December 10, 2014
THE ROAMING REPORT – DECEMBER 2014 EDITION
2014 has been a big year in terms of roaming. Faced with the rise in popularity of free VOIP apps such as Skype, WhatsApp and many more, the major operators have realized that they stand to lose out if they don’t get in the roaming game. But have things changed enough that you can just use your regular SIM anywhere, or are you still better off with an international SIM card? Let’s take a look…
Here in the States, the debate over Net Neutrality has dominated the conversation for some time. Hardly surprising, when 4 million petitioners and The President have a personal opinion on the subject. Behind the scenes, the major operators are fighting with each other over the cost of data roaming in the US. On one side, you have the new kids, led by T-Mobile, who have complained to the FCC about the cost to other providers for roaming on AT&T’s network. AT&T (with the backing of Verizon) have responded that since they put in the work creating the larger network, they should reap the benefits. T-Mobile (with the backing of Sprint) want the FCC to set a standard rate for data roaming across the country.
This suggested system would be similar to the one adopted by 31 countries in the European Union. As previously reported in this blog, they had planned to phase out roaming charges altogether by the end of 2015. However, telecoms operators have pushed back, claiming that the loss of revenue would render them unable to continue expanding their networks. While they have complied with current legislation that caps roaming rates across the board in Europe, some operators have been raising the cost of roaming elsewhere in the world. In some cases, prices have doubled.
Elsewhere around the world, the outcry over high data roaming rates and unexpected bills (which still make the news) have caused many other global players to reconsider their strategy. From Canada to Australia, Zimbabwe to Russia, telcos are slowly (very slowly in some cases) lowering their roaming rates. The news looks good. But is it really?
As indicated by the raising of non-EU roaming rates by Irish Telecoms operators, perhaps we’re not quite there yet. While it makes sense to lower the rates in countries close to your homeland, the further away you travel, the higher the rates will remain, and for as long as possible. Given that telecoms operators stand to make $50 billion from data roaming revenue alone by 2019 (and that’s just over half of the total roaming revenue at stake), it’s no surprise that they would be reluctant to give it up. It’s possible that these projected figures will be dented by frustrated customers either turning to free VOIP and WIFI services, or turning their cellphones off altogether while they are out of the country. One thing is clear – for truly global rates and freedom from billshock, usage caps and other hidden surprises, your best bet is still a Telestial SIM card.