Understanding Global Roaming Charges

Jean Dennison
November 30, 2017
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If you’ve ever returned from a trip abroad and found your mobile phone bill is higher than normal,  it’s likely because of roaming charges. Understanding global roaming charges is crucial to keeping from those nasty surprises in future!

What are global roaming charges?

When your UK network phone or smartphone travels outside of the UK, it needs to connect to the local network for coverage. This is known as ‘roaming’, as your phone ‘roams’ onto a different network than your normal provider.

Normally, once your mobile is roaming on to another network, you should receive an SMS or alert advising you of the rates and costs for usage. In some cases, the network your mobile phone roams onto may be a ‘partner’ network to your UK provider, and may have established rates for usage.

If the network you are roaming onto is not a partner network, you run the risk of excessive charges.

Global roaming charges therefore are any additional costs your phone costs you for calls, SMS, voicemails, or data sharing on an overseas network.

Is it possible to avoid global roaming charges?

As recently as 15th June 2017, the European Union (EU) abolished roaming charges for EU travellers within EU countries.

The best way to  check which countries offer no roaming charges for EU travellers is be using an interactive coverage map such as Handset Expert.  By selecting your UK operator, it’s easy to use the map to see which countries offer free roaming, where coverage costs additional fees or even where there is no coverage.

How to reduce network usage whilst roaming

If your phone will be roaming onto overseas networks, especially in countries with no free roaming, it’s recommended to reduce network usage to minimise charges.

In most cases, data usage is the ‘hidden enemy’, as many apps are repeatedly transmitting via the network – even when the customer is not actively using the phone! Examples of this are social media, push notifications, location-based services, syncing services (iCloud, Dropbox etc,) which often ‘ping’ the network for an update, and transfer data in the background.

Even worse, if you’re using a smartphone that’s roaming for activities such as watching videos or streaming music, you’re using like to use more data (MB or GB) in a shorter time.

The trick to understanding global roaming charges is to know what your allowances are, and what apps and services your phone is using – and minimise them. Often you can switch off these apps, or even the data connection fully, and only turn on as you need.

Conclusion: start understanding global roaming charges to save money

Those EU travellers most susceptible to ‘bill shock’ (when they return from holiday to find massive charges on their phone bill) are those who are unaware of global roaming.

Be wise, check with your UK mobile provider before travelling if the countries you will be visiting offer free roaming.

If not, look into pre-purchasing a package that will provide a calls, SMS, or data allowance for a reduced cost.

Finally, look into managing your smartphone’s data connection wisely, either by reducing connection times to a minimum or making use of WiFi.

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