Evolution of International Roaming Prices

10 years ago, most people would have deduced from the headline of this post that I would probably want to talk about prices for voice calls while roaming. Today in 2018, I’m pretty sure most people will think about Internet access first. And indeed, I am in the US at the moment and I have noticed that my German network operator of choice has a new data roaming offer for North America that goes beyond what was available so far. This inspired me to have a look at how things have evolved over the past decade.

Prices in the ‘Middle-Ages’

As I am writing about mobile since 2005, I have a good basis to look back how things were in the past, quickly forgotten as technology has advanced. Back in 2007 I was mostly using Vodafone Web Sessions while roaming in Europe and elsewhere. 15 Euros would buy one 50 MB of data for 24 hours. While it was certainly not cheap, it was o.k. for business travel and short private trips abroad.

Prices In the Recent Past

Over the past few years, data roaming prices have gradually come down. Since last year, data roaming in the EU is included in the monthly subscription of all EU customers which has obviously helped me tremendously. But the EU is only the EU and I travel elsewhere as well. Fortunately, since 2014, my home network operator of choice offers global data roaming for 12 euros for 150 MB for up to a week. I’ve been using this offer quite a lot, but as data demands were rising more quickly, the 150 MB usually didn’t last quite that long.

So while this offer is still in place, a new package can now be booked with my operator of choice (won’t say the name, no advertisement on this blog…) that grants one 500 MB of data while traveling in the US for up to a week for around 25 euros. With my smartphones and my Linux based PC that would usually be quite enough for a week.

Auto-Updates Are A Curse!

I specifically point out Linux here because I’ve customized the updater to only download fixes when I instruct it to do so. Unfortunately, the corporate IT department of my company is probably not the only one that has blocked their users from changing the update settings of their Windows PCs, so these notebooks attempt to download updates the minute they see Wifi popping up. This pretty much backfires when roaming, as that was exactly what my company notebook did the minute I activated the offer. So instead of a week, my company notebook ate through the 500 MB in a few minutes. Activating another 500 MB bundle for 25 euros was the obvious solution but another 300 MB were gone in a matter of minutes as well. Far from ideal but if this is what the company wants…

There Were Better Times Before…

Fortunately, my private phone contract lets me use my monthly data bucket while roaming in the US for a few extra Euros a month. Unfortunately, the option has been discontinued and can not be ordered anymore with new contracts. So I enjoy it while it lasts. But the 500 MB for 25 euros are a good option for me in the future.

What will the Future Bring?

So while the amount of data one can get for a certain price while roaming outside of the EU keeps rising, so does the data hunger of devices which currently easily offsets any gains if one is not careful. But looking back at how things were 10 years ago, I am optimistic that 10 years from now, international data roaming outside the EU will have improved again far beyond what is available today.

P.S.: And if you are interested in data roaming prices in the, what I would call ‘stone age’ of the mobile Internet, i.e. at the beginning of the new millennium, have a look at my recent presentation I gave at the VCFB 2018 in Berlin.