Global roaming stupidity


blog Like most people, when I travel overseas I make sure to avoid huge global roaming charges through the use of Wi-Fi networks, cheap local SIM cards, IP telephony and other measures. But apparently some of our nation’s most venerable technologists and politicians are not capable of doing the same.

The past several weeks have seen a proliferation of articles about society heavyweights who have attracted significant global roaming charges when on trips overseas. The most notable of these was probably the case of Malcolm Turnbull, who is currently reportedly negotiating with Telstra over a $13,000 bill which was originally charged to the Federal Parliament (remember all those broadband research trips Turnbull took to Europe, China, South Korea and so on?). You’d think Turnbull, as Shadow Communications Minister, would know the tricks to avoid this kind of situation. Apparently not.

Take two of this story was this rant posted yesterday by Alan Finkel on the website of The Age. At the start of the article I had assumed the article was by somebody relatively technologically illiterate, but again, as in Turnbull’s case, apparently not. Finkel is chancellor of Monash University and president of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. He writes:

“My wife and I are overseas, trying to navigate our way through the streets of London. But we haven’t dared to use Google maps on our iPhones. We know that if we do we will generate massive phone bills … An unwitting friend of mine recently returned home to find a bill of more than $7000 waiting for him.”

The piece ends with the universal Australian appeal to the Government to save Finkel and all locals from this hideous situation. Something’s wrong! The guvmint must save us! Do something, someone! Or else the world will end!

Fortunately, however, opinionated commentator and Novocastrian Matthew Hatton has published a lengthy take-down of Finkel’s complaint. If you need a cold, hard dose of reality about global roaming, I recommend you read it and realise that consumers are in control of their global roaming charges after all … and that actually we don’t need government intervention in this area to save us from ourselves. We just need to think about things and be aware of our situation — yes, I know, a staggering concept — before we travel them and take advantage of existing options, as I mentioned above. Hatton describes Finkel’s comments as:

” … a lengthy rant about how the phone companies are in cahoots to just rort their customers who travel internationally as best they can and it is about time the government came in and just stopped this because it is wrong and bad and the world is too hard. It’s a spectacular display of ignorance about what is available when it comes to access data on mobile devices whilst travelling overseas.

The whole premise of this article is just idiotic”

I can’t help but agree. Why is it that some Australians such as Hatton and myself appear to be able to travel overseas and still access all of the information and communications we need to without racking up thousands of dollars in global roaming charges, while some, such as Turnbull and Finkel, appear to be unable to? Global roaming’s not a new concept and people should be used to the dynamics around it by now.


  1. It’s a disgrace with todays technology that the politicians are still racking up these massive mobile phone bills.

  2. I once received a global roaming (data) bill of $400+ dollars after a Bali holiday. You know what was shocking about that? I hadn’t enabled data roaming, yet my phone managed to do an OTA OS update.

    Needless to say I had harsh words with my carrier (they initially tried to insist it was my fault) and they reversed it. But I wonder how many others may have paid it and not challenged them further, I know my mother wouldn’t have for one.

    • Absolute rubbish OS updates don’t turn on data roaming and SMS OTA updates for APN’s ect are not randomly sent out and would not turn on data roaming anyway. Software updates don’t start unless you have data in the first place and they almost always require your approval. You simply conned your carrier out of money which it would have had to pay the international Telco company. Annoying they will pass on these costs to other consumers that know how to use a phone.

    • Also in relation to having harsh words to some poor person on the other end of the phone due to an issue caused solely due to your stupidity needless to say makes you a very bad person.

  3. Well, yes, but I go to USA regularly. You can’t set this up at the airport, and you can’t get it sorted out online unless you have a credit card with a billing address. And so you have to visit the right shop – hard to find, hard to get to, need to have several hours set aside specifically for the task of *buying credit*. Stinking american companies… corporatocracy.

    • Dear Grahame,

      Wrongly ranting about the Americans’ stupidity does not reflect well on you, especially since the previous reply to your post points out that one actually can get a sim-card online using an Aussie CC. I’ve done so myself before my recent trip to the US.
      But as a foreign national coming to Australia, do you realize how hard it is to even get a sim without having the 100 ID points required? When I moved here I had to first open a bank account to get my hands on a pre-paid sim.

    • That is 100% incorrect, I used my ANZ visa debit to get an AT&T pay as you go sim.

      • AT&T always reject my credit card because it doesn’t have a US billing address. So why the difference?

        • In the AT&T store I had no problem getting the pay as you go SIM for my iPhone, which is what I thought you meant. In regards to topping up the automatic phone system rejects the card then you talk to the call center who procees it no problems. An annoying hiccup I will admit as it means topping up takes 15 mins.

          • Yes, that would be fine, if you spoke English.
            Wonder how visitors from other countries cope?

