The idea of taking your own phone with your own SIM card and actually using it overseas would normally be the idea of someone with deep pockets or complete ignorance of the fees and charges involved. That is all set to change with new and very generous international roaming plans entering the market
You’ve seen the stories, traveller returns from holidays to find a $10,000 or even $100,000 bill from the cost of using calls, or perhaps more likely internet data while travelling overseas. The fault each and every time actually sits with the user, however blame is fairly and squarely with the telcos who have until recently failed to adequately notify customers of the potential costs.
Earlier this year regulation was announced which requires telcos to send text messages to customers on arrival in other counties and also send notifications while overseas of excess usage – this single change shifted that “blame” back onto the consumer – there was no longer a way to say “I didn’t know” – in fact the telcos could argue “we told you so”.
In recent weeks a fundamental shift in this market has occurred with Vodafone and Optus both announcing new pricing structures for overseas travellers.
The Optus approach is to divide the world into a couple of regions and set out very clear pricing for calls, texts and data use in those areas. Additionally they are making available a $10 a day option which removes the worry with calls and texts making them unlimited and gives you a 30mb per day data allowance.
If you happened to be overseas for 30 days you are going to pay $300 for 900mb of data while travelling. The trick being to restrict your usage to that daily limit.
The $10 a day packs are in what Optus call’s “Zone 1” only (Asia, Canada, US, New Zealand, UK, Europe, Pacific Islands – so you are covered in most of the world but not Middle East, Africa or Latin America)
If you go over the $10 a day pack, you revert to the pay as you go rates so you will need to keep an eye out for those usage charges. The $10 pack in Zone 1 covers 98 countries, while the new pay-as-you-go rates cover 182 countries.
While that’s a good idea, in my view Vodafone have made things even easier – however it’s limited to just three countries.. (Update: Vodafone have now expanded the plan further across Europe to an additional 30+ countries)
Vodafone announced today their new “Red” plans ($65,$85,$100 month) which give users the option of the $5 per day roaming while in the US, UK and New Zealand on their normal plan entitlements.
That means unlimited calls, texts and your normal monthly data allowance comes with you. So for a 30 day trip away you will pay $150 for unlimited calls and texts within the country you are in (UK,US Or NZ) and also back to Australia, along with your normal data allowance (starting at 1.5gb on the $65 plan).
Consider shorter term trips though and how easy this makes things. 5 days in the USA and for $25 you can call and text anyone in the US or Australia worry free. And with data if you have a 1.5gb plan and you use 1gb while overseas, you still have 500mb to use back at home in Australia – if you need more data just bolt on a $10 1gb data pack.
I recently joined Vodafone CEO Bill Morrow on a short trip to Queenstown New Zealand where we almost literally painted the town red taking part in the kind of activities a tourist might enjoy over the course of a week. While this was without doubt a bunch of fun, it demonstrated one thing very clearly to me – when you are having a blast on holidays you probably want to tweet photos, share photos on Facebook and Instagram or just call your family from the highest snow topped mountain. And why on earth should you worry about how much that is going to cost?
The Vodafone plan has one other simple advantage, you don’t pay the $5 if you don’t use your phone that day. So turn the phone off, leave it in the hotel and there is no charge. If you want to use it, the $5 is automatically added to your bill, you don’t have to call home and activate the service.
I’d like to hope the Vodafone plan will expand to other countries soon (see Update above), but in the meantime if you’re travelling far and wide the Optus option certainly presents you with greater transparency than ever before on charges.
Top marks Optus and Vodafone for turning what has been a nightmare for consumers for many years into a genuine option for consumers to actually use their smartphones on holidays.
At the time of writing Telstra has not announced any change to its international roaming options, they are still advising customers to pay for an additional international Data pack before travelling. Given the announcements from Optus and Vodafone I would expect an announcement from Telstra isn’t too far away.
Trevor Long travelled to Queenstown NZ as a guest of Vodafone Australia and Virgin Australia