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The tyranny of oppressive international charges

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#1
Dark Horse

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Howdy all,

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) :D

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?

Regards,

Dark Horse

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#2
Mysterious Stranger

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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!


I agree entirely - it's money for old rope for SMS charges. However, on a factual note, the *infrastructure* to send texts has not existed since the 'dawn of the 80's' although proposed in the intial GSM standard at the time, the first GSM network launching in 1992 and the first text being sent in 1993. I remember when I joined one2one in 1995 sms was limited to other users of the 121 network. Prior to that being on Cellnet I'd never even bothered with SMS.

M.S

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#3
Christopher Woods

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It's something I've complained about in the past - especially for T-Mobile... Why don't they arrange it so roaming calls and data debits a disproportionately high amount from your inclusive monthly credit? That way they sorta get their money back indirectly, by denying you the ability to make more calls whilst back in the UK (on the basis that the pence per minute charge of an international call is billed to you at a far higher amount than the intrinsic value of a UK call).

So in essence, you're maybe charged double, maybe closer to triple the amount (depending on zone you're roaming in) of the real world cost of a call while roaming, but it doesn't get added *on top* of your monthly allowance or standing charge. Example of current charges (OOA = Out Of Allowance);

UK -> UK call: 20ppm
UK -> UK text/sms: 10/20p
Data (on WnW): inclusive

Abroad (Zone 1, for e.g.):
France -> UK call: 38ppm (OOA)
France -> UK text: 20p (OOA)
France -> UK MMS: 40p (the exception to the rule: it's inclusive to your allowance for some strange reason, so I always send MMSes when I'm abroad!)
Data: extortionate, all OOA - I think it's still something ridiculous like £7.50/Mb (when an entire month's worth of data (1Gb) is £7.50 in the UK!

Now, why not have it so that when abroad, for example, a call costs 60p/min, a text costs 30p, and an MMS costs 50p - but it comes out of your inclusive Flext allowance? This would surely negate the higher interconnect fees, especially on things like texting and MMSes.

However, I know why they don't do it - because it'd be more complicated for their billing system, and they want to just immediately offload the interconnect and roaming charges, so they slap them on top. The EU Directive capping the rates made a big difference when I was last in France on work (£74 bill instead of £220/230) but it's still one of my main bugbears about the UK mobile industry. Why not push forward with an innovative method of charging for roaming which pleases the customer, instead of continuing to shaft them because you can - and nobody's ever done any different?

Imagine all the good press a mobile network would get by arranging this kind of billing system for roaming / international calls... Who fancies starting up a new MVNO?

Edited by Christopher Woods, 30 May 2008 - 10:00 AM.

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#4
ricardo the fish

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France -> UK MMS: 40p (the exception to the rule: it's inclusive to your allowance for some strange reason, so I always send MMSes when I'm abroad!)


The cost of MMS coming out of your allowance may have something to do with the EU capping the cost of MMS messages.

I believe (mostly because T-mobile Netherlanders told me via a free txt message on a recent trip to Amsterdam) that the MMS is capped at 40p per message.

I forget how much SMS was but, of course, data was somewhere in the region of a very painful kick to the groin.

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#5
Dark Horse

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I think there's definitely a market here for this kind of tariff on contract especially given the huge rise in immigration over the last 10 years (which incidentally, is entirely down to the open border policy by ZaNu Labour but we'll leave Treasure Island UK 101 for another session :D).

The operators do recognise this but it appears they're quite happy to offer competitive rates on PAYG only to ensure they make something out of it rather than billing customers in arrears with the risk of them moving abroad and purposely defaulting on payment which happens often with fixed lines. Maybe the answer is to ask for a large deposit up front like they used to do in the old days or perhaps limit the number of countries/calls you can make?

The other alternative that was quickly shot dead by the bastardo operators were inclusive calls to 08 numbers that provide cheap call-through to many countries. In fact, these days, at only 3p per minute to call the Far East, it's cheaper for me to make a 5 min call from a fixed line than to send a single text!

Regards,

Dark Horse

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#6
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T will be charged by the telcos in the other countries - how can they include that in their contract?

T are going to cap data charges abroad from this summer.

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#7
Dark Horse

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T will be charged by the telcos in the other countries - how can they include that in their contract?

T are going to cap data charges abroad from this summer.


Well for SMS, the cost should be miniscule and for roaming charges, a lot of the operators have preferred networks to use abroad so it shouldn't be too difficult to agree on a deal. Also, there's much disparity between roaming costs (TalkMobile contract charge 40p to receive a call, T-Mobile contract charge £1.30) suggesting that real efficiencies could be made if the operators wanted it so.

As for data charges, those are less important I reckon, Internet cafe's are plentiful and cheap plus lots of phones have wifi and it's not too difficult to find a decent hotspot abroad, especially with Costa and Starbucks trying to take over the world, so it'd be hard to beat the price of a coffee for all-you-want data access :D

Regards,

Dark Horse

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#8
Christopher Woods

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T will be charged by the telcos in the other countries - how can they include that in their contract?

T are going to cap data charges abroad from this summer.



As I suggested earlier, you make a call while roaming - it comes out of your inclusive allowance, but you're billed for it at twice, triple the amount of the equivalent call if you'd placed it while in the UK. So, whereas on Flext calls cost 20p/min, I'd be happy to pay 60p per minute for calls while roaming - as long as it came out of my inclusive allowance! They've already called the cost of calls at something like 34p/min for the EU, they're obviously making a profit on that so why not charge a perceived premium and take it out of inclusive allowances (so effectively, you can't make as many of the REALLY cheap calls when you're back in your home country?) And then, if you go over your allowance from calls made whilst roaming, you'll pay out of allowance fees at the standard rate - which for them is almost pure profit, as opposed to out of allowance roaming charges while abroad.


