Data roaming charges – and how to avoid them

Hey,

Like a good geek, when I got my iPhone I looked through all the menus to uncover its features, and stumbled across the “data roaming” option, which according to the tooltip, said I should turn off when going abroad to avoid “substantial” charges.

Last week in LA, I found out exactly how substantial they were.  My company was nice enough to send me to E3, and put me up in a local hotel.  They had free wifi, but as more guests arrived it got bogged down and became unusable.  I had connected my iPhone to my work exchange server to check email, and since I needed to be in close contact with the office, with a slight twinge at the back of my brain, I turned on data roaming and starting downloading my mail via the Edge network.

I used it for about 4 days, and I thought I could only have used about 30-40MB maximum, and I’d be surprised if it cost more than £30 when I got back to the UK.  Data is cheap, isn’t it?  I mean my broadband connection at home has no limits and is about £25 per month.

What a surprise I had when I returned – my phone bill came to £750!  £650 was the data, a mere 110MB.  I was not looking forward to the meeting with finance where I was about to beg them to cover my bills.

So I gave O2 a call.  I explained that I was shocked at the charges (very politely, btw, I never got angry or swore).  After being on hold for about 10 minutes, the advisor came back on the line and said that since it was my first time using data abroad, they would write off the charges.  Phew!!

So, my advice to anyone else caught in this situation is to talk to your network provider and see if they will do the same for you.  It’s unfair of them to charge such ridiculous prices (£6 per MB is a joke).  Sadly if the prices were reasonable, people would use the service a lot, rather than being stung once and turning it off forever.

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