Saturday, 13 November 2010

mobile broadband roaming

The directors of MoneySpyder have been reading "The 4-Hour Workweek" by Timothy Ferriss and are all fired up about the idea of us working from home (amongst other things). Basically, they're hoping to kick the expense of an office - which is fair enough.

So I casually asked "so, does this mean I can take my laptop on the road?"

I was kinda surprised when they answered yes.


So, I finally have the option to live my original dream - spend a month in France, a month in germany, a month in spain...


(you knew that was coming)...

I've just checked what it costs to get international roaming on mobile broadband, and it doesn't look pretty.

Actually, that's an understatement... it looks downright atrocious.

I'm currently on three mobile - and I pay around £15 a month for 5G of internet usage. As yet I've never busted that limit - I think I use around 1.5-2G. I used to have a 1G account (with O2) but that wasn't enough for me - eg when I needed to do a full ubuntu upgrade.

However - when I checked into the mobile broadband roaming rates I discovered that they don't bundle your monthly allowance - it costs per mg... and not at the usual overlimit pricing rate of around 10p per meg - it costs you £1.25 per meg!

This would mean my normal monthly usage would come to cost of £2000-£2500 PER MONTH!

Yes, that's over two thousand pounds per month!

Now - I can understand that it costs a fair bit more to use overseas carriers, than to use their own.... but even if *they* bought the data at retail prices, and then charged *us* retail on top of that - this would come to only *twice* our normal per-meg rate...

Not 166 TIMES my normal monthly amount.

There is something seriously wrong there!

Now - the pages all say "well, just don't use as much internet when on the road"... but unfortunately, I have no choice. I am a Web developer - that requires me to do a bit more than just checking email or checking the local weather online. I need to download the latest codebase, get copies of db dumps, upload and deploy sites, go to the online site and test it thoroughly... etc etc. Even if I cut out all recreational internet use (and where's the fun in that) I'd still be using about a Gig a month.

I've noticed that a very few enlightened companies have begun to offer something a *little* better (eg orange travel bundles), but even so - they're still not even approaching regular internet usage. The orange bundle offers 50M at £40 - which would make my monthly spend "only" £1200 - so, half the rate of the Three option... but still in the ridiculous zone.

Now, I've wandered about online in search of a better solution, but I have only a couple of viable options.

Firstly - I could spend my life in a Maccas or Starbucks (or equivalent) for the purposes of the free WiFi connections... rather than actually enjoying the variety of local establishments. Of course - they do expect you to actually purchase some of their wares - and I refuse to eat the former, and the latter is definitely not my cup of coffee-flavoured-milk.

Also - it's quite difficult to actually do real work in a busy cafe. It's ok for a few hours - but it's tough to be there all day. I'd also have to shut down, pack up and potentially lose my table every time I needed to dash to the loo. :P

The second alternative would be to just buy a new dongle from the country I'm visiting... for each country I visit. This feels expensive and wasteful... but if you compare it to the roaming rates - it actually works out cheaper... *far* cheaper.

With Three's quoted roaming rates, it would cost me an average of £85 per day.
Even if a new dongle cost me £100 (for the PAYG version) - I could buy one every two days - and still be paying less.

Ridiculous as this seems, it seems to be my best real option.

If anybody knows of a better solution, let me know!


But then I got to wondering: perhaps there's others out there wanting to do the same thing. If we each buy a dongle for a different country and then swap with each other - this would be far less expensive. Just buy our own PAYG sims. Or perhaps there are others of you out there already in a different country (that I want to visit) who'd be willing to rent me your own dongle for a month... I'd even pay a refundable deposit!

Any takers?


Anonymous said...

Yeah, mobile data roaming is a rip off on all accounts - not just data.

The best option I've found is to have a modem & phone, which aren't SIM-locked to specific providers.

That way you can purchase prepaid local SIM cards while roaming and pay the much cheaper local carrier rates instead.

Taryn East said...

ooh, modems.. I'd almost forgotten they even exist. You're right, though - that's an interesting option.

I've never used a modem plus mobile before, though. Any pointers/howtos that you know or should I just google randomly? :)

Taryn East said...

Scratch that - just realised it's gonna be OS+laptop+mobile dependent.

A better question: do you have any recommendations based on your own experience? eg a good mobile for this purpose?