Tobold's Blog
Friday, February 25, 2011

I still don't have an iPhone, iPad, Android or other so-called smart phone. In theory I should be the ideal target customer: I spend a lot of time on the internet, I love gadgets, and I could afford to buy such a device. The reason why I still don't have one is particular to Europe: Excessive roaming charges. Roaming, that is using your mobile phone outside your country, used to be extremely expensive even for regular mobile phone use. Then the European commission stepped in and limited roaming charges to under 50 cents per minute, but failed to similarily limit roaming charges for data transfer. Thus a short search on European roaming charges for surfing with your smart phone turned up rates around €1.50 per minute ($2 per minute), or €25 per month with a 50 MB limit ($35/month) with any extra MB costing €3.50 ($5/MB). Twice that outside Europe. My provider even helpfully offers to automatically block data transfer if I accidentally go over €200 in roaming charges in a month.

As I drive to work, and have computers both at home and at the office, my mobile surfing would most likely happen when I'm traveling or on holiday. And with Belgium being small, that usually means quitting the country. As much as I like the internet, I'm certainly not going to pay $10 for the privilege of reading my blog comments or e-mail for 5 minutes in a train. So for now, mobile surfing remains unaffordable for me.
Same problem here, I live in Switzerland. Driving in any direction for 4 hours will get me outside the country and cause roaming charges. I have an android phone and use Google Navigator quite often, but outside the country where it would be so much more useful, I can't really use it without facing an *absurdly* high bill.
Ouch. Cell companies rape us here in the US too, but not that bad.
Why not use a wifi device instead? I used mine a lot in Portugal and Spain last year. There were loads of free WiFi hotspots - most of the public parks and squares had them. Didn't cost me a cent.

And what about the little devices that convert the 3G phone signal to a WiFi signal, producing a personal WiFi hotspot on demand? Do those attract roaming charges?
Who would have thought that arbitrary lines drawn on a map could so expensively interfere with signals?

Don't count on that situation continuing for long. Once people realize they can charge for wifi they will.

I took a couple of trips home to the UK last year to visit family. Although there were wifi hotspots all over the place I only found one free one (on the Heathrow inter-terminal rail line).

Any non-voice data that passes through the 3G device will be charged at data rates. The fact that it's not the phone but another device that's "using" the data doesn't make a difference. So the answer to your question is "yes".

Of course, if you can hook up to a mobile WiFi hotspot belonging to someone *else* then the charges will at least not bother you. :)
German Telecom plays with the idea to have a roaming internet flat rate. I hope it comes soon.
German TeleCon aka T-Mobile is actually one of the worst offenders: they got networks in a lot of European and American countries, and charge horrendous roaming fees.

3 actually offered the same price on all of their networks within Europe ... until they realised, that nobody else did that, and are back on $20/MB roaming.
Most Americans visiting Europe just buy a local SIM card with a tonne of space (2GB) and they never finish using it in 2 weeks.

Nobody wants to use roaming.

If you have an iPad device - I suggest sticking a sim card like this for the country that you spend the most time in, and in other countries (home or work), rely on Wireless.
*scratches head*
Belgium? For some reason I thought you were Hungarian.

Looks like you're not the only one who thinks this :)
Living on an island the roaming issue doesn't normally affect me but I agree it is outrageous. On my last foreign vacation to continental Europe I was constantly frustrated by the difficulty for a traveler to get reasonably priced internet connectivity. I ended up eating a lot of junk food just to avail of Mc Donald's free wifi.

I still strongly reccommend you take the plunge into smartphonedom though Tobold. It is amazing how quickly you get addicted to internet anywhere. It really is a life changing development.
Same reason i haven't bought any smartphone here in Denmark as well, even tho there is excessive advertising on it these years, but the raoming keep me away especially because i drive to germany alot and holiday etc to other european countries. FIX IT EU!
Same overpriced data plans in France and the reason why i'm still using an iTouch instead of an iPhone or Android.

I've got hopes though in Skype offering affordable hot spots everywhere right from their client:
I don't use my IPhone's AT&T bandwidth, but besides making a phone call or text, use WiFi for data access.
I don't see why this should be a reason for not getting, say, an Android. When you roam, don't use data traffic, it is just that simple. Android even has a checkbox that says "Connect to data services when roaming", just make sure it is unchecked and you are safe.

If you need some type of navigation while roaming then buy Navigon, CoPilot or Sygic Aura. Or why not even google on brut maps, it has the possibility to cache maps so navigation still works when roaming.
Oh wow. And people here in the states think that $25 a month is a lot for unlimited internet via their phone.

I too have internet at work, but I also have an hour commute (by car). For me the phone comes in handy when checking traffic conditions mainly and I will use it for personal calls while at work sometimes.

On another note, while I am in the states, my corp's home office is in Brussel's.
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