      • Umm, getting data working on iPhones with AT&T pre-paid SIMs can be quite tricky and involves steps that ornery users may find difficult. Finding other providers that support iPhones is also tricky. The US presents issues for roaming iPhone users.

        • I’ve just returned to Australia after 8 weeks in the USA where I had an AT&T prepaid sim for my iPad and a “Red Pocket Mobile” (AT&T reseller) sim in my iPhone. Both operators gave me zero issues with credit card transactions and no issues with data set-up. For Red Pocket mobile I needed to load a profile into my iPhone while on wifi, but apart from that everything was fine. If people have issues in the USA, well, as the saying goes, “you can’t fix stupid”.

        • Well that’s their fault for choosing an iphone, isn’t it? More intelligent users wouldn’t have an iPhone and would have the country’s maps loaded onto their handset to avoid data usage.

          • ppl choose iPhones because they are highly polished products with a huge app and accessory ecosystem and because they dont want to buy a piece of carrier controlled abandonware!

    • Greetings Commonwealth brothers,

      I have a blog post about this – the key is to purchase a US-issued prepaid Visa, Mastercard or American Express gift card to get around the US credit card billing address verification process. Gift cards automatically pass all address verification processes regardless of the address used. You just need to be careful to not buy one that requires a US Social Security Number to register it.

      Incidentally, the microSIM, once activated in an iPad can then be used (data-only) in another device, like an iPhone.

  4. What makes you think Turnbull knows much about comms? He invested money in an ISP and spent most of his time trying to offload it at the highest price before the tech bubble burst, owns an iPad and can’t tell anyone about his NBN plan other than FTTN, UK, 1/3 the cost, sorry no details.

  5. Fly overseas…. pickup a local SIM card….

    How hard is it? I’ve been doing it for years.

    Its not like its ur own telco ripping you off when u go overseas, its the overseas telcos ripping your telco off, they just pass on the costs :P

  6. It’s no so easy when you’re in Spain, don’t speak Spanish, and the sales person doesn’t speak English. Worse still, then trying to activate the service.

    • Use International Sign Language. Everyone is born with it. LOL
      BTW, If you learn a simple phrase of apology and ask if they understand English, 98% of the people will be able to converse.
      I know when I lived in Germany, I was guilty of saying “Nein” to rude people who just come up and rattle off in English in an almost demanding “You must switch to English!” manner. I understand why the locals do it as it is sheer arrogance. Sorry, if I ever did to anyone here *blush*

  7. “We just need to think about things and be aware of our situation”

    OMG Renai….are you saying…we should be responsible for our own actions!!! I have a good mind to write to your editor about how unTheAustralian you are!! :)

    I think a lot of Aussies do take responsibility, it’s just a certain elite group that thinks they are exempt from the rules that apply to the rest of us. Not that I’m putting MT in that basket, the dude is obviously doing the right thing paying for it out of his own (deep) pockets.

  8. It so simple picking up a local sim. Whenever i’m overseas i never turn on my Aussie sim card. I have a voice mail saying im overseas and if you want to get hold of me send me an email. It’s simple and works! Can’t understand how these guys can’t work this out!

  9. On the flip side – considering the massive buying power of telco’s like Telstra, they should be able to provide us with OS roaming for the same price as we can buy a cheap pre-paid sim locally in that country …. heck even cheaper when you think about it!!

    So while the savvy amongst us still avoid getting stung, there should be some sort of carrier licence restriction to protect folk from roaming based gouging as it’s clear that the profit on this service must be astronomical!

    • The first paragraph is just silly, Telstra is not some global monolith that can demand prices from AT&T and other. The second paragraph is more sensible as I would not mind the Telcos being limited to a 100% profit margin. That should be high enough to employ all the lawyers ect and cover any overhead costs involved above the simple call / data rate proposition,

  10. Just because the charges are avoidable doesn’t mean they are right. It is no different to the debate we have over the cost of goods when compared to overseas markets. You have companies not offering competitive pricing because there are artificial trade restrictions in place. There is a tacit agreement between companies to charge these exorbitant rates and they get away with it because it is hard or impossible to apply trade regulation across international borders.

    • 100% Agree

      People should be more aware and more accountable for themselves, but the prices charged for roaming is still nothing short crazy and really should be looked at.

      Another thought, what are visitors charged by our networks for roaming inside Australia?

  11. Many of the comments in The Age’s article boiled down to people being too lazy (“why should I have to…”) to take advantage of the alternatives when traveling. Personally, a local sim is the way to go. By the time I am in the taxi from the airport, everything is back online.

    • Tried that in HK.
      Had to turn around and go back to outlet in terminal as the data didn’t work.
      Default APN and the one mentioned in booklet did not work.

