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Operators Opinion

Another year and nothing’s changed with roaming to the States

Who says that mobile operators can’t innovate their way out of a paper bag?

Me!

I’ll tell you why.

That’s me at BlackBerry World in Orlando once again. I think it’s my third year of visiting. And every year, I’ve experienced the same disbelief. Why has nothing changed? Why is roaming so stupidly expensive when I come to the United States?

Why, despite owning practically half of the largest carriers in the United States, does Vodafone still insist on charging me 135p + VAT per minute to make a call?

You’d think that the chaps at Vodafone’s roaming team would have felt compelled to actually do something, wouldn’t you?

Wouldn’t it be nice to be prompted on arrival in Orlando with a series of data roaming packages to buy? I’d like to see a message along the lines of:

“Hi Ewan, welcome to the US. Normal roaming prices are ridiculous so here are some packages you might like to select from…”

Instead I’m left to fend for myself.

And — just like the ‘new’ iPad, which I bought directly from Apple — I’ll happily fend for myself. In doing so I will take cash that I’d ordinarily have allocated to Vodafone and stuff it into the hands of other players.

Luckily the team at RIM deliberately selected the Marriott Orlando World Center hotel and convention resort for their BlackBerry World conference. This hotel is absolutely 100% covered by fairly decent, rather reliable and pretty fast WiFi.

So I’ve just kept the roaming option to ‘off’ on all my phones.

I have dribbled a bit of cash out the door to Vodafone via my BlackBerry Bold — but that’s using such a paltry amount of data thanks to smart compression — that the costs won’t be ruinous.

Today, I think I’m right in saying that Verizon Wireless (half owned by Vodafone) will be launching the Novatel Wireless MiFi 4510L mobile hotspot. It will retail for $129.99 in places like RadioShack, Best Buy and Walmart. $15 will get you 250mb of data every week. $60 will get you 3GB. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Vodafone UK offering something like this for all their customers who know they’re about to head to the States?

If anything they’d probably get more money from me.

Too difficult.

Too logistically annoying.

And it’s just not their business, is it?

You can list the reasons why Vodafone and the other UK operators (they’re all as bad as each other in this regard) haven’t bothered innovating beyond the occasional pricing re-alignment. Chief amongst them? Don’t rock the boat. Just keep taking the cash as long as you can.

So disappointing.

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.

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