Roaming charges to end in less than ten years:
With the cost of making a call while abroad approximately three times higher than when you are at home according to the European Consumers Association (BEUC) and the cost of accessing data to retrieve emails and browse the web/apps while you are abroad being anywhere between 20 and 50 times more than the cost of a MB of data back home, it will come as much relief to many that roaming charges will be a thing of the past once the incumbent European goliaths of telecom operators have some proper competition.
4G networks and third-party services key to roaming fees becoming extinct:
One of the most vocal opposers to the current situation is a guy called Neelie Kroes, he is the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda.
Neelie is making it a life mission to help abolish high roaming charges for the tech savvy consumer and people in general. Here are a few specific reasons that the current roaming charge situation will be extinct in ten years time:
Nasty shocks – Ooops roaming was left on:
With smartphones pretty much always looking to connect to data services unless told not to, it can come as a very nasty surprise to find you have arrived to enjoy your holiday in the sun and not being aware enough to have turned off roaming while you were away enjoying your holiday, once home you get your bill only to discover it is astronomical due to roaming charges for data, texts and calls.
I am quite lucky that my carrier o2 (however rubbish they are in other ways) do actually make an effort to make you fully aware of the costs of roaming charges on their network via a very specific text with charges pointed out if you choose to access data services while abroad, I can not remember if they give you instructions how to turn data roaming off though.
However there are quite a few horror stories about people who were not fully aware what the warning texts meant and have therefore racked up bills in excess of hundreds of pounds purely because there phone was accessing data at a cost of pounds per MB. literally.
The European Commission is determined however to increase competition in the marketplace to reduce these charges by market forces and also through safeguards that will prevent excessive bills being racked up by unfortunate holidaymakers and travellers.
One measure will be to introduce a standard cap (default) of £50 for data roaming charges, if you require more data you can alter this via speaking to your operator and making a request.
There is also a sliding scale for costs of calls made while you are abroad and this is starting with a maximum cost of €0.35 for calls made and €0.11 for calls received.
By 2015 the European commission is set to reduce the difference between domestic and roaming charges to near zero as it sees access to communication tools like computers and smartphones as key to a modern Europe.
Dont wait for ten years to save cash:
Services are already in place to save people cash on roaming charges, one company in particular called MaxRoam, an Ireland based communication company, offer a kind of Global SIM card that allows users to access data on their phones while abroad in up to 230 countries. The SIM works with 900 or more carriers offering up to 70% savings on domestic charges.
VoIP services save money on calls:
Another company called Rebtel offer a service that integrates with your current mobile operator and then delivers much cheaper international calls allowing you to save up to 95% on calls than you would normally be charged by your domestic operator. You do not need 3G or Wi-Fi to access this service also.
We have already discussed Skype’s novel new approach to allowing users access to global hotspots on a per minute basis, perfect for making a call via your much cheaper Skype account while abroad and paying via your credits also.
Carriers becoming ISP’s
I have predicted this before in an article called the top 5 potential mobile contract killers. The piece discussed Skype and Gmail Talk in the main with the key point I tried to convey being that a traditional per minute contract is starting to become less and less necessary when you can have a data contract and be connected to a smartphone and VoIP service via a multitasking device (leaving an app on in the background) while you do day to day stuff with your tablet or mobile.
So there is a really interesting change taking place in the telecom arena, with carriers starting to look a lot more like internet service providers.
This has forced the industry to compete with the existing internet service providers and has led to commoditization of service offerings, the real opportunity lies with a brave operator to aggressively out price the competition once data becomes one of the most prized aspects of a mobile contract.
International 4G roaming agreements:
Sprint seem to be leading the way here and have set a precedent with the arrival of 4G, they will be the first operator to sign an international agreement with Jamaican Digicel and Taiwanese based Global Mobile and should allow Sprint users to roam globally by leveraging the global 4G eco system for free.
Wi-Fi for free in many city centres:
With many city centres from Taipei to Barnsley rolling out free Wi-Fi to the masses anyway, it will not be long before VoIP is available to many people while they are abroad, the progression in this area must come as a serious concern to many carriers but in my opinion the consumer needs a break from their price fixing ways of old. I have only last year been victim to going over my text allowance by a mere 100 texts to be faced with a £10 additional bill, outrageous in 1999 never mind 2010.
What are your thoughts on carriers currently? Do you see charges dropping and have you been victim to existing pricing policies that have caught you off your guard?Anthony Munns