Vodafone, Optus get real on global roaming

By David Flynn, August 26 2013
Vodafone, Optus get real on global roaming

Australia’s mobile phone companies are finally moving to make global roaming an affordable proposition, with both Optus and Vodafone unveilling new globetrotter-friendly plans, with Telstra likely to follow suit.

Until this month, using your smartphone overseas under any Australia carrier’s data roaming provision has meant being slugged an average of $15 per megabyte – an impost of several hundred times the cost of a domestic data plan.

That’s all too often resulted in a post-trip bill of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The alternative: hunting down a prepaid local SIM for each country you visit, having to top it up during your visit and foregoing the option of having business contacts call you on your standard Australian mobile number.

But new global roaming plans from Optus and Vodafone tilt the table in favour of the business traveller.

Vodafone: $5 a day to 'Roam Like Home'

Vodafone has fired the first shot, with its ‘Roam Like Home’ service as the cornerstone of new mobile plans which will effectively cap global roaming fees at $5 per day for travellers to New Zealand, the US and the UK – with more counties to come, pledges Vodafone Australia CEO Bill Morrow.

“We’re in heaps of discussions right now and we’ll be making an announcement later this year which will add a lot more countries” Morrow revealed to Australian Business Traveller.

Morrow says he is eager to leverage Vodafone’s strong global presence as a network operator in scores of countries, which is a key differentiator to Optus and Telstra.

“In the end we’re all part of the same company, and it’s all about being a Vodafone customer” he says, which should obviate the need for overpriced cross-carrier charging.

“But we’re being very customer-centric about this – it’s not where we can get it done, but where our customers go and where they need it” Morrow explained.

“New Zealand is our number one roaming destination, the UK and the US complete the top three”, although Morrow would’t be drawn on which country or region ranks as number four on the list.

However, it’s perhaps noteworthy that Morrow previously ran Vodafone's European business and that the company is currently merging all of its European operations into a single business unit, which could simply the rollout of pan-European roaming.

Under Vodafone’s new Red plans, Vodafone Australia customers visiting NZ, the USA and the UK will be able to use their local plan's voice, text and data allowances for an additional $5 per day.

Read: Vodafone’s new Red global roaming data plans from $50, unlimited talk & text

“If you’re comfortable on your plan while you’re in Australia, then while you’re overseas you don’t have to find and flip a local SIM card and call-forward your Australian number, which is something I’ve done myself and it’s a pain” Morrow said.

“You just use your phone like you would at home for $5 a day, that’s the cost of a cup of coffee each day.”

Optus moves to flat-rate voice, text and data

Optus’ response, which takes effect from the middle of September, has been to  move to flat-rate  global roaming plans and slash the cost of overseas voice, text and data.

Data takes the biggest tumble, plummeting from $20/MB under Optus' current AutoRoam plans to 50c/MB or $1/MB depending on which of two worldwide zones you’re in.

In Zone 1 – covering Asia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Europe, the UK, the USA and Canada – most calls will cost $1 per minute with 50c/MB for data and 50c per SMS.

Zone 2 includes Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, with rates double those for Zone 1: calls will be charged at $2 per minute, data at $1/MB and texts at $1 per message.

Unlike Vodafone, those rates will be available on prepaid and postpaid plans rather than requiring subscribers to move to a new plan.

In November Optus will launch $10 per day ‘travel packs’ which will let Australian subscribers use their Optus SIM card in Zone 1 countries with what the carrier promises as 'unlimited talk and text' plus 30MB per day of data.

If you go over that 30MB daily ceiling you'll be charged at the new Zone 1 data rate of 50c/MB.

Your move, Telstra...

After tomorrow’s reveal of the new Vodafone global roaming plans, all eyes will shift to Telstra, which has traditionally led the local telco race by dint of is extensive coverage, reliability and speed on both its NextG and 4G networks.

Asked for comment, a Telstra spokesman offered Australian Business Traveller only a boilerplate response spruiking the carrier’s “range of international data packs” and “for business customers who travel frequently we have International Frequent Traveller Data Plans that they can subscribe to on an ongoing basis.”

We're hoping that Telstra can soon do better than that.

David Flynn travelled to Vodafone's launch of its new global roaming plans in New Zealand as a guest of Vodafone.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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