Did you see me on BBC Breakfast talking mobile roaming at the weekend?


Did you see me on the BBC Breakfast News at the weekend, suited-and-booted?

There was some discussion in the MacLeod household over the appropriate clothing to wear. Open shirt? Jacket-n-shirt? Nope. Mothers and mother-in-laws were almost consulted before I took the pinstripe decision. You can’t go wrong with a pinstripe.

And, as my wife pointed out, ‘It’s the BBC.’

Suit and tie.

I was invited on to discuss mobile roaming. The news broke last week that the EU is going further with it’s roaming cap demands. Just looking at data roaming, here’s what’s being proposed (via WSJ):

Currently, data roaming is subject to a maximum safeguard cap of €50 ($73), but starting next July it would be capped at 90 European cents ($1.31) per megabyte, according to the draft. The cost ceiling for data used would decrease to 70 cents a megabyte in 2013 and 50 cents a megabyte 2014, and would remain at that level until June 30, 2016, when the regulation expires.

Ouch. And then for voice calls:

The EU last week said retail price caps for voice calls are set to decline to 32 cents a minute for outgoing calls or 11 cents a minute for incoming calls as of July 1, 2012. By July 2013, the caps would fall again to 28 cents and 10 cents, respectively. The retail price for an SMS text message would be capped at 10 cents from July 1, 2012.

Again, ouch.

So with that in mind, I was there to discuss the topic of mobile roaming for the Saturday audience.

There wasn’t the time to get stuck into the subject matter — and I’m reasonably content that most of the people watching didn’t wish to do so. I pointed out that it was utterly important that all viewers give their mobile operator a call — or have a look on the website to check the price of data roaming and see what plans they could add or change if they’re going abroad this summer.

I managed to get in the rather shocking ‘40%’ statistic. Have you come across this one? It’s from mobile roaming experts, MACH, who point out that mobile operators in Europe report that collectively (that is, across all their subscribers combined) 40% of customers switch their mobile phones off when abroad. That is, they actively DO NOT roam — because (one presumes) of ‘billshock’. That is a testament to how poorly priced roaming has been — and still is.

I think it’s fair to say that most consumers understand what per-minute call costs ‘mean’. 36p a minute, for example, is easy to calculate. If you do a quick, ‘hello, I’ve arrived’ and then hang-up, you’ll be charged 36p. Job done.

But if you send a photo? And you’ve been told (helpfully, I might add, by text from your operator when you arrive) that you’ll be charged £1.28 per megabyte, what does that mean? How much to send the photo of the beautiful beach vista before you up to Facebook?

This is the key problem with data roaming. Nobody knows what it will cost.

Even if you pay attention to the ‘small/medium/large’ file sizes, the fact that the photo might be 600k doesn’t mean you’ll be charged 600k .You have to load up the email client, for example — and do an email check (automatically). And then you have to allow for the overhead of transmitting back and forth. Or if you’re loading the Facebook client, you have next to no idea what it’s doing, data wise. You might end up using 5mb to upload a 600k photo.

But it’s all roundly good news. Broadly speaking, data roaming prices are coming down. There are some super offers available.

Alas I didn’t get the chance to congratulate Vodafone Ireland (or, in BBC parlance, ‘a leading mobile operator’) on offering FREE mobile data roaming across 27 European countries this summertime (July & August). That is truly genius. I’m going to be writing about that shortly.

It was nevertheless super to be able to discuss mobile roaming with a wider audience.

As for the photo above? Well thank you to @mobilemandan for snapping it. Come on Dan, wasn’t there a slimmer version you could have captured at a different camera angle?

Anyway, it’s an improvement over this action-shot that @stuartdredge helpfully captured. My head looks shrunk on one side. I still very much appreciate the timeliness Stuart. Twitter actually records you publishing the photo at 09:24am — so based on the timestamp on the screen, that took just 60 seconds for you to get that one out. Very fast!

Update: A top hat tip for @stephenwing for recommending me (and @bensmithuk) to the BBC

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

9 replies on “Did you see me on BBC Breakfast talking mobile roaming at the weekend?”

Is there some iPlayer linkage for our full-HD edification?

If it’s not HD it didn’t happen.

I don’t think anyone else could have got the points across & said it better  – shared your post on Google+ – hope you don’t object?

I don’t think anyone else could have got the points across & said it better  – shared your post on Google+ – hope you don’t object?

Ah you’re a good man Malcolm, thank you! I don’t object at all.

(Apart from the fact that I still haven’t been approved for plus!)

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