Mark Goldberg

Roaming bill shock

We have all heard the horror stories. Someone travels abroad, leaves their mobile data active and runs up charges in the tens of thousands of dollars.

There are some people who say that for vacations, you should simply shut off your phone. Unplug and unwind.

For some people that works. For others, like me, we find that being tethered is one of the reasons that we can get away. For us, it is a travel enabler, knowing that we can reach the office, check in with the kids and be able to be reached. Still, when I am travelling out of the country, I sometimes wonder if people using their home country mobile phones are paying their own bills.

So, how do you manage your international roaming charges?

Most of the time, I keep my mobile network turned off. For safety, I also turn off the data roaming setting, just in case my phone accidentally decides to connect to the foreign network.

I have SIM cards for the US, UK and Israel that I keep active by modest payments or annual usage minimums. I have found it pretty easy to find free WiFi to cover my data connectivity.

Calling back to Canada has gotten much easier – and cheaper – thanks to Rogers One Number, which complements Rogers wireless services. Among the capabilities, One Number provides free nationwide calling from an internet connected computer located anywhere in the world. It also enables your computer to receive calls placed to your mobile number, turning your WiFi connected computer into a virtual mobile handset, with a bunch of helpful unified communications features (I recommend using a USB headset for clearest connections). The inbound capability for One Number means that when travelling, you can place and receive calls (with full caller ID) with no charges, as long as you have access to an internet connection. Text messages are delivered to your computer and there are apps available to synchronize your handset address book with the computer application.

A couple times, I have bought bundles of data and voice when I went overseas. It is a pricier option, but you are paying for convenience.

With Skype showing up as an app on many smartphones, there is another easy, low cost way to keep in contact with family friends and colleagues.

How do you manage your roaming bills?

1 comment to Roaming bill shock

  • A Telco Security Dweeb

    At least for trips to the United States, a far more direct alternative is simply to purchase a limited-time, “burner” cell phone with a pre-paid plan.

    For example, I was recently down in the Ft. Myers, Florida area, went to my local Target store, and was able to purchase two perfectly usable “flip” phones (capable of both voice and text), plus two $10 account top-up scratch cards (air time is about $0.25 per minute) from Virgin Mobile’s “LoPay” service.

    What this proved to me is how ridiculously inflated, cell phone costs are in Canada. I checked carefully on-line and the cheapest equivalent that I could get to this in Canada, was more than THREE TIMES (3x) as expensive.

    Canadians are fed up with extortionate cell service charges. We shouldn’t put up with it any more. Off with your heads, you Canadian phone oligopoly players!