  12. It certainly not rocket science. I am in NZ right now. Picked up a prepaid Telecom NZ SIM for my Lumia 920 and set family’s iPhones to airplane mode as soon as we got on the plane. Problem solved.

  13. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reality turned out to be that Turnbull *does* know how to avoid getting reamed with roaming charges but he simply chose not to because hey, he’s not paying for it. And if he genuinely is ignorant about mobile phone charges, then it undermines his credibility as Shadow Comms Minister. It really is a lose/lose situation for him.

  14. If i remember correctly, and some people above in the comments are failing to realise, it isn’t Telstra charging you this insane bill amount.

    From what i understand, international roaming is basically:

    You go overseas, your Telstra sim connects to a compatible carrier (such as AT&T, etc…) that ALLOW Telstra sim cards to connect home.

    The overseas carrier charges a very high amount for this privilege, as you make calls, check emails, etc… they are billing your carrier for this convenience.

    When you get home at the end of your trip, the overseas carrier has sent a nice lovely bill to Telstra saying ‘you owe us X amount of money because this is how much it cost us for X customer to use our network with your sim.’

    Telstra then basically says, sure, we will pay you X amount of money, Telstra pays, then they promptly send X customer the bill saying ‘you owe us X amount of money because you were an idiot and couldn’t be stuffed getting a local sim in that country’.

    I think what the bill should really say on it (i’ve never been overseas, it might say this), X carrier in X country is requesting X amount for your idiocy, next time, get a local sim in that country.

    Personally i see it as simple, when in Rome…

    Maybe we should be looking at the phone manufacturers (or rather the software manufacturers for the phones) and getting the ‘international roaming’ feature removed completely, would certainly remove the idiot factor.

    • You’ve only got that half correct Ray. Telstra (and the other telco’s) have their own flat rate that they charge for International Roaming. The bill you get, as the customer, will be the same regardless of where you travelled, and which local carrier you connected to.

      What the telcos do though, is base their pricing on the worst possible scenario. So it doesn’t matter if you connected to a local carrier which doesn’t charge Telstra ridiculous prices for data – Telstra would still charge you their roaming fee, which may be far higher than what they’ve actually been charged by the international carrier.

      • Yeah, wasn’t 100% sure, i’ve never been overseas so never needed to worry about it.

        Either way, people should just man up and take responsibility for things, we are already becoming a nanny country as it is.

  15. Well it looks like there are a lot of people who have never heard of Google either. Basically, if you type in ‘international sim” or “prepaid sim” and a country name, there is no shortage of websites – in English – willing to sell you either a single county SIM or a multi-country SIM with slightly higher call charges and data rates.

    • If you have a credit card.
      If you trust some unknown company with your personal details and credit info.
      If their delivery arrangements fit in with your travel plans.

  16. I agree with you we should all be responsible for our actions however most people have other things on their minds and perhaps have never visited OS before or frequent websites such as this, sure it’s easy for people that visit Delimiter and Whirlpool etc and are tech savvy to know what to do.
    However the majority don’t have a clue and they are the ones that get taken advantage of and they are the one’s that need protecting from the greedy Telco’s.
    So if Turnbull does not have a clue what hope is their for the average Aussie.

    • Smart Traveller’s tip No 9 out of its top 10 tips is:

      “Keep in contact with friends and family back home and give them a copy of your travel itinerary so they know where you are.”

      A warning about roaming charges could be placed here at no real cost to government while appearing to achieve it mission of adding valuable, timely information.

      This would help remove your forgivable ignorance excuse. What are the chances of the tip being amended or other similar advice being given elsewhere?

      • If you dig about the smart traveller website, it does provide a link to the ACMA webpage warning about roaming charges – Travel Tips, about 2/3rds of the way down. Its hidden a lot deeper than it should be.

        With the rise of smartphone use and bill shock, the warnings should be up there with keeping your ID safe. Its easy to say people should be aware of the issue already, but its also easy to miss something when dealing with all the small details, and with the case of international roaming, you dont know theres a problem until its way too late.

        I’ll be travelling for a month in the US later in the year. If I forget to turn something off, the first I’ll know about it will be when I get back. Thats a lot of time for the charges to keep building up. As it is, I plan on doing what most people here suggest – get a local sim and just use that, and rely on other services.

  17. This all seems rather short sighted to me…yes people should absolutely take responsibility and take advantage of prepaid local SIM cards and data packs, but to claim this and then lampoon a legitimate criticism of the status quo is not journalism, it’s simply yelling at a different cloud.

    Where is the analytic discussion of why the prices are what they are? Why is it that by prepaying for data I can get an 85% discount on my bill, something that would be *unheard* of almost anywhere else. Why is it that a telco is even willing to negotiate over a $30000 bill- if I used $30000 worth of gas there is no way I would be getting that reduced by more than 75% (as some are able to with mobile data bills). Why is it that a visitor who is next to me on the train is paying 1000 times more than I am to use the same data service? Where is the breakdown of the costs? You know, maybe it is completely reasonable, but I have no idea *why* it is justified. Even as we chastise Turnbull and the like for not taking advantage of the options available to them, we should be examining why this is necessary in the first place.

