Australia/New Zealand governments to investigate global roaming rip-off

By danwarne, May 3 2011
Australia/New Zealand governments to investigate global roaming rip-off

The Australian and New Zealand governments will investigate ways to address the high cost of using a mobile phone in global roaming mode across the Tasman.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key will discuss the issue when they meet this week.

"It is on the agenda for discussion at next week's meeting between prime ministers Key and Gillard and we are hopeful that a bit of prime ministerial impetus might help move the issue along a bit," a spokesperson for New Zealand Communications Minister Steven Joyce told

Both countries' communication ministries say it is clear that the rates are higher than they should be in a competitive market, and indeed, even Europeans get a better deal when roaming into Australia or New Zealand.

Travellers from both Australia and New Zealand get reamed when they travel the short distance over the Tasman -- a flight that is cheaper and shorter than some domestic flights within Australia.

Australians pay up to A$20/MB to use data in global roaming mode, and up to A$4.40 per minute to call back to Australia.

Optus and 3 are the worst offenders in different respects.

For voice calls, 3 is the bottom of the barrel -- for calls made from New Zealand to Australia while roaming, customers get shaken down for A$4.40 per minute, while Telstra is cheapest at A$2.80 per minute (a rate that is still unacceptably high).

Optus' data roaming rates are horrendous -- A$20/MB for casual internet usage, though Telstra isn't far behind at A$15, and Vodafone at A$10. Surprisingly, for data, 3 is cheapest, at A$5, provided roaming customers select the Vodafone NZ network.

Vodafone has an opt-in promotion called Vodafone Traveller that can provide the same rates as a customer's current plan when roaming in New Zealand, but only if they ring Vodafone and arrange it before leaving Australia.

However, there are complicated terms and conditions for the Vodafone Traveller promotion which make the deal much less simple than it first appears.

Ironically, in a comparison of global SIM cards available, Australian Business Traveller found a UK SIM card called SimCardGlobal Atlas+44 was cheapest. It can be mail-ordered from Australia, and provides call rates back to Australia of 62c/min.

However, the SIM card itself costs $US90 upfront to be sent to Australia (and only includes $25 of call credits), so the effective per-minute cost of calls is higher than it appears except for long trips to NZ.

How Australian telcos compare

Roaming in NZ, calling Australia

  • Telstra - A$2.80 per min
  • Vodafone - A$3.02 per min
  • Optus - A$3.50 per min
  • 3 - A$4.40 per min

Cost of using global roaming internet on your phone in NZ

  • 3 - A$5/MB
  • Vodafone - A$10/MB
  • Telstra - A$15/MB
  • Optus - A$20/MB

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