by Derek Kerton

Looking Forward To EU Roaming Price Cuts? Get The Details.

International cellular roaming rates are notoriously high. Huge, surprise bills often await holidaymakers when they return back from a trip. The source of the problem is the very high rates that the host wireless carriers charge the inbound roamers, which get passed back to the subscriber's bill with a ~20% surcharge from the home carrier. With my Cingular phone, I frequently pay up to $4 per minute for calls in Europe. The EU government, in a bid to help their citizens and the free flow of people and commerce throughout the EU, has been working on regulations to limit the rates for roamers. Last year, Carlo Longino opined that using regulations haphazardly would amount to "ballon squeezing", in that the EU telcos would lower rates where required, but like a squeezed balloon, a bulge would appear elsewhere and carriers would raise rates in unregulated areas to try to make up the difference.

Since then, the EU has settled on capping roaming rates for other EU subscribers in a move that regulators estimate will save EU subscribers 4.4 billion. But unfortunately, Carlo was right. Non EU citizens will will feel the balloon bulging. A recent report from Informa telecoms suggests the carriers will respond by increasing the roaming rates they charge non-European visitors. This looks a lot like the 2003 hotel room-phone charges that went up instead of down as a response to cell phones: some hotels simply gouged those who didn't or couldn't use a cellphone.

What's the net net? Contact your cellular provider before going abroad to find out what the rates are. Don't forget to ask about mobile data rates, too, if you use mobile e-mail. Beware that unless settings are adjusted, your Blackberry or Treo will likely connect to a local network as soon as you power on, and will start incurring data roaming fees whether you look at your e-mail or not. If you're staying for a while, consider picking up a local pre-paid SIM card for your GSM phone.

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  • identicon
    Snidely, 17 Mar 2009 @ 7:17am

    Don't overstate your case

    Derek, you are grossly overestimating the roaming costs you incur while roaming. Cingular roaming rates in the EU are $1.29 per minute for the major destinations. Yes, they gouge you by rounding up to the nearest minute, but let's tone down the hyperbole. All major US operators offer rates between $0.99 and $1.50 for roaming in most EU countries.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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