As we all move to smartphones – iPhones, late-generation RIM products, Android-powered Google phones – we are all becoming increasingly addicted to having our information with us, accessible, all the time, from anywhere. To live without the information flow is hard. When we travel, though we are aware that there will be penalties, many are tempted to turn on data-roaming anyway to access email, data and search engines despite warnings from our carriers. [Searching for quality WiFi access is not always a practical reality, and you really NEED to be in touch, right?]
Our carriers do offer warnings about the practice. (Going Abroad? Caution, There be Dragons!) When you sign up for the service, as you browse websites, when you contact the call centres to enquire, the litany is the same – at your peril!
Yet, swayed by recent price reductions to data services in Canada, the US and Europe, travellers are asking “How bad can data roaming charges actually be?”
The answer? Brace yourself: Data roaming is still extremely expensive.
Might we have less expensive international data roaming in the future? Perhaps. In Canada, Rogers has led the way with a bundle plan (while still pricey by domestic standards, and combined with a commitment that makes little sense for an occasional traveller) that suggests that carriers are hearing the pain. In Europe, government is stepping in; European Commissioner Viviane Reding, having reset Euro-SMS messaging rates earlier this year, has data-roaming fees in her sights as the next Brussels battlefield.
In Canada, our penchant is look more to competitive models than government to respond to opportunity. So if the data roaming pricing problem is to be in the carrier’s lap, this essay presents some ideas of how Canada’s principal carriers might go forward to seek lower data roaming costs and some observations on what might be in our roaming future.