Trans-Tasman mobile roaming

May 27th, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

has announced:

Communications and Information Technology Minister Steven Joyce today released a discussion document on trans-Tasman mobile roaming.

The discussion document has also been released in Australia by Mr Joyce’s counterpart – Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Minister Senator Stephen Conroy.

The document is at MED.

The document sets out three preliminary conclusions for New Zealanders roaming in Australia and Australians roaming in New Zealand:

  1. the features offered and the quality of service are reasonable
  2. the transparency of prices appears to be inadequate and consumer awareness of prices seems low
  3. the prices themselves seem relatively high.

Can’t disagree with 1 – roaming works really well in Australia (and in fact in most countries.

I’ve previously blogged about the outrageously high prices. Vodafone has recently announced a reduction, which is good.

No 2 is for me, the most important. People need to be told upfront about the cost of roaming data. Some of the possible measures proposed are:

Centralised website. A website where, for example, a customer is able to select all the domestic operators from his or her home country and see, on a single page, the best (lowest) rates that they each charge for trans-Tasman roaming (for postpaid and prepaid, and for each visited network).

I doubt this will achieve much as people don’t tend to decide on a carrier based on their international .

Personalised SMS on arrival. Operators send their customers one or more personalised SMS when they arrive in a destination, indicating the price they will be charged when roaming (for voice, SMS and data23). To avoid unwanted SMS, this could be an opt-in service, or a ‘pull’ (one that requires the customer to send an SMS first) rather than a ‘push’ service.

This generally happens with Vodafone, which is good. I think it should be mandatory for all networks to send you a message alerting you to the roaming rates in a country.

SMS after use. In some countries, such as the United States it is common for operators to send an SMS to a domestic customer each time they complete a communication, to indicate the price of the communication and (in the case of prepaid users) the remaining account balance. This could involve either a ‘pull’ or a ‘push’ service.

The initial SMS is often received when you have landed at the airport and are pretty distracted. Having an SMS arrive after say the first MB of data would also be useful. I wouldn’t mandate it to occur after every use, but if people after 1 MB get a message saying “You have already incurred $30 of charges” it would be effective.

Billing caps. Postpaid users, in particular, are vulnerable to unexpectedly high bills for roaming, even though many operators now make a practice (both on their websites and in their retail outlets) of warning customers of the prices involved, especially for data roaming. Billing cap systems may present a solution, implemented on either an opt-in or opt-out basis.

Also potentially useful, so long as those who do not want to keep using mobile data etc can easily say they wish to exceed the billing cap.

The discussion document also looks at some price regulation options – both at wholesale or retail level.I would rather avoid price regulation, and focus on enhanced transparency.

This is a discussion document, so you can have your say by e-mailing submissions to MED.

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5 Responses to “Trans-Tasman mobile roaming”

  1. LeftRightOut (622 comments) says:

    Here we go again, the right wing interfering with the operations of the free market that they keep telling us is so wonderful.

    IF the free market was so wonderful, surely this would be a non issue.

    As it is, Vodafone et al are free to charge what they like and you are free to take your business elsewhere if you don’t like it. Isn’t that what you always preach?

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  2. gazzmaniac (2,266 comments) says:

    Instead of forcing telcos to cooperate with each other, you could always buy a sim card when you get to Australia to take advantage of the much cheaper calling and data rates.

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  3. TG (4 comments) says:

    The report says a common telecommunications market would solve these problems, but would be something of an over-reaction to this problem. Frankly, I fail to see why telecommunications isn’t included in moves to a single market when almost everything else is. In fact, it seems to be an important thing to include as it is not just something that would free up trade and allow companies to operate more easily, but would also change perceptions amongst the general population, showing that Australia and NZ are a single market and not two completely foreign and separate states.
    The potential benefits of a single telecommunications market could include:
    - end to international roaming charges (obviously people can escape these now by buying separate SIM cards, but this is a poor solution if one relies upon people calling your local number, e.g. for business purposes)
    - national rather than international calling rates across the Tasman (and inclusion of both countries in phone plans that include unlimited national calls)
    - integration of phone numbering schemes (i.e. dialling Auckland from Melbourne would be no more difficult than dialling Sydney, accessed by a regional area code)
    - greater competition as Australian companies can operate in NZ and vice versa.
    Movement across the Tasman is pretty easy and could be no more difficult than domestic travel (i.e. no passport, no customs controls, flights from domestic terminals) if a common border is established. It would be ridiculous if movement of people was as easy as if within a single country, but mobile roaming charges remained at their current ridiculously inflated rates.

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  4. Clint Heine (1,560 comments) says:

    Overseas Telcos always seem to text you when you cross borders, it’s disappointing the Kiwi ones won’t!

    I see Leftrightout still doesn’t get it. No surprises there!

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  5. trout (865 comments) says:

    I gave up on roaming – too expensive and unreliable. Am in the States now – bought a cheap Nokia AT&T prepay with $25 free calls. Calls to NZ $1 per minute, texts 20c and SMS reports of call costs after each call. Suits me.

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