Cut roam­ing costs

SI­MON JARY looks at how you can cut your data charges abroad

Android Advisor - - CONTENTS -

Data-roam­ing charges have been scrapped in the Euro­pean Union as of 15 June, but what hap­pens af­ter Brexit? We an­swer this ques­tion, out­line the changes made to these charges in the EU, plus re­veal our top 10 tips on avoid­ing data roam­ing charges.

What is roam­ing?

Roam­ing is the word used to de­scribe us­ing your mo­bile phone on an­other net­work for a short pe­riod, while still be­ing billed by your ex­ist­ing provider. Your mo­bile phone num­ber re­mains the same while roam­ing. When you are roam­ing on an­other net­work the tem­po­rary mo­bile phone com­pany will bill your usual mo­bile phone com­pany for calls you make while roam­ing on their net­work.

How does Brexit af­fect roam­ing charges?

Un­til the UK leaves the EU Bri­tain will ben­e­fit from the new changes we’ve out­lined be­low. How­ever, when Brexit is com­plete you could see your in­ter­na­tional phone bill rise. The EU flat rate charges will no longer ap­ply once Brexit is com­plete.

The changes from 15 June 2017 are con­tained within a Euro­pean reg­u­la­tion, not a di­rec­tive, so it will be up to the UK govern­ment to de­cide whether or not to adopt the EU price re­stric­tions.

Changes to roam­ing charges in the EU

You can read the full an­nounce­ment at jxr­prnu, but in essence the capped prices when roam­ing within the EU as of 15 June are: 3.2 cents per minute of voice call 1 cent per text mes­sage A step by step re­duc­tion over five years for data caps de­creas­ing from €7.7 per GB (as of 15 June 2017) to €6 per GB (as of 1 Jan­uary 2018), €4.5 per GB (as of 1 Jan­uary 2019), €3.5 per GB (as of 1

Jan­uary 2020), €3 per GB (as of 1 Jan­uary 2021) and €2.5 per GB (as of 1 Jan­uary 2022).

The new rules are be­ing touted as “roam-likeyou’re-at-home”, but it’s worth check­ing with your provider to make sure that calls, texts and data will come out of your monthly al­lowance when you’re trav­el­ling in the EU. If you don’t have an al­lowance and pay as you go, you’ll be charged the same rates in the EU as in the UK – up to the max­i­mum caps above.

And once you’ve used up your al­lowance, you’ll be billed as you would be in the UK.

It’s also im­por­tant to check ex­actly which coun­tries are in­cluded by your provider, as they ap­pear to dif­fer. And bear in mind that the new rules are for trav­ellers only. It will still cost more to call EU coun­tries from the UK, for ex­am­ple.

Also, these changes don’t ap­ply if you’re trav­el­ling out­side the EU. In March 2017 Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond de­liv­ered the Bud­get. One of many things changed will be a 20 per­cent tax paid by con­sumers for roam­ing charges. The change is set to see those who roam out­side the EU slapped with a 20 per­cent VAT charge. It’s one of the few in­stances where VAT would be charged to UK con­sumers for pur­chases tech­ni­cally made out­side of the EU.

How to avoid roam­ing charges

If you’ve read scare sto­ries of mas­sive mo­bile data roam­ing charges – where naïve users have racked up thou­sands of pounds on their mo­bile bills just by brows­ing the In­ter­net or down­load­ing a few files or

email at­tach­ments – then you might be wor­ried about tak­ing your Android smart­phone abroad with you.

Re­cent re­ports sug­gest that the av­er­age smart­phone user gets through nearly 500MB of data a month. With data roam­ing charges of £7.50/ MB out­side Europe you can see how the bills can rapidly add up... In­deed nearly 40 per­cent of us turn off our phones when we go abroad, and a fur­ther 36 per­cent switch­ing off data roam­ing. Data roam­ing prices have dropped 95 per­cent since 2010.

1. Use Wi-Fi

This one’s the first tip for a good rea­son. Where pos­si­ble only browse or down­load when us­ing your Android phone’s Wi-Fi con­nec­tion. Users are

not billed for data down­loaded over Wi-Fi. The only charge might be if a par­tic­u­lar Wi-Fi hotspot charges for ac­cess, and you should be in­formed of that be­fore you can start us­ing the con­nec­tion.

2. Mind your email

It’s okay to check your email, as at­tach­ments aren’t down­loaded un­til you tell the phone to do so by se­lect­ing that at­tach­ment. That said, the text in the email is down­loaded, so long lists of mes­sages may start to cost more than you’d ex­pect. If you can, think about the pre­vi­ous tip again, and check email when you’re con­nected to Wi-Fi when­ever pos­si­ble.

3. Check your set­tings

You can dis­able data roam­ing at Set­tings > Mo­bile Net­works. To re­strict data us­age, go to Set­tings > Data us­age, and tap on the three dots on the topright of the screen, then se­lect ‘Re­strict back­ground data’. Apps that you aren’t cur­rently us­ing will not be al­lowed to use any data.

