Global Roaming - How Do Operators Charge For Data Use?

22 February 2013
Read Time: 1.9 mins

Over the last few years, our travel habits have changed as much as our technology. With the arrival of the smartphone, there's almost no limit to what our handsets can do these days. They have already replaced a number of things (wristwatches, diaries, calendars, maps) and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that our phones will, in the future, replace our wallets and credit cards too. All this access to our personal information, to the internet and email, is incredibly convenient - except for when you're travelling abroad.

Global Roaming Usage Global Roaming

For many people, leaving the country means their phones turn from being their dearest and most useful tool into a dangerously expensive item that must be buried at the bottom of the hotel safe until it's time to leave. And with good reason - there have been so many cases of travellers returning home after using their phone abroad to find that they have accrued unexpected charges that we've had to invent a word for it: "billshock". This is often due to people using applications or features of their smartphone that they do not realise need the internet to work. Even something as simple as checking the weather or looking up directions can rack up huge charges, thanks to the very high data roaming fees that some operators charge.

One of the other problems is that it is often difficult to understand how data rates differ from calling rates. Call charges, for example, accrue by the minute. This is pretty straightforward. Data rates, on the other hand, are calculated not by the amount of time used, but by the amount of information passed to and from your device. These are split up into megabytes or MB for short. The base price for using 1MB of data may be simple to understand, but it's not much help when there are so many different ways to use the internet, all of which use different amounts. Fortunately, we've created a handy chart to help illustrate this.

Global Roaming Usage Global Roaming Usage

One of the first things that is apparent from the chart is that time is not the issue. Surfing the web for an hour costs the same as listening to a podcast or radio station for 10 minutes. Streaming video is the real danger, so if you can't live without watching videos of kittens being adorable, you'll need to stock up before you go. The best way to look at data usage is not to ask yourself for how long or how much you are using data, but rather to look at how much information are you taking from the web.

Minimise International Call Charges

Flight Centre offers a Flight Centre International SIM card, which means that you don't have to leave your phone behind. With rates as low as 39c* per MB in over 150 countries, you can even turn data roaming back on. And because everything is pre-paid, with no hidden service charges or fees, you'll never spend more than you can afford.


Read more information on mobile phones and sim cards and enjoy your vacation, secure in the knowledge that your phone can be used as intended - making all your friends and family jealous that you're having a wonderful time.

This article was written by Nick Barker from ekit.

*Rates subject to change. Ask your Flight Consultant for the latest call rates using a Flight Centre SIM card internationally.

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