    • I agree more transparency on costs would help a lot. That said I think the carries have to charge worst case scenario at a flat rate for two reasons: firstly so that they never lose money and secondly so that it is easy for consumers. If carries simply put out an excel spreadsheet with rates for every network in every country that would be impossible for consumers to know how much they are paying. The prepaid guy next to you does not have that problem as it generally will be limited to one network in one country. When I went to Mexico with my AT&T sim loading one google search used up all my prepaid money.

      What carriers do now is group country’s together that have similar costs which is really the best way I can think to do it. And this is why you can sometimes negotiate the price down 75% because in many cases doing so will not mean they made a loss, but in some other cases it would in which case they would not do that. I guess they could advertise the worst case and charge the lower prices but that would make reading a bill almost impossible and would encourage more people to roam thinking I doubt I will be charged that. Until they are charged that and in which case they will cry poor saying it is a ripoff and must be a mistake because they were sure they were not connected to X network. An alternative would be to block expensive networks but that defeats the point of international roaming to an extent.

  18. The reason why these politicians rack up these bills is because they can. They are not paying for it. Whether it be a huge mobile bill or abusing other privileges they get for being in a position of power. If it were coming out of their own pocket I dare say they would think twice. I’m sure some of us reading this article have taken a business trip or even a holiday with global roaming turned on their business phone and have used it for personal benefit. If you’re not paying for it then it’s easier to just use global roaming and roam to the many networks available.
    I’m not sticking up for for these politicians, just pointing out why it happens. At the end of the day just like running business we’re paying these guys and we should be encouraging reducing waste of government spending any way we can by making pollies accountable for any unreasonable spending on behalf of the tax payer.

  19. Amateurs, they deserve these expensive roaming charges. Even in China you can easily obtain a prepaid SIM card at the airport, just show them your phone where the SIM card is supposed to go, they provide a SIM card and you pay the money and your right to go. Done it several times. Some people really are better off not travelling OS.

  20. Maybe, Renai, it’s because no-one actually wants to contact you while you’re overseas, and so you can slot in an overseas sim for data purposes. As a senior politician, Malcolm Turnbull needs to be contactable on one number all the time, and having call diverts in place would also cost a significant amount, not to mention creating confusion when he calls out. Consequently, if he is only carrying one phone around, he has to use mobile data on that SIM.

    The point is that the price for such convenience should not be anywhere near the thousands of dollars it comes to in many cases.

    • I agree. The beauty of roaming is that it uses your existing number so you are just as contactable as at home. For many people this might be essential. Swapping sims is a hacked up hurdle-ridden solution and laughably impractical for day trips to european countries. If we have the technology we might as well use it. Furthermore, how many people check roaming costs when comparing carriers? None. Market forces aren’t at work here which is why the charges are astronomical.

      I disagree with your suggestion that government isn’t the solution. IT IS! Look at the EU. By setting a limit on call costs, they’ve slashed the outgoing call cost to 29cpm and the incoming cost to a measly 8cpm, with a schedule to reduce it further. Its so effective that many sims have roaming activated by default. I was in France using a prepaid sim from a German discounter making calls for a similar price to being within the country.

      • Yeah see theres one flaw in that otherwise wonderful point. 8cpm incoming call rates… Yeah … No.

        I’d rather stick with pure ‘dialing party pays’ like we have already. I don’t see any logic in charging someone extra to take a call. It wouldnt affect me since I’m 100% covered under a flat rate all costs (excluding excess data usage, inclusive of 1300 and 1800 numbers ) plan, but its the principle.

    • “no-one actually wants to contact you”

      You’ve obviously never worked as a journalist :) My main problem is trying to get people to *stop* contacting me.

    • A perfectly valid point. There are reasons why using global roaming is perfectly valid. I think that someone representing Australia would be pretty valid reason to use global roaming. With that said, there is a good chance this privilege does get abused. I know I’ve used my work phone on global roaming from overseas for some personal use though my bill came in at a more reasonable $500, I did also happen to be contacted on this phone. Which as you know you get changed on global roaming when someone calls you.

    • And yet I have managed to achieve that convenience very easily using Skype.

      Here’s how :

      1) Old phone sits in Australia with calls being forwarded to a Skype number.

      2) Old phone sits in Australia with an app installed that allows me to forward texts and send texts from anywhere via the Internet.

      3) Skype forwards all calls to my new mobile number.

      If anyone calls me, even my Australian number, my phone will ring.