You also don’t want your apps to au­to­mat­i­cally up­date while you’re us­ing mo­bile data abroad. They should up­date only when you’re con­nected to a Wi-Fi net­work, but go to the Play Store app to en­sure that the Auto-up­date apps set­ting is set to Wi-Fi only.

4. Get a data bun­dle

You may be able to sign up to a flat-rate or capped data pack­age, where you pay a fixed amount each month for us­ing the mo­bile In­ter­net. Con­tact your net­work op­er­a­tor to find out what they of­fer. These can be hard to get your head around. Make sure to check they work for your travel des­ti­na­tion.

5. Go to mo­bile-friendly web­sites only

An in­creas­ing num­ber of web­sites now have spe­cific sites where their pages are spe­cially op­ti­mized for

mo­bile phone, thus mak­ing them lighter on the megabytes. Our sis­ter web­site TechAd­vi­ adapts to fit which­ever de­vice you’re us­ing. Oth­ers that in­clude their own mo­bile site are BBC News Mo­bile and The Guardian Mo­bile.

There’s also Google AMP ar­ti­cles, which ap­pear near the top of search re­sults. These load instantly and use less data.

Most mo­bile web­sites have a very sim­i­lar ad­dress to the desk­top (or ‘fat’) site. Try re­plac­ing the ‘www’ with ‘m’ or ‘mo­bile’; or re­place the ‘’ or ‘.com’ with ‘.mobi’, as with Mi­crosoft’s mo­bile site.

6. Switch SIM card

An­other way to avoid high roam­ing charges is to switch your SIM cards. UK com­pany Dataroam ( has a range of pay-as-you-go and 30-day plans that it claims could save users “up to 90 per­cent” on in­ter­na­tional roam­ing charges, with pre­paid data SIMs start­ing at £19.99.

But first the smart­phone needs to be ‘un­locked’ from its home net­work. (Most UK phone net­works lock their hand­sets to pre­vent con­sumers us­ing al­ter­na­tive SIMs, and so force peo­ple to pay their high rates.)

You can ask your net­work car­rier to un­lock your phone, but

this isn’t al­ways an easy re­quest, as you might have guessed. Al­ter­na­tively there are plenty of small lo­cal in­de­pen­dent mo­bile phone stores and on­line un­lock­ing spe­cial­ists who can un­lock your hand­set for you.

Un­lock­ing your smart­phone shouldn’t cause any prob­lems ei­ther in the UK or abroad.

7. Set up a MiFi

If a phone can’t be un­locked you could cre­ate your own per­sonal (se­cure and fast) Wi-Fi hotspot with a MiFi de­vice, which will al­low you to run up to five WiFi-en­abled de­vices from that point – ideal for group or fam­ily trips abroad. A Mifi is a wire­less mo­dem that emits a Wi-Fi sig­nal that de­vices can con­nect to, en­sur­ing ac­cess to the web for more than one per­son.

Dataroam sells a Mifi (£59 from yc6q3u4e) that uses one of the com­pany’s data SIMs that work out much cheaper than stan­dard net­work rates abroad. Set up the Mifi as a wire­less hotspot, tell your friends/fam­ily the pass­word, and you’re up and run­ning.

8. Com­press data

There’s an app for that, right? Cor­rect. The Onavo Ex­tend app free from prom­ises to give you the abil­ity to do up to five times more with your cur­rent data plan with­out ad­di­tional fees.

The app also pro­vides a break­down of your mo­bile data us­age, show­ing you how much data is be­ing con­sumed by each app and so al­low­ing you to make bet­ter in­formed data us­age choices. Onavo Ex­tend

com­presses your data so that you can do more with your mo­bile de­vice. It also re­duces roam­ing charges by pro­vid­ing a leaner ver­sion of the web.

9. Down­load maps off­line

When you’re away from home you ac­tu­ally need data more than you do nor­mally, so the high data charges are dou­bly frus­trat­ing. Step off the plane/train/ au­to­mo­bile and the first thing we want/need to do is fire up maps and GPS on our smart­phones. The trick is to down­load city or area maps be­fore you leave home or do so when you get to your ho­tel Wi-Fi. You can now do this via a se­cret fea­ture in the lat­est Google Maps app (make sure it’s the most up to date).

Android users ben­e­fit from Google’s own Google Maps ser­vice. They can pre-down­load maps cov­er­ing a 10-mile ra­dius. Android users need to en­able the ‘Down­load map area’ fea­ture via the Labs tab in the Google Maps app.

Check that any travel-guide apps – for ex­am­ple, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, DK Eye­wit­ness, and Time Out guides – you’ve down­loaded in­clude off­line maps.

10. Re­lax

Un­less it’s a busy busi­ness trip, just switch your phone off for a while. Do you re­ally need to check email morn­ing, noon and night, ac­cess Face­book, look at Twitter, check the foot­ball scores? (Okay, you prob­a­bly need to check the foot­ball scores...)

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