Thursday, June 07, 2012

The cost of data roaming

It's a standard tale - someone travels abroad and comes back to a massive phone bill. "But" they complain "I hardly made any phone calls". That's as may be, but in the background your phone was probably polling your email, sending those photos you took to be synced up to the cloud and all other things you take for granted working in the background.

While travelling in Europe may 'only' cost you 40p per minute a single Megabyte of data may cost you £3.

But wait didn't the EU get stroppy about all this, didn't they impose some sort of limit? Yes they did. The first thing to note is that the limit is price based at €50; so how much you actually get is dependent on how much your mobile provider is trying to squeeze out of you. At £3 per Mb that's 13Mb a month. Take 7 pictures that autosync to your cloud and that's your monthly limit gone.

Ah but wait

  • Consumers can also select a different cut-off limit if offered by the operator or opt out of this bill shock safeguard entirely.
  • Operators are obliged to send users a warning whey they reach 80% of their data-roaming bill limit. The operator will have to cut off the mobile internet connection once the limit has been reached, unless the customer has indicated they want to continue data roaming.
Interpretation of these two rules is what lets mobile operators off the hook. Go on holiday take a few photos and watch your data limit get smashed and they'll send you a little text asking if you if you want to continue. Well of course you do so you say yes. You have now opted out of the limit entirely not just for this period but forever. As you now have no limit they have no proviso to warn you about your data usage. It's up to you to contact them to have the limit put back in place.

At least they operators offer their own cheaper bundles for data. Yeah great except remember that means you have again opted out of the EU data limit. Exceed your bundle allowance they don't have to tell you and you're back on the £3/Mb tariff.

One final note - recall that £3 per Mb? The EU capped prices at €0.50 or 40p per Mb. Que? Well that's wholesale prices; what you as a "consumer" get charged is up to the provider. That £2.60 difference is all gravy.

The joke is that there's a simple solution - make a consumer opt in every €50 worth of data. If they're using a bundle tell them when they exceed that and revert to the €50 opt-in.


Orphi said...

It's news to me that you can access Internet data using a mobile phone.

Or rather, while theoretically this ought to be a very simple thing to do from a technical perspective, it's news to me that there are any handsets for sale under £25,000 which have this ability, or that any networks support it for less than £1,000 per KB.

In other words, I had no idea this was cheap enough for anyone except the CEO of a major corporation to be able to afford.

Sometimes I feel like I'm really out of touch…

FlipC said...

Well it makes sense if you ask "How do the mobile phone pylons talk to each other?"

Orphi said...

Again, from a technical perspective, this ought to be easy. The problem is that if it were possible, the network operators would surely charge extortionate prices for it, such that only a CEO would be able to afford it.

PS. Why is the CAPTCHA a picture of a door knob?

FlipC said...

But that's where competition is supposed to step in. As more and more people become dependent on the internet more and more providers will step in and force the prices down; you know unless you're abroad in which case bend over.

As for the CAPTCHA yeah I'd noticed that in a few other places. I think Google are using their Streetview pictures with the occasional problem.