Ahhh... mobile phone roaming. In theory a brilliant idea - especially for frequent travellers - offering a dial tone using the same mobile handset no matter where you go, enabling you to use your phone like if you were home.
Introduced with the Nordic NMT-450 system (later being used in other Northern European countries and the odd other country here and there) and later used by NMT 900, GSM was to be the first "global" system allowing roaming. Named simply the Global System for Mobile Phones (GSM), it is designed for interoperability across networks.
Why, then, do my frequently travelling friends, colleagues and myself carry two to three mobile phones when we travel?
Primarily it's cost: Networks are allowing themselves extremely generous margins on roaming calls (just like they are for SMS messaging, which really costs them close to nothing compared to a call). It's usually cheaper for us to buy a new (cheap) phone with a prepaid card to receive phone calls when working in a new country than it is to use a roaming GSM phone. The break-even often kicks in after weeks, not months... Think about that before making calls home when on holiday...(!)
Another reason for bringing an additional phone or two is the aforementioned SMS text messaging:
Constructing their roaming agreements, some operators have silently left out other, foreign operators from their lists of networks that can exchange text messages with their customers. Of course no notification to customers neither when signing up for the service nor when sending a "blackholed" message. The only way to find out whether one spesific GSM phone on one operator's network can send a message to another is trying - and frequently failing. For example, in France, customers of Bouyges Telecom and SFR can only send and receive messages to and from other French phones (or could .. last time I checked - possibly some international networks are possible, but in general not). Very practical, eh? Especially useful when trying to meet up with friends in a new city or sending texts from a new mobile phone in a new country.
Last but not least is another annoyance when roaming: whenever your phone switches roaming-operator (happens occationally when in a new country depending on operator's coverage and other factors (taking the train after flying into a new airport is a pain for this...)) you can expect one to three messages welcoming you to the new network, offering directory information and other bla bla. Fair enough one time, annoying the third and absolutely a pain in the ass the hundredth time... Best in class: Netherland's Telfort/O2 network sends out the welcome message only once. Ever. And they offer a daily, free message with news from your home country and weather forecast for Holland. Nice. French SFR offers roaming visitors (but not their own customers) free text messaging one hour per day. Baddies: Netherland's KPN Telecom keeps those welcome messages coming. Multiple times (one for "welcome to our network, your voice mail works like home", one for "call something-something for help to find restaurants, taxis etc while in Holland"). As I said; postentially useful one time; never again.
Needless to say, since the European mobile phone consotriums (like Orange and Vodaphone) fail to offer any "partner discount" when roaming with partnering networks in other countries, Telfort gets the profit off my roaming calls when in Holland.
Anders Jacobsen |