  21. I wonder why the great multinational Vodafone has not already solved this problem once and for all by offering decent roaming rates across its international network? It might be subpar on an Australian scale but its the bee’s knees on a global scale.

    • Or T-Mobile, for that matter. We’d need at least two global scale networks, like we have Visa vs Mastercard

  22. The Australian carriers make a mint on these charges. They would have you believe that there is very little profit in it.

    How is it then that they charge voice calls depending on the country region, but data (well at least Optus does) charges the flat rate of 2.2c/kb charged in 10kb increments.

    I once heard an analyst at optus mention that there was a 75% profit on roaming data.

    Not bad eh?

    • Retail stores generally have at least 100% mark-up, whats the problem.

      The Australian company has no control what-so-ever over the price charged for CASUAL (you have no contract with them so at BEST you should expect to pay the same rate as their own customers using data outside contract) data usage on foreign networks.

  23. I have always got a local sim in the country I’m travelling to and had no dramas. It’s insane to hear people whinging about roaming when for most telcos you must ring them up to enable it – before enabling it the telco proceeds to lecture you about how insanely expensive it is – after being given this lecture I can’t see how you could possibly be surprised after racking up a massive bill. I’m sure carriers charge way more than it costs them for roaming because they have half of the people who roam ringing them up, whinging and asking for a refund.

  24. Generally my first purchase (at the airport if possible) is a local phone SIM.

    I then SMS everyone I WANT to contact me while on holidays from the new number.
    Everyone else can wait until I get home, though I do pop the home SIM in occassionally just to check.

    • Lets not forget most phones are carrier locked these days and average consumers may not realise this or know that the telco will usually unlock them for free prior to going OS so there’s an automatic trap for a lot of folk.

  25. Why does roaming cost so much anyway? From a technical perspective?

    Is it because the call has to be re-routed back to the nation state from which the number is registered? People should just use Skype/IM and buy a local sim card and number in the country they’re visiting right?

  26. I am of the view that international roaming charges are extortionate, and all the telcos are making a motza (just like interbank ATM charges).

    I really like what the EU is doing to tackle this.

    20 euro cents a meg in any EU country from 2014 with 50 Euro automatic cut-off.
    Compare this to Telstra roaming to the US at $15.36 per megabyte! + 50c per session

    Why should a consumer have to go to the effort of separate sims and modifying there phone to avoid extortionate charges. Just because it is possible to manage the complexity, and “but it’s been that way for a long time” doesn’t mean that it should be tolerated or accepted.

    Vote 1 for regulating data roaming fees!

    • 20c/MB is still ridiculously high for any kind of serious mobile professional who intends to work using a mobile device as their primary data connection.

      I have over 10GB on my current plan, and spending another $10 would make it 20GB. Even assuming my entire phone bill represents the cost of that data. ($100) lets compare.

      20c x 10000MB = 2000 Euros = AU$2507.20

      So Roaming data rates under the EU mandate represent 2500% – Two thousand five hundred percent – more than my normal rate.

      Yeah… 2 and a half grand sure sounds reasonable to me. My advice regarding regulating companies is if your going to try and stop them extorting me, try to pick a price level that’s actually not just extorting me less than it was before but is still extorting me. My advice would be Company is not allowed to charge more than X% over its normal costs for a service when the user uses that service while roaming, capping a cost does nothing to stop them pushing down the real costs & now using the cushy law as protection to gloss over the fact their rates are still too damn high.

      • Government comes in and say you are not able to charge more than double your local prices. Telco well 95% of our international partners charge us more than that so we can either pay them many millions of dollars off our own back and double local prices to recover the cost or ban international roaming outright. I sure hope they just bar international roaming completely as I don’t want local costs to go up.

  27. It seems there is a business opportunity for airlines and travel booking websites, they could offer prepaid sims or even phones suitable for your destination, similar to the way they cross-sell insurance and car rentals.
    And Australia really should offer some (legal) solution for incoming travellers.

  28. This is a joke right?

    We live in a globalised economy, and it appears to be impossible to take the number with you that is known by everybody you know, without taking out a mortgage on your house.

    Instead you need to buy sims for the various countries that you travel through or hunt for WiFi. Good luck with that on a tour through South America. Even better luck for those countries that require a local address before selling you a sim.

    Telcos are ripping off users left right and centre with this and the complaint seems to be that some users aren’t willing to, or can’t, jump through flaming hoops with clumsy kludges just in order just to communicate with home.

    You’ve gotta be kidding me.

    • Why is you right to travel to any country and expect that country to provide you telecommunications at Australian prices. Do you get angry at NIB for charging many times local prices for international heath insurance?

      • I don’t expect those countries to do anything for me, I expect those corporations to do things for me when I give them some of my money. What I don’t expect is for those corporations to make me jump through hoops just so that I can call home.

