Mobile Phones - Wherever I May Roam

By: Andy Adams

Until recently, the big problem with taking our mobile phones on holiday or on a business trip is that we're throwing ourselves at the mercy of foreign networks when it comes to costs.

As a result, many holidaymakers have opted to leave their phones at home to save the hassle - and high cost - of using them abroad.

On business trips that is less of an option. It is often imperative to keep a mobile phone on, so you are always contactable. But while the company may be paying your bill, it is always a good thing if you aren't costing your business hundreds of pounds in phone bills when travelling outside the UK.

So how did we end up getting charged more abroad than at home? The mobile operators say that because your UK network may not operate in the far and distant land you're visiting, they have to route calls through foreign networks.

These networks levy a wholesale charge on the UK network, which is then passed on to the customer. In turn, this has meant a vastly increased cost, sometimes up to 80 pence per minute for making calls while abroad. Even receiving a call could cost a small fortune.

Luckily, both industry regulators and the European Commission have been working to bring down charges for several years. The UK's standards agency Ofcom has been working with other members of the European Regulator Group to bring prices down.

Meanwhile, the European Commission warned the industry in 2004 that it was overcharging customers for roaming, and presented its plan to cap prices last year. This pressure on the mobile phones industry has brought about a scheme called EuroTariff.

Under the EU plans, the cost of making a mobile call anywhere in the EU before tax has been capped at 49 euro cents (about 33p) a minute since September 2007, while receiving a call costs 24 cents (16p) at most for both Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go Mobile Phones.

These costs should fall to 46 euro cents (31p) and 22 cents (14.9p) respectively next year, and 43 cents and 19 cents in 2009.

These figures are only maximums which doesn't necessarily mean networks can't price their calls competitively lower if they so choose.

The UK network 3 is doing so by charging as little as 25p to make calls to the UK after tax. However, they are charging 25 pence per SMS message sent as the EuroTariff only regulates voice calls and not texts and data rates.

Other networks such as Vodafone have dropped charges too, calls made now cost as low as 38p after tax and 19p to receive calls but also offers a different approach, offering Vodafone Passport which enables customers to pay a 75 pence connection charge per call, then chat away at the usual UK rate.

In most cases networks are making it easier to use Mobile Phones abroad. But there are still other options, such as buying a pay-as-you-go SIM card in the country you are visiting. The problem with this way is that it may cost you less in that country but friends and family back home are charged 50 pence per minute - which may cause some friction for when you eventually return home.

Other independent firms are offering "global SIMs". Companies like 0044 offer international SIM cards for whichever country you select on its website. These cost ?29.99 but this includes ?30 worth of credit.

Overall, since the issue of extortionate roaming charges has been brought to light in recent years, networks have been pressurised into providing fairer charges to customers.

It is thanks to regulators and the European Commission that these changes have been made. At least now we can feel a bit more confident about taking our Mobile Phones on holiday with us - and using them to gloat to friends and family about the hot weather.

Top Searches on
Cell Phones
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Cell Phones