Welcome to your nightmare: Data Roaming and Bill Shock


19th March 2020

by  Paul Fawcett

Mobility Product Manager

Touchdown … you land at your destination and your phone chimes to announce the notification you’ve been dreading: “Welcome, calls back to UK will be £lots per minute and Data is £even more per MB”.  

The roaming charge notification used to be a moment of panic for many. It was the moment you realised how much it was going to cost to keep using your phone and remain responsive to incoming calls and emails. 

But, EU data roaming rules have changed all that and it’s no longer a problem surely? Data roaming in Europe is now included as part of standard domestic tariffs, meaning your minutes, text, and data allowance will work in most of Europe just like they do at home. 

Roaming in the EU has been essentially ‘free’ for more than two years now. But it’s a different matter outside of the EU, with roaming charges in many countries as high as they ever have been. 

As a result, many businesses still feel the sting of unexpected bill shock. The top three causes of bill shock today include: 

1. Personal Travel 

An employee goes on holiday with their company smartphone and winds up with an enormous phone bill that they instantly try to brush off and blame on work related use. Everyone suspects that they have been streaming funny videos by the pool-side, but as data isn’t itemised on the bill there is no way of proving it. So, as you can’t be sure what led to the data use/misuse the employee gets a mild reprimand and the company ends up paying the bill.   

There are several ways around that, but none are fool proof – you can implement a roaming or spend cap but that can hinder genuine business use. Alternatively applying daily roaming passes for all employees can ensure that bills are limited. You won’t pay for the pass until you use data or make or take a call or send a text. However, that does mean you are potentially always paying for ‘holiday’ use. 

2. Spontaneous travel or spontaneous use 

Having to travel at a moment’s notice can often result in hefty roaming fees for international businesses. Especially if you don’t have the right tariff or roaming pass applied before you travel. But there are simple solutions out there to support spontaneous travel plans. If you are having difficulties keeping connected when globe-hopping, consider using a service that specialises in international mobile plans. These now support rapid eSIM deployment – meaning team members can launch new SIM profiles for the preferred data plan to your device over the air in minutes.  

Spontaneous or accidental use can also cause problems. Definitely don’t update your apps while you’re travelling. Similarly, last year I travelled to the Ukraine knowing full well that roaming was expensive and dutifully turned off data roaming before I travelled. However, finding myself stranded and needing a taxi, I turned on data roaming to call an Uber. The result? The data charges were higher than the Uber fare! Don’t forget even if you don’t use your phone for data or making calls you can still be hit with a sizable bill if you accept an incoming call! 

3. Regular travel 

Most businesses will have frequent travellers or employees on projects abroad. The mobile operators have various solutions for brief trips abroad outside Europe but for frequent travellers or semi-permanent roamers on these can come with meagre allowances and still prove expensive. 

The most common misguided advice given to business travellers visiting multiple foreign destinations is to use local sim cards. In most cases, this isn’t practical at all. You end up juggling lots of different SIMs that may need topping up and lots of different local numbers.   

A more efficient solution is to invest in a single SIM with multiple international numbers. This ensures that your contacts within these countries can reach you on a number that’s local to them and pay local rates whenever they call you. 

Tackling Bill Shock 

To help tackle these top causes of roaming bill shock you should be considering a partner that has the skills and experience to: 

  • Monitor audit usage – where do you roam and for how long? 
  • Make recommendations on preferential networks 
  • Help implement a mobile phone policy for roamers 
  • Spot trends and make recommendations on more cost-effective ways to roam 
  • Innovate by building bespoke worldwide data pools that can be shared between users and based on the countries you travel to 
  • Provide alternative roaming solutions and roaming plans 

To find out more about how you can tackle shock roaming charges and create a cost-effective travel data culture within your organisation, get in touch to learn more.   

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