        Nobody here has yet to offer a reasonable solution to taking your own number with you, except call forwarding. It’s 2013, and call forwarding is the best solution, really?

        Currently, global roaming is an expensive joke. The free market is not operating, we have corporations running a kludged up network in order to soak their customers.

        As for NIB, there are a number countries with which Australia has reciprocal health care arrangements. Look it up, it can save you money. So I wouldn’t need anything more than my Medicare card number while travelling in those countries.

        It’s amazing how a globalised economy works when it’s allowed to.

        • Look I agree that the roaming situation sucks but it is not an issue that the Australian goverenment can fix on its own. I think imposing local regulations could do more harm than good. That said I am not against international action although I would think it would have to start in groups like the EU has done. I guess south east asia could try setup a cheap roaming zone, maybe even APEC.

  29. yeah this would require people to have some personal responsibility, and that isn’t going to happen. Do i agree that roaming rates are near criminal in price, YES. but do i think that people could just merely either disable global roaming, or turn of data or just use a local sim, YES as well.

  30. IF someone needs to be available on their normal number, then why not use the local sim, and set call forwarding on the Aussie simcard. Sure international rates arent great, but a lot better than the roaming charges.
    It probably depends on the provider, but I know I can log into my Amaysim account and enter the call forwarding number there, so over the internet on your new local simcard.

    The voicemail telling them to email you sounds good, and possibly more versatile than phone reception in remote areas. If you don’t want to advertise that your house is currently empty, then use forwarding (and enjoy phonecalls inviting you somewhere back home at 4am local time :-p )

  31. I must be missing something here …

    Almost everyone is aware that global roaming is hideously and unjustifiably expensive. However, having visited more than 100 countries in the past decade (across land sea and air borders) I have found that you are never far from help.

    Wherever there is a need, there is usually a market to address that need. Entry points to almost all countries have a plethora of local companies only too willing to sell you a local sim for voice/data/etc.

    I have always looked for these telco companies as I enter a country, smiled as I sought assistance to select the best plan for my needs, and asked them to help me install and activate the service. Never once have I been let down.

    Nowadays, Woolworths also offer an alternative with their global roaming SIM cards with some form of connection in 200+ countries. Rates are not great, but they are not super expensive either. Depending on where you travel, data speed is reasonable and voice/text is universally available. It is worth noting that some countries do still have limited data networks (Burma, Bangladesh, etc) so data availability is limited in some locations.

    You would not drive a car in a foreign country without first understanding the ‘local’ rules. Overseas telecommunications is no different – there is plenty of information available and a little research goes a long way.

  32. Come on guys, this is 2013 right? Intelligent, Techie people do presumably know how to use Google and search under “Glabal Roaming”? There is absolutely no excuse for anyone with a modicum of brainpower to be sucked in by ridiculous global roaming charges.
    There have been SIMs available in Australia for some time that allow cheap overseas calls and avoid roaming.
    Tell Turnbull et al to check out Travel SIM – or Truphone, who have just announced their nano-SIM at CES –

  33. While I agree with what you are saying, I still think the “stupid” article is a positive thing if it helps sanitise global roaming charges, which are way too expensive. In this day they should be affordable, we shouldn’t have to carry sim cutters to asia and muck around buying local sims etc.

  34. Last time I went to the US, my wife and I bought the cheapest throw-away prepaid phones we could find once we arrived. Gave the number to each other and to family back home, used the phones while we were there, and had no issues with global roaming charges.

    That was five or six years ago – you would think people had a bit of a clue by now.

  35. The Great Australian Ethic — it is always someone else’s fault.

    I found it perplexing when I first arrived, and it continues to amuse me, years later. If it’s not demanding the gub’ment step in and reduce peoples freedom to, you know, take ownership for their actions (it’s so hard to self-manage, please fix the world so I don’t need to think).. it’s predictable tirades like this..

    An (apparently) perfectly lucid (remember, they’re independently wealthy – this is very important) individual struggles with the basics of , for example, obtaining a local sim, in a country where the Queen’s English is abundant.

    • That is maxim #1 of the Great Australian Ethic: It is always someone else’s fault, and the government should fix it.

      #2 is: ‘We’ve got something good going on here. Don’t rock the boat.’

      If you think about, these two maxims can be applied to any given situation.

  36. Renai, I think you are missing the point. These charges are the result of international cabal like behaviour between carriers

    You can buy an international SIM that works, for example on Maxis in Malaysia, or Celcom in indonesia. Data rates are approx $90 per gb. The same GB on your telstra Mobile will cost you $15,000. Or you could pay them in advance, and they will only charge you about $2000. I can assure you that the real costs involved for that $15,000 gb number in the cents to the local carrier.

