Mobile Operators Need to Do More to Reduce Data Roaming Woes
Last month, the Guardian has just reported that one in six mobile phone users is shocked by high bills when they use their mobile abroad (http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/jun/30/bill-mobile-phone-abroad-eu-roaming). In this age of rapid 4G deployment and proliferation of smartphones with 3G capability, the percentage is unusually high and worth some investigation.
In the past, certainly in the early days of 3G technology deployment, communication between mobile operators with their customers on data roaming charges was inadequate. The roaming charges might not be as highly visible as they are today. As complaints started to emerge, both regulators and mobile operators started to react. In 2012, 24 mobile operators agreed to take part in a data roaming transparency initiative by GSMA (http://www.gsma.com/newsroom/gsma-launches-data-roaming-transparency-initiative/), which involved sending text messages to remind customers of their data roaming tariff and implementing a monthly data roaming pending limit. The European Commission has also been actively monitoring the roaming charges since 2005. Internet roaming price was capped on 1 July 2009 and EU Roaming III Regulation, implemented in July 2014, further cuts internet roaming price from 45 euro cents per megabyte, before VAT, to 20 cents (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28096678).
With all these regulations and checkpoints in place, customer complaints on the issue of data roaming should be in decline. However, according to Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, extra charges from excess mobile internet download allowances has become the top topic of complaints in 2014 (http://www.smh.com.au/business/biztech/mobile-phone-complaints-fall-but-excess-download-charges-the-biggest-gripe-20140917-10i0aj.html).
Unfortunately, the visibility of the fees is dependent on the savviness or the understanding of the customers. Some initiatives are still required from mobile customers to understand their mobile packages and smartphones, as frankly, price plan competitiveness between operators tend to disappear when it comes to roaming services. Customers who travelled abroad frequently will have more knowledge of the roaming fees and more IT savvy customers would be able to locate mobile data limit settings and turn on/off the data roaming connectivity depending on their requirements.
As for the mobile operators, current level of communication is obviously not good enough. Free data usage alerts or warnings may be a good way to start.