Data access in Europe

This week I’ve taken a holiday to Sorrento in southern Italy. Naturally I couldn’t come away without bringing some technology with me – I have my iPhone, iPad and (in the hotel room) my laptop has come along for the ride.

Something which I’m finding slightly frustrating is that the SIM card in my iPad doesn’t work while I’m abroad, yet despite being on the same network the SIM card in my mobile phone works just fine. I knew this before I travelled having checked with O2 but sitting here in the picturesque Amalfi I’m wondering why.

Having said that my iPhone works fine, it does but my provider places certain restrictions on usage. O2 send me frequent text messages to remind me that I can use up to 25 mb per day for £1.99. I enquired about the cost of going over this allowance and was told that if I did regularly I would be charged £0.65 per mb.

In a normal month I use an average of 1.5 gb worth of data which is around 50mb per day, it therefore occurs to me that a 50% reduction in data usage when I’m using my mobile phone more (particularly navigation, and the Internet to research places I’m visiting) means that I’m not getting what I want out of my provider. Coupled with the fact that my iPad sim doesn’t work abroad I’m actually feeling very disconnected.

I suppose you could argue that I’m on holiday and therefore should be relaxing and revelling in this apparent connectivity restriction; on many levels I agree with you, but it still leaves me asking the question why is it such a problem to use as much data as I want to in 2012? Surely this problem is just going to get worse in years to come as more and more people connect multiple devices to the Internet. Is it because operator costs increase by providing access abroad? Or is there some other reason?

According to Ofcom there is some other reason. A 2012 ruling has regulated charges that mobile operators can impose for providing these services and the maximum charges are on a decreasing sliding scale over the next 2 years. By summer 2014 operators will be able to charge a maximum of 20 cents per mb for using data abroad.

My experience in 2012 tells me that one way operators are getting around these price limitations is by simply capping the amount of data their customers are allowed to use when abroad or in the case of the iPad simply not supporting data access. Surely this cannot be a sustainable model? I can’t see my data usage decreasing over time …… One solution would be to buy a local sim card when I go abroad but again this seems tiresome …..

Have you had data access issues in Europe? How did you solve your issues? Also if you’re a mobile operator how do you see the future developing for data access abroad?

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Categories: Customer Service, Mobile Phones, Technology, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Data access in Europe

  1. Geraint

    Hello Steve, I try to ensure that where I stay abroad has WiFi access-even to the point of having to pay a nominal fee for the privilege, in order to maintain some degree of connectivity. However, this does not give me the almost unlimited web access I enjoy via 3G back in the UK. The EU would do well to flex its muscles in order to resolve this, and to address what you rightly identify as a growing demand for data usage.
    Enjoy your holiday!

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