back to article Vodafone does close-up magic on roaming charges

Vodafone's magnanimous gesture in waiving roaming charges over the summer amounted to a nifty bit of misdirection - few noticed that it also slipped out some radical changes to the price of data for the traveller who can't be without their email. The changes to the cost of roamed data were posted onto the company website …


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  1. The Mole

    Good deal?

    How can Vodafone justify charging double for using a dongle rather than a phone? It costs them exactly the same whether you plug a dongle into your laptop, plug your phone into your laptop or browse from your phone. Why do they charge more for a byte for one of these but not the others, if anything it should be the opposite and be chargine less for the laptop dongle as they are the people more likely to be buying in bulk!

  2. Brian Morrison

    That's easy Mole.... see anyone using a phone will be much more careful about the data usage, not enabling auto download settings etc.

    On a laptop it's different, the damned thing is forever looking up in the DNS, checking for updates for all those packages you've installed, and grabbing huge amounts of stuff of those web pages you're looking at. So, the user will be expecting a high bill because of all this activity, so it's only fair to double it to help make up for all the reductions in revenue down to that nasty Vivianne Reding at the EC!

    Someone really does need to head off to Newbury armed with a pair of large pliers.....

  3. Andrew Richards

    But that's a big increase

    They already charged by the day. It's gone from £5 a day for using a dongle in Japan (and something similar in USA) to £30 a day. That's why they're keeping quiet. It was one of our biggest reasons for getting a Vodafone dongle. You're now better off using your phone as a modem, or is that not allowed?

  4. Dan

    Only a good deal...

    ... in the same way that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

  5. Anonymous Coward

    @ The Mole

    Please could other readers correct me if I am wrong, or fill in the gaps, but, my experience is that budget (e.g. 'free unlimited browsing') data tariffs such as those you get for a mobile rather than a dongle (T-Mobile's inclusive data with Solo 20 & 25 sims, or 3 mobile's payg unlimited nearly free £5 per month data tariff), have a much degraded quality to 'dongled' or higher priced plans - possibly because of poorer contention rates, or some other explanation. When I paid T-Mobile £7.50 a month for data I got fast data and few problems connecting. When I got inclusive data for 'free', e.g. with Solo 20, I often couldn't connect for toffee, even with excellent signal and few other users around. Likewise with the slightly-too-cheap £5 per month 3 mobile tariff.

    I'm really tired of getting google maps' "this service requires an active data connection. please check you're connected..." failure message when ostensibly there's great signal, with the cheapo 3 mobile plan!

  6. Vision Aforethought

    @The Mole: Way back when...

    ...back before teh multimedia intensive intertubes, I used a teeny weenie but very capable Nokia 8210 in conjunction with it's infra red port to get online anywhere using my lovely Titanium PowerBook. It was in fact quite reliable and of course, no silly second line worries. More recently, vendors and carriers have done all they can to make using your phone as a RELIABLE modem difficult. All so they can charge for another line. It's a complete waste of time. 3G phones with their modern multi-tasking OSes are more than capable of carrying out a voice call while simultaneously using the Bluetooth or Infra red to get online using a laptop.

    The solution to this big rip off is simply to cancel a dongle account (as I'm about to do) and buy a slightly older phone that has not been knobled - or do the reverse, junk your mobile and use your laptop as your phone by firing up Skype. (Keep a small PAYG mobile in your pocket for those essential walking around town calls.) My 3G equipped Sony Ericsson K800i gets me online via my MacBook and Bluetooth. It's not as fast as a dedicated dongle (Vodafone in our case), but to be frank, using cloud apps such as Google docs on ANY wireless dongle is too slow (unless permanently at 7.2MB) - cloud apps need a very fast and consistent connection, and currently, that's only possible when on a good WiFi signal or connected direct to teh interwebs using a cable. I only use mobile wireless for checking email now. Rest of mobile time is used for reading and thinking. Ah yes, those where the days! :)

    Less is more. I particular when it's your phone bill.

  7. Tony Humphreys


    How can data be more expensive than a phone call! There is no international element required. For data, exactly the same route is (probably) used for roaming customers as local customers (if not then why not).

    The only justification for higher romaing as opposed to local data is for billing purposes, and that is miniscule.

    Data roaming is the biggest rip of yet.

  8. Keith Reed

    "No notifcation" ?

    I did receive a text message from Vodafone telling me the internet charges whilst abroad had changed, so slightly unfair to describe this as "no notifcation".

  9. Jimmy Floyd


    While we're at it, I would just like to point out that T-Mobile have actually upped their EU charges blaming the Sterling / Euro exchange rate (not quite what Viviane Reding had in mind, I'd imagine).

    I have dropped them a nice note pointing out their rather poor timing, given the Vodafone publicity machine, but have yet to receive a response.

  10. guy eastwood

    Dont care!

    I just got the HTC Magic turn up with free data & texts, loving the phone lots :oD

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our salesmen have Vodafone dongles

    and Vodafone wanted an extra £65 a _month_ on the contract just to enable roaming.

    Needless to say, my response was along the lines of 'you'll have to use WiFi in the airport or your hotel!'

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not 'double for laptops'

    Read the Vodafone page. It's £4.99/25MB for phones, or £9.99/50MB for laptops. They just bill differently for different amounts that overall is pretty much the same.

  13. Rory Barton

    Dongle rates

    If you check the Voda site teh dongle rates arent as bad as they seem in the article, it is actually £5 for 25mb from a phone, or £10 for 50mb from a dongle, so the price per mb is the same, the big drawback is these are per day charges so if you are away for a week you are still looking at a £35 charge for checking your email, even if you are only downloadign a couple of mb.

