roaming fees that can quickly add up.
But there are some alternatives coming onto the market.
Canadian company Polar Wireless has come out with a “global key chip,” a thin SIM card that can be inserted into most GSM (which account for more than 80 percent of the market) and some CDMA cell phones, which allows users to bypass their carrier’s roaming fees.
Polar Wireless’ average rates are 28 cents per minute, compared to what the company claims are the average international carrier rates of $2.59 per minute.
Polar Wireless subscribers with GSM devices will be able to take their phone (with their existing phone number) to 213 countries with 500 partner carrier networks. They will have access to voice, data and texting services. The company says it provides carrier grade connectivity via standard cell phone towers globally.
Polar Wireless touted that one of the advantages of the global key chip over mobile services such as Skype or Google Talk is that those require Wi-fi, which is not available everywhere.
Another option is getting a global phone. Tour company Big Five Tours & Expeditions has partnered with Wireless Traveler to promote Wireless Traveler’s global phones, which can be purchased for between $95 and $180. With the Wireless Traveler plan, the phones work in more than 200 countries and have no monthly fees.
Users are charged per call and per text. So, for example, if you’re with your phone in France, an outgoing call to the U.S. costs 65 cents per minute and outgoing texts to the U.S. are 38 cents per minute. Incoming calls and texts from the U.S. to your phone in France are free. Rates vary depending on which country you’re in and which country you’re calling to, so it’s worth comparing and doing the math compared to your carrier’s calling plan.
More from Budget Travel:
Using Your Cell Phone in Europe
What’s the biggest phone bill you’ve ever been socked with after returning from a trip?
What’s the best social network for travel?
The European Commission will have to consider radical new measures to reduce the cost of mobile roaming charges after almost all respondents to its consultation said prices were unfair.
European roaming prices are currently more than three times that of domestic charges. Even Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes on Monday described the current charges as “rip offs.” And the prices for data roaming are even higher. “The consumer often pays less than 5 cents for downloading a MB of data at home, but this may turn into 2.60 Euro per MB when the same consumer crosses an invisible border!”"said Kroes.
This is despite efforts by the Commission to bring prices down. Caps on roaming were introduced in 2007. Travelers’ data-roaming limit is by default set at €50 (US$67) excluding VAT and operators must send users a warning when they reach 80 percent of that. Customers may alter this limit, but the aim of the default setting was to remove the so-called “shock bill” received by many customers on return from abroad.
These rules will apply until the end of June 2012, but the Commission is due to present new plans by June this year aimed at getting closer to the target of zero difference between roaming and national tariffs by 2015.
One idea is to unbundle roaming services from other mobile services, allowing customers to purchase roaming independently of their national mobile provider. Such a move could create an entirely new telecom market.
Other suggestions include legislation to mandate a direct lick between roaming tariffs and domestic prices. “Initial indications from our consultation suggest strong support for continuing price regulation. A significant number of respondents seem to accept that some form of retail price regulation would also need to be introduced for data roaming,” said Kroes.
A Eurobarometer survey, also released on Monday, revealed that 72 percent of European mobile phone users limit their voice calls while abroad because they are worried about the cost, while about one in five has cut down their use of roaming services in the past four years.
Meanwhile, Ryanair on Monday launched a roaming service together with Maxroam. Although it claims to be “the world’s first free mobile phone roaming service” customers still have to pay for making calls at a fixed rate of €0.29 per minute, and for sending texts at €0.09 each. But Ryanair has also offered 1 million free minutes for incoming calls.
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The benevolent bunch that is European Commission finally decided to look into mobile phone roaming fees, deeming them too steep. Apparently, the margins are “unjustifiably high” and the EU plans to erase the difference between roaming and local calls by 2015.
With that in mind, the EC introduced a cap on calls, texts and data downloads this summer. The caps stand at 39 euro cents per minute (VAT not included) for calls in roaming whereas receiving a call in roaming should not exceed 15 euro cents per minute.
Phone companies expressed willingness to go with this plan and say they have been working on it. The EC, however, found many EU operators to still linger near those caps and formed a commission that would facilitate the process. Good luck with that.
We find it strange that it would take this much to figure out that telecom operators make a killing on roaming and will most probably continue to do so (Oh Skype, where art though sub.ed.). While we’re not complaining, it’s easy for one to think that these officials either don’t own phones, don’t leave their respective countries or have too much money to keep track of when paying their bills.
EU to force mobile phone operators to abolish high ‘roaming’ charges
By Sean Poulter
Last updated at 11:42 PM on 8th December 2010
Mobile phone networks have been put on notice that the EU plans to stop them charging more to use handsets when visiting other member states.
For years, Britons have been charged very high fees to make calls and send texts when visiting the Continent for a holiday or business.
The gap between these overseas ‘roaming’ charges and those levied within the UK has come down substantially over the last five years, following a change in the law by the EU.
However, the European Commission yesterday made clear it wants the tariffs to be exactly the same.
The EU Commissioner for Europe’s digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, said the price gap between domestic mobile charges and roaming rates remains unjustifiably high.
Consequently, she said her ultimate aim is to reduce the gap to nothing by 2015.
To date, the Commission has legislated to bring down the cost of making calls and sending texts while visiting other member states.
In future, it plans to do more to reduce the extortionate cost of using smartphones to surf the web or download data when abroad in Europe.
‘Huge differences between domestic and roaming charges have no place in a true EU single market,’ said Miss Kroes.
She suggested the mobile phone market in Europe is dominated by a few large players like Orange, Vodafone and O2, which means there is too little competition on prices.
‘We need to address the source of current problems, namely a lack of competition, and to find a durable solution,’ she said.
The Commission is conducting a consultation on the next step that should be taken to cope with rip-offs that occur when people use handsets when visiting other EU states.
Consumers, businesses, telecom operators and public authorities are being invited to give their views to Brussels and Miss Kroes will publish proposals for ‘appropriate solutions’ next June.
The Commission said: ‘Particular areas of interest are the impact of EU rules on mobile users and service providers and what further measures could be taken to promote competition and consumer satisfaction.
‘The Commission wants all roaming customers to have rapid and easy access to competitive roaming tariffs for voice, SMS and data, where operators’ prices to consumers would be more closely aligned with the true cost of efficiently providing roaming services.’
The measures will be challenged by the mobile networks which have previously made clear that any cut in the cost of using mobiles overseas will be met with a corresponding increase in other charges.
British mobile phone networks have put up charges to use phones in recent years to claw back income lost from lower call charges applied overseas.
Significantly, the European Commission only has powers to regulate mobile phone charges within the EU.
The caps on charges do not apply when Britons travel to other destinations such as the USA and the Far East.