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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Is the Global Mobile Roaming model broken?

Yesterday, I noticed some heavyweights discussing roaming prices on Twitter. It is embedded below using the new Twitter embed feature:


Those who follow me on Twitter may have noticed me ranting about the roaming prices recently so I thought that this is a perfect opportunity to put my thoughts down.

As being discussed above, I went on the websites of two UK operators and found out about their roaming rates to India and The USA and they are as follows:


 It should be noted that there is a better rate available with some kind of bundle opt-in from both the operators and I have not shown about the other UK operators but they offer a similar sort of rate so I am not trying to single out O2 and/or Vodafone.

Since LTE is 'All-IP' network my interest is more from Data point of view rather than the voice point of view. A colleague who went to India recently decided that enough is enough and he bought a SIM in India locally. Apparently is just a bit too difficult to get SIM in India if you are not an Indian resident, nevertheless he somehow managed it. The rates as shown below was INR 24 for 100 MB of data.


Rs. 24 is something like $0.50 or £0.35. You see my problem regarding the data rates? People may be quick to point out here that India has the cheapest data rates in the world. On the other hand we look at US, the rates are as follows:

Even if we assume $15 / 1GB data, its far cheaper than the roaming rate which may be something like,  £3/MB = £3000/GB or £6/MB = £6000/GB.

I blogged about all the interesting developments that have been happening in LTE World Summit regarding the roaming solutions but what is the point of having all these solutions if the operators cant work out a way to reduce these costs. Or is it that they do not want to reduce these costs as they are a good source of income?

The operators complain that the OTT services are taking business away from them and turning them into dumb data pipes but to a lot of extent its their fault. People like me who travel often dont want to spend loads of cash on data and have worked out a way around it. Most of the places I visit have WiFi, most of my work is not urgent enough and I can wait till I am in a WiFi coverage area. In some parts of the world, still I have to buy an expensive WiFi access but compared to the roaming rates, its still cheap so I have stopped complaining about it. My decision to book a hotel depends of reviews, free breakfast and free WiFi. Some of our clients who give us their phone to use abroad strictly inform us that data should not be turned on unless its a matter of life and death.

If the operators dont change their strategies and work out a better solution for the roaming rates I am afraid that their short term gains will only lead to long term pains.

Do you have an opinion? I am interested in hearing.

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