Free to roam this summer, but beware the hidden traps
Chiara Cavaglieri and Julian Knight look for ways of cutting the cost of using a mobile abroad
Sunday 12 July 2009
Many consumers are still unaware of the significant charges they can face when using their mobiles abroad this summer. The long-awaited price caps from the European Commission came into force at the beginning of the month.
Network operators have been busy texting Britons flying abroad telling them that roaming charges – a fee for moving between continental mobile network operators – have been abolished.
But the danger is that consumers will take their eye off the ball and be stung with high fees levied on other services while holidaying in the EU. "Despite the abolition of roaming charges, even relatively simple operations can lead to an expensive bill when you return home," says James Parker, mobile phone expert at price comparison service Moneysupermarket.com. "For instance, not only do customers pay to make calls but they also pay to receive them."
Under the new EU-imposed price regime, operators cannot charge more than 43 cents (37p) per minute for calls made within the EU. Receiving a call has been capped at 19 cents and will fall even further to 11 cents in July 2011 and texting can cost no more than 11 cents. While these moves are in the right direction, the caps are still high and charges still vary from one provider to the next. It is also worth noting that the price caps are in euros so the actual cost to Britons will vary along with the sterling/euro exchange rate.
Vodafone customers are already safe in the knowledge, for the next few weeks at least, that they can call and text abroad as they would at home after the company waived roaming charges until 31 August. Under the summer promotion, customers can make calls using any minutes or texts from their bundles, in 35 European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand, without paying the usual connection fee of 75p. To take advantage of the promotion, customers must opt into the Vodafone Passport scheme. Customers can do this by texting "passport" to 2345 (pay-as-you-go customers) or 9788 (monthly billed customers).
At the other end of the spectrum, 3 Mobile recently withdrew its Like Home free roaming plan which allowed customers to use their inclusive minutes and texts in sister networks in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland and Sweden. "Like Home has been great for a small group of people, but it wasn't fair to our wider customer base," says Hugh Davies, director of corporate affairs at 3 Mobile.
The move means that despite the EU caps, some 3 customers now face increased bills when using their mobiles abroad. The network has replaced Like Home with a flat rate of 34p per minute for outgoing calls, 15p for incoming calls and 11p per text. While this has been an unfortunate move for some 3 customers, compared with T-Mobile, which increased outgoing calling rates in Europe to 43p per minute, these charges are relatively cheap. However, outside of Europe, 3 proves less than competitive and charges a whopping £1.40 for calls made in Australia and in the US.
One way to reduce costs is to opt for travel add-ons or bundles which, with the exception of 3, are offered by all of the major networks. T-Mobile has a range of packages including the Euroboosters, costing from £5 to £30 for a travel allowance in selected countries. The Euro 10 Booster, for example, costs £10 and allows customers to make up to 39 minutes of calls, or receive up to 78 minutes of calls or send up to 60 texts. Similarly, O2 has its My Europe Extra package costing £10 per month for calls costing just 25p per minute in most European countries and free incoming calls. Orange customers should enquire after the Favourite Countries bundle, offering cheaper calls to France, Spain, Greece, Ireland or Belgium.
Anyone travelling outside of the EU, will find that charges vary widely and may well be extremely costly. However, international SIM cards, which can be purchased from sites such as Sim4Travel.com or gosim.com, can be a useful way to cut costs. These typically allow consumers to receive calls and texts for free and offer heavily reduced call rates in comparison to regular network providers' rates.
These are particularly useful for travellers wishing to spend a long time out of the UK or those who are likely to use their phone a good deal. Like domestic pay-as-you-go mobile phone offers, some international SIM card providers offer bundles of phone minutes and texts. International SIM cards are even a viable option in Europe as the price of minutes and texts is usually lower than UK providers offer even after the capping. Other alternatives include using phone cards when on holiday or even voice over internet protocol (VoIP) such as Skype for free or low cost internet calls.
Using mobile internet access abroad is by far the quickest way to rack up an exorbitant bill and there have been reports of people unwittingly spending thousands of pounds. As part of the EU legislation, a wholesale cap of €1 per megabyte on the price of downloading data abroad from a mobile has also been introduced and from July 2011 will be capped at 50 cents.
Mr Davies argues that this cap is still too high and that there is still a long way to go until consumers see a fair price for using the internet on their phones. "We'll push as far as we can for cheaper wholesale data. We still believe that the prices can come down much more," he says.
At the moment, 3 is offering the best internet access rates in the EU at £1.25 per MB and Vodafone offers 24 hours of internet access up to 50MB in Europe for £9.99. "If you can't do without, look at getting a local SIM card that allows you to access the internet on your phone at a local rate. Local SIMs are also great for those who often travel to the same place," says Mr Parker.
There are some simple steps to reduce your mobile internet usage abroad, including turning off images when browsing, using standard webmail services such as Googlemail rather than programmes such as Outlook and don't sign up too automatic downloads that can run to hundreds of megabytes.
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Google April Fools': company unveils backwards search engine and huggable digital assistant
- 3 I might be an MP, but that doesn't stop me fighting sexism with my breasts
- 4 April Fools' Day 2015: The best hoax news stories from around the internet
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Katie Hopkins reported to the police for race hatred by Labour MP Simon Danczuk after tweet about Pakistani men
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...
£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...
Day In a Page
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000