Roaming Rates and Data Plans

I’ve written a bit about per-device data plans being a pain (especially for those of us with multiple devices) and roaming rates. Just today Joannie Wexler of NetworkWorld published an article on the nightmarish bills received by some executives from a large multinational corporation for the “complementary” iPhones they received. Apparently the bills ranged from $4000 to $5000 apiece! Not a surprise at all given that I encountered over $1000 for 2 days in Paris, France, while connecting to my corporate email with a mobile broadband module in my laptop last year.
The multi-billion dollar question is: When are the wireless operators going to “get it” in terms of not putting their subscribers through the wringer in terms of exorbitant roaming rates or multiple data plans when the user can’t possibly be consuming of all the data plans simultaneously? The answer is: NEVER.
The reason for stating never is that the operators have no incentive to let up on these prehistoric, telecom business models. In addition, the negotiation of roaming rates between carriers remain one of those mysteries in the wireless industry. Granted, the roaming rates are mandated by the regulators to be made public by the carriers and even that process is a chore to gather, especially for the poor IT telecom manager for a multinational that has to develop contracts with all the various operators their company’s employees connect with or are increasingly accountable for estimating the costs as their business becomes ever-more mobile and disconnected from their offices.
In the case of the EU, the EU Commission had to step in and place caps on roaming fees that carriers can charge their users. Roaming is almost a way of life in Europe, but represents a markedly representative example of just how lucrative the roaming business model is for the wireless operators. Hence why they have no incentive whatsoever to make roaming “reasonable” or even promoted for their subscribers. Sure, AT&T has international roaming packages of $24.99/month for 20MB of data usage with overage rates of up to $.0195 per KB in some countries and $59.99/month for 50MB of data usage with overage rates of up to $.0195 per KB in some countries. But the issue is one of TERRIBLE USER EXPERIENCE!!!
If a plan exists, it’s not necessarily visible by the customers. If users having a high frequency of roaming, the operator isn’t necessarily proactive of taking care of their customers to avoid $4000 monthly bills (in all fairness to AT&T, I’ve had occasions where they made major concessions when I’ve had overages along the lines of my Paris debacles…but I’m not your typical user). If the Fetch setting in the iPhone was easy enough to find, the typical user has no idea whether Fetch, Push, Manually, Every 15 Minutes, or whatever other setting are the right ones they need to select when getting off the plane at Heathrow Airport.
While the iPhone may be an attractive, easy-to-use device, the wireless network connectivity and billing models undo whatever Apple may have innovated on the device. It’s obviously not exclusive to the iPhone and will put a dampener on ANY mobile device usability and usage.
Let me know your thoughts on this matter as I imagine we have all experienced or know first-hand someone who has or is experiencing these issues. Will we as users simply just deal with whatever is dealt to us by the carriers because “that’s the way it is”? What can we do otherwise that would signal a demand to move from the telecom business model to something more akin to the Internet business model, aka, no borders, no roaming, the world is our oyster?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s