Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What is International Roaming?

To get a better roaming deal, it helps to understand what roaming is and how it works.

Unless you have studied your Operator's roaming charges, you probably have little idea how much you will be charged when travelling

Let's say you drive from your "Home Country" across the border into a "Destination Country". How is it your mobile phone keeps working? After all, you have a mobile phone Operator at home, but it doesn't have a presence in the Destination Country. So how come you can still make or receive calls?

The answer:

* when you crossed the border, you started 'roaming' on a mobile phone network in the Destination Country. This "Host Operator" will now handle at least part of every call you make and receive;
* Rather then sending you a separate bill, the Host Operator charges your Home Operator, using a wholesale rate they arranged between themselves;
* Your Home Operator then passes this expense on to you in your next bill. This retail charge is likely to be greater than the wholesale rate they were charged.

There are almost certainly several Operators in the Destination Country, but you were probably transferred to one Host Operator automatically (you may have received a 'welcome SMS'), because operators across Europe have set up roaming arrangements. However:

* unless you have studied your Operator's roaming charges, you probably have little idea how much you will be charged when you're travelling
* you can choose your Host Operator - it's just a question of pushing the right buttons on your mobile phone

How to get a better deal - general advice
Before travelling

Mobile phone operators offer different packages. It makes sense not only to consider the different tariff plans and packages of one specific operator, but to compare those of several operators in your home country. For instance, if you expect to be travelling more frequently in the near future, it might make sense to shop around and consider switching from your current operator to a competitor. This is relatively easy to do and, thanks to EU legislation, you can keep your number.

Check with your mobile operator (and other operators) the current rates applying to your destination country. Check the sample tariffs pages for examples of what you can reasonably expect to be charged.

As you can manually select the roaming network in your destination country using the Select Network function on your mobile phone, it makes sense to check beforehand what rates are on offer once you arrive in your destination country. Again, check the sample tariffs pages to see what you can expect to be charged.

Remember that as a general rule you’ll be charged more expensive rates if you are a pre-pay customer rather than a regular subscriber.

Ask your mobile phone operator about any special deals it might offer. Many operators offer special holiday roaming packages. Sometimes, you have to sign via text message to be eligible.

Let your close friends and family know you will be travelling. This will avoid unnecessary calls. Ask them to text you instead. Alternatively, divert all incoming calls straight to your mailbox before leaving home.
When travelling

Remember you may be able to influence the level of roaming charges by selecting the proper network upon which you are roaming. Your handset will have an in-built function that allows for manual selection. Typically, your home operator will automatically guide you to roam on a specified partner network - but this may not necessarily be the cheapest option for you in all cases. Get in touch with your operator to learn about designated partner networks.

Always try to use off-peak rates which can be considerably cheaper. Off-peak rates apply on weekends and on working days in the evening, typically after 7 p.m.

Remember that mobile phone companies often charge by the minute, rather than by second.

Consider buying a local SIM card. Your number will change while you are away but you will only pay local rates for your outgoing calls.

Consider sending text messages instead of calling - this will reduce your charges.
Innovative Roaming Packages

In response to public concern about high roaming charges and to increase competition in the market, mobile phone companies have in recent months launched new and innovative tariff packages for international roamers.

These tariff packages are sometimes labelled special deals for the holiday season and at other times standard long-term offers.

Clearly we do not endorse any particular operator or any particular pricing initiative. However, you can consult the tariffs posted on the operators' websites.

You may also look out for up-to-date information on these new packages advertised in international airports and railway stations.

To take advantage of this encouraging movement in the markets, please contact your mobile phone operator.

Alternatively you might wish to use an international roaming SIM card.

You can also win £1,000 in our free to enter draw, Grab a Grand. Just click here to be taken to the details page.


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