Makes sense to me, I just think the telcos are too scared to try something like this out.

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#9
Dark Horse

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As I suggested earlier, you make a call while roaming - it comes out of your inclusive allowance, but you're billed for it at twice, triple the amount of the equivalent call if you'd placed it while in the UK. So, whereas on Flext calls cost 20p/min, I'd be happy to pay 60p per minute for calls while roaming - as long as it came out of my inclusive allowance! They've already called the cost of calls at something like 34p/min for the EU, they're obviously making a profit on that so why not charge a perceived premium and take it out of inclusive allowances (so effectively, you can't make as many of the REALLY cheap calls when you're back in your home country?) And then, if you go over your allowance from calls made whilst roaming, you'll pay out of allowance fees at the standard rate - which for them is almost pure profit, as opposed to out of allowance roaming charges while abroad.
Makes sense to me, I just think the telcos are too scared to try something like this out.


Agreed, that's a really good idea and would also encourage frequent travellers to take up the more expensive tariffs that include more minutes. Even Orange Panther wouldn't look too bad if they did that!

Regards,

Dark Horse

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#10
Confucious

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Calls made in this country cost the company bugger all (approximately) , which is why they can aford to bundle them. The costs they are charged by other operators makes what you suggest impossible.

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#11
Dark Horse

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Calls made in this country cost the company bugger all (approximately) , which is why they can aford to bundle them. The costs they are charged by other operators makes what you suggest impossible.


I'm not too sure about that, you can buy bandwidth and capacity cheaply on the wholesale markets which is why there are so many 08 numbers that let you call mobiles abroad for pennies.

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#12
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Must admit I don't call many mobiles abroad and didn't know of the 08 Nos that allow you to do this cheaply.
If that is the case I'm suprised none of the ops have done this - is there anyone on the 'inside' who can comment on this?

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#13
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Must admit I don't call many mobiles abroad and didn't know of the 08 Nos that allow you to do this cheaply.
If that is the case I'm suprised none of the ops have done this - is there anyone on the 'inside' who can comment on this?


Check out http://www.ourfavouritecompanies.com/ for 08 numbers to call abroad cheaply (moby and fixed line).

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#14
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Aren't those all FROM fixed lines though?

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#15
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Aren't those all FROM fixed lines though?


Yes they are but many also used to work from a moby and would be included in any inclusive calls package. That's what I meant regarding it not costing the scumbag telco's much at all, they've just blocked access to most 08 numbers to protect their profit margins. There are still a handful of international callthrough's that *do* work from moby's as part of inclusive calls but these inevitably get blocked once the operator latches on.

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#16
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Like I say, I don't call international much (if at all) but the blocking of 08 numbers really hacks me off. If these came out of our allowance it would be great - but is it because they are charged for 08 numbers? In which case it is understandable that they charge us (I am not saying I like it). If the mobile phone operators are charged by a 3rd party for 08 numbers they pass the costs on as the inclusive mins only covers what they control as it costs them nothing (or very little.
So, while it may seem to you that it is just protecting their international calls, I think it is probably just recouping costs from 3rd parties which is more understandable and less scumbagish...

Possibly.


I could, off course be talking complete b*ll*x as I don't really know - is their anyone who does know who would care to comment?

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#17
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Like I say, I don't call international much (if at all) but the blocking of 08 numbers really hacks me off. If these came out of our allowance it would be great - but is it because they are charged for 08 numbers? In which case it is understandable that they charge us (I am not saying I like it). If the mobile phone operators are charged by a 3rd party for 08 numbers they pass the costs on as the inclusive mins only covers what they control as it costs them nothing (or very little.
So, while it may seem to you that it is just protecting their international calls, I think it is probably just recouping costs from 3rd parties which is more understandable and less scumbagish...

Possibly.
I could, off course be talking complete b*ll*x as I don't really know - is their anyone who does know who would care to comment?


What I don't get is that 08 numbers tended to be a bit more expensive a few years back when they were given as part of inclusive calls. I don't think the charging model has changed since then, in fact calls have gotten cheaper, therefore why have the operators now decided to charge for these calls? They're all bandits, I tells ya!

Essentially, anyone can set up their own 08 number (they cost a tenner at most) and the amount paid by the caller is split between you and the connecting telco. Indeed, with the backlash against crappy 08 numbers, I'm thinking of getting my own one, hooking it up to an answering machine with a 5 minute message leading to 17 options and then giving this as my home number to every shyster, telco, utility company, double glazing salesman, recruiter, cold-caller and anyone else who wants some :D

Regards,

Dark Horse

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#18
zebraZ

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Have any of you guys ever heard of www.FreebieSMS.co.uk ? It seems to send free SMS messages in the UK, but does anyone have any experience with them?"

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#19
Dark Horse

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Have any of you guys ever heard of www.FreebieSMS.co.uk ? It seems to send free SMS messages in the UK, but does anyone have any experience with them?"


Firstly, welcome to the forum :(

Secondly, are you serious, no one is gonna spend a fiver to recieve a text message :D

Taken from the site:

"Standard text messages to Orange, O2 (UK), T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone, Guernsey, Jersey, Manx and Three are free to send, other networks cost 60p to send. For Messages sent to O2,Orange,3, Vodafone, Guernsey, Jersey, Manx and T-Mobile networks, the recipient will have the option to pay £5 to read the message."

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#20
Confucious

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Seems like a bargain to me - almost as good as 08 Nos :D

Edited by Confucious, 10 June 2008 - 08:57 AM.

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