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The Price Isn't Right With EU Roaming Rules

Pascal de Hesselle
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The cost of using mobile services when traveling in the European Union (EU) has fallen recently as regulators have dictated guidelines on carriers’ pricing of international calls, texts, and data services. But for most international travelers, roaming is still cost prohibitive.

And while countries like Australia and Canada have not actually reduced international roaming costs, they have recently implemented "caps" on data services. The caps force carriers to alert their customers that they will be charged international rates, alert them when they are around 80 percent of their plan, and actually shut off service when they reach their plan limit.

These are positive steps, but they highlight the need to establish a pricing model that allows people to use their mobile devices the same way whether they are in their home country or abroad.

Even though the new EU rules have been shown to reduce mobile communication costs between 11 to 36 percent, depending on the service used, keeping in touch internationally is still cost-prohibitive, especially for businesses.

For employees in the US whose jobs require international business travel, these rules change nothing. The rules only apply to the 28 countries in the EU -- so that leaves about 200 other countries where roaming charges are out of control.

And that doesn't include the intangibles associated with employees limiting or turning off their mobile devices when traveling abroad; the potential for losing business.

In a 2012 Truphone survey carried out by CCMI, we found that 40 percent of Fortune 1000 companies are forbidding or curtailing business usage of wireless devices while abroad to help manage costs. In addition, 24 percent said that they have lost business as a result of turning off their phones due to high roaming costs.

Perhaps most shocking is that nearly 37 percent of companies surveyed spend $1,000 or more per month per user on average wireless roaming costs for their international travelers, with stories of single monthly bill charges ranging from $10,000 to $200,000.

The alternatives for staying connected globally are many -- and the appeal of each varies -- with cost, coverage, and convenience the main concerns. A number of business people add-on international plans from their existing mobile carrier; some search for a free WiFi hotspot to get a data connection or make VoIP calls; many purchase a pre-paid local SIM; and others select global SIMs that can be used anywhere in the world.

As the number of mobile devices used worldwide eclipses the earth's population and technology solutions utilizing both cellular and WiFi networks come to market, the ability to offer high quality, low cost mobile services worldwide will break down today's artificial geographic boundaries -- with or without regulation.

— Pascal de Hesselle, Vice President, Marketing, Truphone

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User Rank: Light Beer
8/23/2013 | 3:56:24 PM
Re: Not born to roam
Hi Sarah. 

Truphone is an international mobile operator with some very unique intellectual property.  This technology allows us to expand your "home" wireless market beyond your home country.  We enable such things as multiple local international phone numbers on the same device, local rate structures in specific international markets (what we call the Truphone Zone), and dramatically reduced roaming rates in others -- without the need to change how a user communicates.   Not only do international business travelers benefit, but those who simply communicate with contacts internationally benefit as well.

To your question, Sarah, the secret sauce is built into our very special SIM and our intelligent network.   For those unfamiliar with a SIM, it's a little card that slips into a GSM mobile device in order for it to access the network.   Residing on that SIM is something called an International Mobile Subscriber Identity or IMSI.   Traditional operators only have a SIM with a single identity or IMSI.  Truphone is different in that our patented SIM has multiple identities – multiple IMSIs - which allows us to do a couple of pretty clever things when you combine it with the intelligence in our network.

First of all, for someone traveling to a new market, our network would apply the most advantageous IMSI in that market for the user automatically... so if you traveled to New Zealand, as an example, we might apply your Australian IMSI as it would be less expensive to roam with versus your American one.    Or if you were in the UK, we would apply your British identity and then provide local tariffs there instead – which are much less expensive than roaming.    All of this is done intelligently in our network and without user intervention.    Additionally, this IP also allows our customers to have multiple international phone numbers all on one device (i.e., US, UK, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia – and more coming soon!).   What this does is enables their international contacts to stay closer, as they dial a local number to them, and at local rates rather than international tolls.

I've just scratched the surface, but suffice it to say that what we've built has centered on making the international mobile user experience seamless and simple – whether home or abroad – so they can stay connected, globally.
User Rank: Blogger
8/23/2013 | 10:12:04 AM
Not born to roam
Thanks for the interesting post, Pascal! As you allude to with the changes in regulation, I think the roaming issue is two-fold: one, operators need to make their customers more aware of what the roaming fees will be AND what their alternatives are beyond just a text message saying 'you're now on roaming.' And, two, rates need to come down, as it's exorbitantly expensive right now.

But, hey, the dismal state of roaming today is great news for Truphone! Can you tell us a bit more about how the reprogrammable SIM card model works? It's one unique solution in the industry today.
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