Vodafone’s answer to ridiculous roaming charges whilst abroad is Vodafone Passport. At least in the UK.
It’s generally automatically enabled on most new accounts and you don’t have to pay anything extra to qualify. Indeed if you’d like to check if it’s activated, you can call 5555 in the UK, plus it’s not restricted to contract customers, if you’re Pay As You Talk, you can get it too.
The concept is this. When abroad in a qualifying country, you can make calls back to the UK at your normal UK rates — and use your bundled minutes. The only addition is the application of a 75p connection charge for every call you make.
You’re also charged for every incoming call in this manner. 75p a go.
If you talk for longer than 60 minutes, you’ll be billed 20p per minute — so remember to hang-up.
On the face of it, this is actually a pretty wicked deal. You can be sat at the beach front in Cannes, South of France, and call your friend for 59 minutes — and pay only 75p extra if you’re using your bundled minutes.
The alternative without the Vodafone Passport is something like £1.50 per minute. That would make the same 59 minute call cost just over eighty-eight quid between friends.
So if you’re an EU commissioner looking into the rather crazy roaming charges, Vodafone Passport doesn’t look that bad. The 75p charges certainly mount up if you’re a regular user of your mobile. If, for example, you make and receive 30 calls a day and you’re abroad for 5 days, you’d STILL come back to a £112.50 bill composed of 75p connection charges. But it’s better than being hosed for £1.50 per minute.
Here’s my problem.
Firstly, it doesn’t operate in +1. Numero Uno. The United States. Despite the mighty Vodafone owning a whopping chunk of Verizon, one of the biggest networks around (CDMA, granted), there’s no sign of Vodafone Passport being extended to that country. Indeed it only works in France, for example, if you’re careful enough to roam on SFR. Most Voda handsets will do this automatically.
The second problem is one I experience all the sodding time when I’m abroad — particularly when I was in Val d’Isere over the Festive period: Getting cut off. It wasn’t my problem. A lot of the time it was shitty network quality at the *other end* — either back in the UK or it was Orange FR screwing up whilst in the resort. So whilst I roamed on a pretty decent SFR connection most of the time, I was being charged 75p a time when my calls disconnected.
I can’t tell you how annoying that is. You call a friend in the resort. You see the call has been answered — you’re thus being ‘charged’ — the 75p has been applied… And… static and a hang-up from the other end. Great.
Call again. Call is answered, but no sound. 75p dropped again.
Wait 2 minutes and call again. Call is answered and you can hear the other person. Another 75p. ARSE. Arse. ARSE. £2.25’s worth of charges in order to get put through.
I most sincerely hope that there’s a clever network engineer somewhere in the bowels of Vodafone working on their billing system making sure that stupid 7 second phone calls that consist of one party yelling “HELLO? HELLO? CAN… YEAH.. CAN YOU HEAR ME?” don’t get billed like the normal ones.