    Carriers operate in an ‘I’ll fleece your customer, you fleece mine’ mode. Telstra take a 12% margin on the foreign carriers ridiculous fees. They participate in this cabal by fleecing people who visit this country and passing the charges back to the foreign customers via their carrier. Telstra break australian law by extending essentially unlimited credit to their customers through this mechanism. They refuse to negotiate with their own customers because they are ‘simply passing on the charges’.

    Europe has implemented some cross border regulation curb this practice, I believe they capped the rate carriers can charge each other at 26c per mb. There is no such multi jurisdictional governing body here, and therefore no incentive for carriers to lower their rates.

    I’d be happier if Malcom or Stephen got off their bums and started a debate inter-carrier charges, instead of trying to get out of their stupid bill.

    • The thing is, no-one holds a gun to your head, demanding you use global roaming.

      Are the fees excessive? You bet. Are they reasonable? Of course not. Am I forced to accept these charges, because I have zero option otherwise? err.. well..

      And the obvious answer is? — “Someone else’s fault, please fix it so I don’t have to think about it..”

      Companies will happily charge whatever they think the market will stand. Is there some collusion going on? Possibly, but I doubt it. The simpler answer is that prices are simply not being reduced in line with capacity changes; a case of the very old pricing model, based on a different time, not being updated to match the current (and often massively improved) capacity between countries.

      But of course, what am I saying?! Call for a royal commission, at once!

  37. Call me strange but I think our politicians probable need to be contactable when they roam. Is Turnbull supposed to notify everyone that may need him of his new Chinese number then do the same 3 days later when he travels to the UK and so on? This is ok for most of us. This is not ok for our leaders who clearly need to be contactable. Do we really want our politicians natively using data networks controlled by foreign governments to save a few bucks?

  38. Most people here seem to be missing the point. While I also just buy local SIMs where ever I am, I don’t agree that we should have to. I’m guessing, but there are probably only about a dozen dominant telcos in the world. As corporations, by their very nature, are out to fleece all and sundry for the greater good of their own bottom line, it is up to governments to regulate them. If most of the OECD countries decided to regulate roaming charges (technologically a simple procedure) between each other, then even the USA might follow.

  39. Renai, it’s /exactly/ because you two aren’t those two. Technological literacy isn’t a boolean, and that kind of perspective coming from you is surprising. I normally enjoy the punch of your articles, but you’re not just missing the target, you’re hitting the bystanders.

    By way of analogy, I hope that if you ever need medical assistance, you won’t have some nearby doctor asking why you didn’t learn enough medicine to do it yourself.

    Also, the regulation of commerce is one of the reasons government exists. This is the sort of thing governments are supposed to do something about if the “invisible hand” fails to work (whether it has failed, and if so whether our government is slacking, well, isn’t investigating that a journalist’s job?)

  40. Seems that a lot of people are missing the international SIM card solution, which is particularly useful if you’re travelling to multiple countries. I got one from GO-SIM as I travel between London, Boston and Melbourne quite regularly. It’s not quite as cheap as a local SIM, but it is more convenient than going through various countries’ registration requirements (some of which are incredibly stringent and can waste a lot of time), and it’s definitely cheaper than using my domestic SIM. I get a US and UK number, and I can forward calls through from the domestic SIM I’m not using so I don’t miss a thing. Data rates can be a shock in some countries, but in most destinations, it’s a pretty reasonable price (under 50c per MB).

  41. Global roaming is a gouge. It’s a bait and switch. It’s dodgy. It’s one of the most profitable parts of any mobile operator’s business because it has almost no risk and generates a mountain of cash.

    It takes a per kilobyte charge model from GPRS and scales it all the way to 4G.

    Customers _hate_ it. It generates a mountain of negative promotors. Customers who get a roaming bill almost always change carrier out of sheer hatred.

    Sure, smart customers like you Renai can side-step it but 50% of the population are of below average intelligence (by definition) and they’re the victims of this gouge.

    $15 per megabyte? That’s just criminal. If an airline played the same game you’d be crying for their blood.

    Just standing around and saying it’s dumb people’s own fault is the Australia way… dole bludgers, habitual criminals, pregnant teens.

    Then one of them steals your TV.


  42. Why would politicians worry? They don’t care. We, the taxpayer, pay for the idiocy!

    As for “normal” travelling people, many having used travel agents, why did these agents (so called experts) not advise them? Hardly give you any faith in the ability of travel agents, when they themselves are guilty of racking up huge bills (as per recent media reports)!

  43. I find the fact that a pro-capitalism/free trade/deregulation Liberal politician has been caught agitating against ‘free market’ pricing structures. Where is the argument for the market setting its own fair and balanced pricing structure based on free trade and competition now? Has MT finally found an example of free market capitalism that (shock, horror) exploits the consumer, that may actually call for government intervention & regulation? Perhaps, Mr Turnbull, if you can recognise the need for market regulation in this instance you can recognise the possibility that there may be other instances where market intervention may be required… Just be careful, though – a thinking person able to follow such bread crumbs may find themselves sliding down a slippery slope to the realisation that the only thing ‘free markets’ can be trusted tto pursue is the unfettered pursuit of maximum profit without concern for sustainability, morality or the rights or interests of consumers, workers, or the countries in which they operate.

