Travel tech: Top tips for cutting global roaming fees

By danwarne, June 15 2011
Travel tech: Top tips for cutting global roaming fees

Heading overseas? The last thing you want to do is get home to a $10,000 phone bill due to data roaming costs from internet usage on your smartphone.

Australian Business Traveller recently investigated which mobile networks charged the most for 'data roaming' and found Optus was by far the worst offender, charging a staggering $20 per megabyte -- or $20,000 per gigabyte.

The OECD has also confirmed that Australia is among the worst countries when it comes to data roaming costs.

You can save money on global roaming phone calls with a nifty Skype trick that we've documented here.

If you're travelling with an iPhone or iPad, there's a fantastic app that can slash your data roaming costs by 85%.

But the best advice we can give you is not to use global roaming at all -- instead, use one of the SIM cards from specialist providers that offer rates that are 99% cheaper than the extortionate prices charged by Australian telcos.

If you are travelling to the USA, there's a great SIM card from a company called SIMple Mobile which provides unlimited voice calls, text messages and internet usage for US$80 per month.

There's also a terrific SIM card from a mobile network called Tru that works in both the UK and USA and offers cheap rates for both data and voice calls. It's sold on Qantas in-flight shopping on flights to the UK and USA, which is a handy way to get it.

If you're travelling to New Zealand, we recently investigated the best prepaid SIM cards there. They are readily available and easy to get, so it's crazy to pay global roaming rates in NZ.

For Hong Kong, there's a great prepaid SIM from Three that makes both phone calls and internet access cheap. 

In Europe, there's no better deal for internet access throughout your trip than Droam - a 3G/WiFi modem that you rent, that provides 1GB internet usage in many European countries for a month, for just $88.

However, Droam is for data only. If you need a SIM card that does cheap calls and internet access across Europe for your phone, MaxRoam is a great option.

Finally, there's an amazing service called Abroadband that provides very cheap 3G data roaming in 55 countries. The only catch is they only deliver the SIM cards to European addresses at the moment, so your trip will need to start in Europe for it to be useful.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Dec 2010

Total posts 16

Optus the worst at $20/MB?

Actually no, I'd say that Telstra is sneakily the worst, even though their headline rate is $15/MB. A few months ago they added a 50c session flagfall.

What's a session? Basically a connection from your phone to an internet site that data is passed over. Your handset may have several (maybe even many) sessions simultaneously (typically each app that uses data may open a session). And they can close and re-open sessions frequently

If your mail is set to "push" then whenever you get an e-mail a session will be created, the e-mail passed and the session closed. Oh, another 50c. Get 50 emails a day? $25 extra. Plus the data cost, of course.

Set you mail to "fetch" and it refreshes every 5 minutes? Even with no e-mail arriving, thats 50c/minute just to find out. Or $144 per day. The effective per-MB rate may be much higher than $15...


24 Oct 2010

Total posts 177

I asked Telstra about this and their spokesman Craig Middleton responded...

A customer shouldn’t be occurring a data session charge every time they access data.  Data sessions remain open until a device or the overseas network decide to close it.  Otherwise, the session can be re-used for other data activities -- e.g. for browsing without incurring another session fee.

Sessions can stay open for up to 24 hours generally, depending on the network customers are roaming on.

If the roaming occurred in the past 30 days, we’d be happy to investigate this for the customer (as we can still access network logs).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Feb 2012

Total posts 29

Hey Dan,  I'm a 70 year old retiree and have a IPhone 3G and an IPad 3G Wifi .. i gave up my laptop computer and will start to travel to Asia and Europe with just these 2 pieces.      Now I am confused about using these devices for phone calls and SMS; and retrieving data such as Currency; my Australian bank account etc etc. as I go without global roaming.  After reading all your informative articles, I think i need MaxRoam, yes?  They have a sim card for voice etc for my IPhone and another sim just for IPad.      Appreciate if you could advise I got it right.   Cheers

07 Feb 2013

Total posts 5

You're right OzTraveller, Maxroam does have data only global ipad sims as well as regular global sims with voice, sms, data.

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