Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Remind me next time not to use my cell phone in Canada.

I can't say that this came as a surprise, because I fully expected it.  So this isn't really a rant.  But when I was in Québec City last month I used Google Maps on my phone to find the hotel when we got lost on our way there.  And once I had already taken the plunge I decided to look up the meaning of flashing green lights in Canada.  And, coincidentally, I happened to receive a phone call during that time.  At the time I estimated that I had used between 5 and 10 MB of international roaming data, and expected an additional charge of between $50 and $100 on my next bill.

Well, I just received that bill.  The additional charges are as follows:
  • $1.58 for 2 minutes of international voice roaming (@ $0.79 per minute)
  • $82.52 for 5498 kB of international data roaming (@ $0.015 per kB)
In case you're curious, AT&T is my wireless provider.

I fully knew that this would happen, but I agree with Galen's remark that it's a little ridiculous that cell phone companies charge this much for international roaming.  It clearly does not cost that much to send a few megabytes of data through the tubes, even if it is in another country.

So my advice if you are a smartphone user traveling to Canada, or another country...  Don't expect to use the smartphone services that you have grown so attached to*.  Alternatively, you can buy an international data plan - AT&T offers monthly add-ons between $25 for 20 MB and $200 for 200 MB.  I actually did this when I went to South America, and it worked out alright (though I still payed extra for roaming in some areas that weren't covered).  You can add and remove these features at any time without any penalties, but you get a prorated cap limit depending on when you do so.  If you have a GSM family phone you could also try buying a local SIM card that may offer data at a cheaper rate.

It's too bad that AT&T doesn't define "international" the same way that American Airlines does.  Galen still had to pay the fee to check his luggage because AA only allows a free bag for "international" flights...and Canada is *not* international to them.

* UPDATE - As Joe P. astutely pointed out, I forgot to mention that you can still use your smartphone at free Wi-Fi hotspots.

2 comments:

  1. That's a pretty ridiculous charge, I wouldn't expect it to be so high either! Thanks for the heads up, I better look into data plans for international travel for my (cursed) blueberry...lol.

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  2. I hear you on the international roaming rates. I seriously considered paying for the Global Data Package with AT&T when I went to Italy, but even that seemed like a rip off to me, and I was concerned that it might not cover everything. Somebody should fix this situation. While we are at it, I want my American credit card to use the chip/pin system so that it will work in European self-serve kiosk. Thanks

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