A NZ Herald headline today was Salesman ‘crippled’ by internet charges.

This was due to what NZ mobile teco’s charge when roaming- $30 per MB in most countries.  So that’s $30,000 per GB – which compares to around $10-$20  per GB if on a plan in NZ (and no, that’s not a mis-print – $30,000 per GB).  (Btw, OZ is one of the few cheaper countries, and ‘only’ $8 or $10 per MB depending if you are on XT ($8) or Voda($10)).

Now I agree with DPF on Kiwiblog here that this is a rip off, but I think some serious points are overlooked in the media analysis:

  1. What did the guy expect to pay?  Did he even know there WAS a charge?  If not, why not (that’s the users responsibility as much as anyone!  I for one know how much a rip off it is, so never use it).  It appears to me lots of people just don’t look, and complain about it afterwards.
  2. Do people realise WHY they get large data charges in short periods?  Often laptops left off for a while will download large amounts of email or even download windows updates when turned on – so if you are paying by the megabyte that racks up a big bill quick!  The key is turn off windows updates when overseas (and anything else that might use large data transfer like apple’s Mobileme iDisk if you just added a whole bunch of new files), and save it until you are paying for TIME not DATA (like most wi-fi), or even better wait till its free (like Koru Club - sheez they guy could have bought a years membership with his bill!)
  3. $1,100 at $8 a MB (the rate in OZ) means he used 137meg in 5 minutes.  Did anyone bother to ask what that was?  137MB is a HEAP!

The advice on getting a local sim card is a good one.  This works well in most western countries except Japan (where you need to be a resident to get a pre-pay sim).  In OZ you can get a USB pre-pay data stick for around $100, and buy date for under $20 a GB.  So a very useful option.   I have one and just top it up anywhere from $19 for a few hundred meg if I am there for a few days, to $50 or so for a few GB.  Either way it’s a fraction of the cost of roaming rates on Voda or Telecom.

However some comments around some quotes from the article and my comment/questions relating to them:

The boss of an Auckland IT company being charged more than $6500 for iPhone use during a six-week business trip.

This guy works in IT – he should KNOW.  Did he even attempt to monitor usage while he was away?

“I paid it but sent (Telecom) a letter telling them I was absolutely shocked and dismayed.”

Telecom offered to reverse the charges in full, but when Crake cancelled his contract, they tried to sting him for an early termination fee of $650.

Well I think Telecom are SPOT ON here.  Sheez, they offer to REFUND him the full amount. Then he wants to cancel?  Well if you do, and you are inside your initial term you SHOULD pay the termination fee.  I think its the USER that’s being unreasonable here!

I have to say the point about kiwis being ripped off it VERY valid, but analysis is lacking in this article.  Lance Wiggs makes an excellent call (and business opportunity) for Vodafone to do something about this is his recent open letter to the Vodafone group. If I was a single country based Telco (like Telecom), then do a deal with others (eg Telstra in OZ) to “swap” data for users – then you would have a MAJOR competitive advantage!)

Black and White Version: Kiwis are ripped off when it comes to data roaming, but users should more aware of what they pay, and use alternatives

Update: Ironically I made this post from Australia, using my 3 Mobile USB stick – which cost me $19 for 4 days usage (500 meg).  I used my laptop to share the wireless network so my iPhone could connect to the net (without using data) to set up my Virgin Mobile Aussie sim card setting.  I spend $19 there too for $50 of calls, and 5 meg of data (enough for the odd Google Maps look up, or Facebook view). I actually intend to do a post one day about using overseas sim cards/data cards and the best way of maximising value from them.

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