Australian global roaming SIM card firm TravelSIM has announced it has dropped its prices for data roaming in Europe by more than 70%.
Previously, it was charging US$3.60 per megabyte in Europe, but now, it will only charge US$1 per megabyte. At current exchange rates, that's only 93c per megabyte.
"Global data roaming is becoming more popular as travellers become more reliant on smartphones and data-heavy applications," said TravelSIM Australia CEO Jamien Zimmermann.
“But according to a recent OECD study, Australian providers are among the most expensive when it comes to global data roaming rates.
"TravelSIM’s new data rate for most of Europe is the first step in making access to smartphone applications more affordable for travellers."
TravelSIM customers can get the new rate in the following 33 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Vatican City.
But even more importantly, there are no "flagfall" charges for TravelSIM data usage.
Not only do Australian telcos charge unbelievably high rates for data roaming -- between $10 and $20 per megabyte, Telstra also applies flagfall fees of 50c every time a phone or modem connects to the internet -- which can be many times each day.
For now, the improved rate of $1/MB only applies in Europe; TravelSIM's data roaming rates are still costly in the USA and other countries.
The TravelSIM itself costs $49.95 and only comes with $5 credit -- which does mean the effective cost is higher than $1 per megabyte. (Though if you make a call once every six months, the card stays active and you keep the same number, which is useful for regular international travellers.)
Despite this up-front cost, the SIM card's inherent value is that it allows people to call you free of charge while you're overseas if they use TravelSIM free-call 1800 number and key in your TravelSIM number when prompted. You pay $US0.21/min out of your credit balance to receive the call.
However, TravelSIM has the advantage of being available in Australia at most Australia Post outlets, so it's something travellers can have ready in their phone as soon as their plane lands.
Tips for reducing data roaming costs
In its announcement, TravelSIM provided further tips for travellers to reduce their data roaming costs (an impressive gesture, in our opinion, since it means people will ultimately spend less on their TravelSIM.)
TravelSIM recommends using data compressor apps like Onavo to reduce data roaming charges.
"These apps work in the background, and intercept incoming data before sending it to the device. Settings can be adjusted in the apps to compress the data, greatly reducing download sizes and the bill as a result. The best apps of these kinds also have a data monitoring system, allowing the traveller to measure data usage in real time."
The company also pointed out that Android phones give users a lot of control over their data consumption.
"You can manually turn on or off automatic syncing for all applications, and TravelSIM recommends turning them all off until you need them.
"Travellers should change their email settings from ‘push’ to ‘fetch’, however, to ensure you are only downloading emails when you want to, ideally when connected to WiFi."