Speaking Engagements & Private Workshops - Get Dean Bubley to present or chair your event

Need an experienced, provocative & influential telecoms keynote speaker, moderator/chair or workshop facilitator?
To see recent presentations, and discuss Dean Bubley's appearance at a specific event, click here

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Device rental as a mechanism for mitigating roaming rip-offs

I had a meeting in a London hotel this morning, and saw a leaflet from this company at the concierge's desk. It was titled "Free Unlimited Internet - Rent an iPhone 3GS", with rates at between £12 and £18 per day, including £5 of outbound calling credit. The devices come pre-loaded with the London Lonely Planet and assorted other useful apps.

It follows on from another article I read recently about MiFi rental (£19 for 3 days), with the device sent to your hotel.

Both of these are welcome examples of a concerted push-back against the still-ridiculous prices for mobile data roaming (and of course the continued premium for roaming voice).

It is ridiculous that in many places, data roaming still fails my "taxi test" - Can you walk from point A to point B across a city, using Google Maps on your phone, with the data costs lower than the price of just jumping in a cab instead?

It still astonishes me that mobile operators can, on one hand, profess to being interested in "customer advocacy" to drive "loyalty", while on the other, they will blatantly charge roaming fees so egregious that they constitute contempt for their own customers. (Or, by proxy, charging ridiculous wholesale rates for inbound users, so their home operators have little choice but to scalp them in turn).

Over time, I expect these type of arbitrage opportunities to proliferate - easier-to-obtain SIMs (perhaps pre-registered by your hotel, as they have your ID and passport details). Cheap Android or other smartphones provided by the tourist agency or local stores. Clever call-forwarding options for voice, and so on.

I've been expecting the operators themselves to start developing more intelligent, transaction-based deals ("One week & 1GB for 15 Euros") to address this latent need, but thus far they've abdicated that marketspace. I expect to see a thriving community of service providers such as the ones I've mentioned to fill the gap - although it wouldn't surprise me if Google or Nokia decided to consolidate the space and offer an international managed-service version of this themselves.

In a way it's ridiculous, but I could easily see myself renting a second iPhone or MiFi when I travel, and switching off the roaming on my normal one. I'm sure I won't be alone.


Zahid Ghadialy said...

Totally with you on this one. Though I expect that we will see more of pre-paid SIM's with X amound of data and/or Y amount of calls/SMS available in vending machines that you can put in your device or a spare one (if you are carrying one).

Paul said...

I agree that in the absence of fair roaming rates, people will look for alternative means, particularly for data. I just spent 2 week off-line in France, where the local PAYG service option was €39 for 15_Hours_ - are we still in Y2K!!

I'll be having a discussion with an operator's marketing team next week as to whether they see a slight anomaly in charging £5 per MB roaming and £5 per 500MB domestic (a 500x markup) compared to 33 per min european voice which costs around 5x domestic cost.

I can also see space for portals or apps directing to to the cheapest local service. Having seen that I could have bought an Orange "ClĂ© 3G+" for €29 and then €18 for 7 days use, I wonder if there are cheaper-still services? Of course having someone put this together locally and deliver to your hotel/guesthouse/campsite would be a value-add.