Is anyone else really annoyed about the lack of decent tariffs offering any kind of truly international coverage and not just some half-baked incentive for a beano to Stuttgart? Whilst the networks are all busy bombarding us with ever more ludicrous amounts of free UK texts and calls, why is it beyond any of them to offer inclusive international sms or roaming calls at a competitive price without all the additional crap?
Sure, they have special offers if all you do is visit a handful of countries and you're never going to get a tariff that's cheaper than just buying a local sim or calling card but for people like me who travel often and widespread, it's a pain in the neck to continually keep swapping sims and changing numbers. Indeed, you end up spending half of your credit on the new sim just texting everyone with your new number!
Charges have been gradually creeping up under the guise of being "standardised" yet it still remains stupidly expensive to use your moby abroad despite real-world network costs decreasing. Because most contracts give you inclusive UK sms and calls only, all you end up doing is paying for the roaming part of the tariff in addition to the normal monthly line rental for the inclusive UK stuff that's rarely used. In other words, you're having to pay for a contract to get cheaper roaming coverage without actually requiring any of the inclusive UK specific junk.
Take Orange for example. They used to charge 8p per international sms sent from the UK that then went up to 12p and then 16p. On their contracts, it now costs 20p per international sms and an eyewatering 50p per roaming text whilst receiving a call will set you back 90p. None of this is taken from any inclusive calls or texts and the Calling Abroad Minutes bundle they used to offer a while ago that gave 20% extra calls and texts abroad has long been stopped. Orange are actually one of the worse companies as they charge in 60 second increments which is strange given that they were the first ones to champion the per-second billing cause. The others fare little better though. T-Mobile charges 20p per sms to send abroad from the UK and 50p to send a text whilst roaming. Virgin offers 20p international sms and 25p roaming sms whereas Three just has a flat rate of 25p per international text regardless of whether you are in the UK or roaming.
For sms, O2 is the most competitive with 10p international sms on PAYG (with 49p roaming sms) for a one off fee of £5 quid for the International caller Bolt-on but you're then at the mercy of having to top-up whilst abroad. On their contract tariffs, O2 international sms cost 16p per text or 12p per text if you take the International Traveller Service addon thats £3 per month (ITS is free on £30+ tariffs) with both giving you 40p roaming texts. Very sensibly, they also allow roaming texts to be taken out of your inclusive sms at a rate of 4 roaming sms = 1 inclusive sms. However, to receive a call on a standard O2 contract is £1.65 (or 99p with ITS)
All things considered, Virgin probably has the right mix of reasonable charges for both calls and sms as their contract charges only 50p per min to receive calls whilst roaming. TalkMobile is even better at only 40p per min to receive roaming calls on contract and 35p roaming sms (20p to send abroad from the UK). In both cases though, you still need to take out a contract for UK inclusive calls and texts and end up paying for stuff that isn't required.
Now I know there are those who would say harness the power of the web and use Skype (limited coverage) or online sms services for dirt cheap charges but these are fiddly and often require special handsets. Believe me, when you're stuck in the middle of a desert or on top of a mountain, the last thing you want to be taking is your nice, shiny £300 handset with all the gadgets and a 2 hour battery life! On top of all that, you have the normal roaming GPRS/3G charges to consider which cancel out any benefit made in a cheaper cost for sms.
The honest truth folks is that we are being systematically fleeced. All this nonsense you hear about network termination charges in different countries bumping up the cost is a load of old tosh. The infrastructure to send sms has existed since the dawn of 80's brick mobiles and shoulder pads, it doesn't cost anything extra to send an SMS in this respect to most countries. SMS has been described as the purest form of revenue and it's not difficult to see why. A recent report stated that with the huge markup (typically 4-figure %) operators enjoy on sms, sending texts via mobile phones works out to be far more expensive than downloading data from the Hubble Space Telescope!
What we really need is a tariff similar to the Orange OVP Virgin plan so you have no monthly charge but are just billed for usage. International sms should be 10p as per O2 and roaming call charges and texts should be reasonable as per Virgin and TalkMobile with an option to buy inclusive texts for both sending abroad and also roaming (similar to O2).
Is this really too much to ask?