  14. netean

    lets not forget

    Lets also remember that a lof ot the countries that people "roam" in, have vodafone companies/networks. So WTF are doing charging extortionate roaming charges if their users are using THEIR network.

  15. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    @AC at 10:19

    You may find that what is actually happening* is that your phone is set (usually by default) to use 3G services for internet access where _any_ 3G signal is available. The signal strength shown on the front of your phone, however, is most likely the GPRS (2G) signal strength. In an ideal world, 3G coverage would be as good as 2G coverage, and nobody would get this problem but unfortunately 3G coverage is still fairly patchy in this country.

    *All this is, of course, pure conjecture but in my experience, changing the settings on my old (Sony Ericsson) phone to not use 3G sped up data access remarkably.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Handsets will have a different user agent ID and can be optimised (transcoded) to reduce traffic, therefore costing less than a normal web browsing sessions from a laptop where the traffic may well be transparent and costing more.

  17. TeeCee Gold badge


    But that would involve a preferential tariff for roaming onto vodafone FR / DE / NL / whatever as opposed to roaming onto Orange / T-mobile / O2lefonica / whatever.

    Which would be anticompetitive and illegal under, er, EU rules.

    What the left hand giveth, the right hand taketh away.

  18. Bronek Kozicki

    why bother with data roaming at all?

    Just buy local pay-as-you-go data SIM card and plug into whatever appropriate device you have - mobile, card or dongle.

    If you have none such device, buy one from "independent" shop, without links (or locks) attached. Simple as that and much, much cheaper.

    Assuming you speak local language well enough to buy something as sophisticated as SIM card, that is.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I like the way their billboards proclaim "We've abolished roaming charges!"

    ... as if they did it voluntarily.

    Vodafone are crap anyway, which is why I left 6 months ago.

  20. Periquet dels Palots
    Thumb Down

    Vodafone's Impressive Creativity

    These tariffs must have been concocted at Vodafone Spain. Their spanish unit shows impressive productivity and astounding creativity in this aspect.

    They have a seemingly endless stream of new tariffs being disclosed all the time, ever more obscure. It is from difficult to outright impossible to know how much a telephone call will cost: it depends on your contract, the time of the day, the day of the week, whether you are calling a landline or a mobile and what company that mobile is on, the number of calls have you made so far, if you are calling from your home cell, if you are calling to an established clique of Vodafone friends, and much more.

    Every parameter can be sliced and diced in several ways, at different prices, with different bonuses, fixed and progressive, making the outcome even less predictable. And with some factors being just impossible to know, like what cellphone company you're calling, the only certainty you have is that it will be expensive.

    I've seen Vodafones pricing in the UK, and it is so vastly more simple that makes me want to cry.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    free market?

    As ever the concept of a 'Free market' as Europe is supposed to be, only relates to big multinationals who are free to do as they please...

    Us little folk are only here to be sucked into their marketing spin and pay the silly prices.

    I know no-one at Vodafone cares, but this kind of protectionist approach by large multinationals only undermines the whole basis of 'Europe' working.

    Ms Redding just doesn't go far enough for me.

  22. Scott Mckenzie

    @Guy Eastwood

    I'd be very careful when going abroad... the data etc isn't included when outside your home country - it's only 'free' when in the country of purchase!!!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @ Ed Blackshaw

    Thanks very much for this - I'll check the settings on my phone (I bet you're right about it being set for 3g).

    I still think it's a bit too much of a coincidence (from a consumer contract law* point of view) that my paid-for mobile web-browsing with T-Mobile seemed to give me data as fast as it could (especially when I was on expensive metered, e.g. by the KB tariffs), but then when a year later I got the same service bundled in 'all you can eat for free' with a bunch of voice minutes, connecting seemed to be much more unreliable, from the same place, my apartment.

    *If a service is "free" or very low cost then one ostensibly has fewer grounds for complaint at/less remedy available for not getting it. Plus one looks like a whinger generally and the company can still look cool whilst delivering something not very good.

  24. Steve

    @AC - T-Mobile web'n'walk

    For what it's worth I'm a reasonably regular user of t'web on me phone, and I've noticed a marked deteriation of the data service on T-Mobile over the last six months or so. It's got to the point where the G-Mail client on my N95 wont work over the network, only when I connect to Wi-Fi.

    I've decided my next phone is going to be unlocked and sim-free, and that I'm going to become a network tart.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't fall for the spin.

    50p per 100kb is £5.12 per megabyte (about €6)

    I believe vast majority of people who use mobile data fall into the light user category described in the article. They browse the odd mobile web page, check email or use google maps for a few minutes.

    Such a usage pattern leads to 3-10Mb per month of billable data transfer spread across a month as 100 or 200kb per day. This is well below the 998kb you have to use before hitting the £4.99 cap.

    It seems to me that the whole point of the new tariff is to hide that most people won't be saving anything at all with their standard usage pattern.

    This is only a price cut if you typically use between 1 and 25 megabytes per day. That's not enough for the full-fat web and way more than your typical mobile optimised app will use.

    Mobile phone companies are sneaky bastards.

  26. nigel

    be ware!!!

    the pricing is vague at best. but when it refers to browsing on your phone it presumably mean WAP APN., using the internet APN like most people who know their onions do could cost you £75 a day rather than the 5 you thought.

    i also seems that just one email, or even an A-GPS fix will cost you 50p.

  27. Jules


    I hope the article has the 50p or 100kb minimum charge wrong.

    Currently buried in their terms it states that the minimum billed for a data session whilst roaming is 10kb per session:


    90. If you access data through the WAP APN when roaming you will be charged in 10KB steps. When sending and receiving an MMS or long text, data transfer charges apply and depend up on the size of message. Data charges and additional information can be found at


    If they've increased the minimum to 100kb per session light users will see a tenfold increase in their data charges whilst roaming.

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