    The only sensible conclusion must be the realisation that unregulated free market capitalism is unsustainable long-term, and if government regulation is necessary as a minimum, tperhaps Mr Turnbull needs to reevaluate his participation in a political party that is fundamentally committed to free market principles at any cost.

  44. Just so I have this right, your going overseas, you’ve contacted your telco to get roaming added(or did the first time you used your phone internationally) and then complain about the price. You fools. Grow up and stop whining and blaming others or trying to tell genuine businesses how to be run. Maybe we should tell the pie companies to reduce their prices as I don’t like paying $5 for a pie. While your at it, tell coke a cola to reduce their price too.
    You all forget. These businesses are trying to make money to keep the shareholders happy. You work for a business and ask for a payrise every year don’t you? Where do you think the company gets your payrise from? The next consumer in the line. You want more money so I have to pay more for the end product.
    There’s one very simple solution. If your not smart enough to work out how to keep your costs low, maybe your not smart enough to use the technology???
    It’s time everyone grows the hell up and accept responsibility for your actions.

  45. I travel overseas on business about 3-4 months per year.

    Golden RULE
    Never use international data roaming ever. It’s too expensive.
    There is always a cafe or hotel with free or cheap wifi only a few steps away. OR a local simm shop.

    Voice Calls
    If you have to accept one, keep it short or ask for the number and call them back on Skype or with a local Simm. No point ever making an outbound voice call on roaming simm card.

    Internationally not much way to get around paying for SMS, it’s cheapish at about 75c/text but email is pretty good.

    Data Roaming – Local Simm ONLY!
    I have two phones, one smart phone with full email/web the other just a plain old $20 phone, text and voice only.
    Here is the trick, use the local Simm card (for the country you are in) in the Smart phone and switch it depending on the country. Then use the old school phone with my Aussie Simm card, people can text and call me. When I get home to Australia, I just revert to normal.
    I can choose to pickup or let it go to voice mail when I get a voice call on the Aussie simm whilst travelling. OR easy to do is, just call the number back with Skype with the Smart phone on local data rates.

    My voice mail says I am away until the 10th of February, please text or email me if urgent or call on USA/UK ph# 555-123-456 or leave a message and I will retrieve it on my return to Australia.
    I have Skype on my smart phone and call internationally back home very cheaply that way.
    OR if you’re clever, forward the Aussie mobile to your Skype IN number – which rings on the overseas phone via data package for nothing – no forwarding fees… you do need a $3/month Skype IN phone number though.

    I purchase often at the airport (USA/UK etc) a local simm with pre-paid monthly data package, which gives me skype, emails, often unlimted data for £15/month in the UK for instance.

    So far it cost me about $40 to 50/month above my Australian bill to operate like this.
    No nasty bills to pay, takes a little bit of personal organisation, but once your set up, it’s straight forward.

    There is no excuse not to know, every time you land in a new country your phone txt’s you saying turn off data roaming or it will cost you more than your holiday!!!

  46. Oh one last thing.
    Use pre-paid overseas, it’s simple and can’t blow out. Drop $100 on it and you’re done. Get a spare $10 top up voucher in case you run out and need some more credit.

    Some countries you do need a local address credit card for post paid, but not pre-paid and just top it up from local new agencies OR get your local friends, hotel staff, business colleges to get top up for you.
    if you’re a busy person, just get your business contacts to get you a simm card for you, so as soon as you touch down they can hand it to you and that get’s around ID checks etc. e.g. India where foreigners are not allowed to buy local simms in some provinces – get someone else to buy it for you.

    OR just go on a holiday and leave the damn thing turned off in the bottom of the suitcase, cos guess what, the world will go on without you, trust me I tried it once and you’re all still here :-)

  47. Good one “Business Traveller”. Common sense – at least I think so, as I use local sim cards for calls and texting when overseas.

    And no whingeing about telcos overcharging and that is something you and I and all the other commentators are not going to change!

  48. Why doesn’t Telstra and other service providers just can call roaming no one is happy with it when they use it anyway and I don’t want to pay for some other retards who use it and rack up a massive bill that they can’t pay.

  49. From a marketing perspective, how good does a company look when it “reduces” a bill from $30,000 to $2,000? Wow!

    But when you’ve made a huge “overcharge” in the first instance, the “reduction” has still left you with a handsome profit and a feeling among the community that you’ve done something wonderful!

    Why change the system?

    Oh, I am sceptical.

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