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Guide to mobile data roaming


Guide to mobile data roaming

Mobile data has overtaken voice minutes and texts as a deciding factor in mobile contract buying decisions. Jamie Kavanagh, a Contributor at Broadband Genie, tells us why it’s essential to understand what you’re getting for your money and one of the more complicated elements of a phone contract is data roaming.

What is data roaming and why is it important?

Every time you check an email, use the internet, use Google Maps, order an Uber or browse the web while on the move and not using Wi-Fi, you’re using mobile data. When you’re in the UK, most of your mobile data use will be included within your contract. But what about you’re travelling abroad?

That’s where data roaming comes in. Data roaming is the ability to use your phone data when you’re travelling, or roaming.

Knowing the data roaming conditions of your mobile contract is essential for anyone planning to travel with their phone. If you’re not sure about Wi-Fi or internet access at your destination, the ability to use mobile internet could be essential. Knowing what data is included in your allowance and what is not can help manage data use and prevent bill shock when you get home.

Some mobile contracts have roaming as an included feature. Others charge a daily fee or one-time fee to enable data roaming. Knowing what your contract includes ensures you make informed decisions about data use while travelling.

The cost of data roaming

While the UK is in the transition period after Brexit, the current EU legislation still applies. If you have inclusive data in your contract, that data is usable while travelling anywhere in European Union countries and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein at no extra cost. For now.

Travelling outside the EU and potentially within the EU after the transition period is not included in that. Depending on your contract and where you’re travelling, you may have to pay for a travel data bolt-on or pay a daily fee to access data. Much depends on your network as each provider sets its own rules and its own fees for accessing data while abroad.

What happens after Brexit is not known. Networks such as Three have already committed to not reintroducing roaming charges even if we leave the EU without a deal.

Best mobile networks for data roaming

Some mobile networks offer some great roaming deals:

·         Three’s Go Roam (previously Feel at Home) provides free roaming in 71 destinations across the world including the EU, USA and Australia.

·         EE’s Max Plan roaming is free with 4GEE Max Plans and allows 4G access to 53 countries, including outside the EU.

·         O2’s Travel Inclusive Zone Bolt Ons are paid extras that provide data roaming in 27 countries outside the EU.

·         Vodafone’s Global Roaming offers free roaming to 77 countries including some outside the EU.

·         Tesco Mobile’s Home from Home offers data roaming for pay monthly customers.

Other networks offer variations of these plans at different price points.

It’s important to note that free data roaming is not always free. Data use while you’re travelling will obviously use your contracted allowance. As long as you stay within that data allowance or buy roaming bolt-ons, you should avoid any extra charges.

Exceeding your allowance will incur costs. Exact costs are set by your network so check on their website before you leave. Voice, SMS and data is expensive when used outside pre-arranged bolt-ons or your included allowance so try to avoid it wherever possible!

Tips for limiting data use when you're abroad

If you want to minimize data use while abroad or want to preserve your data allowance for other things, there are a few tricks you can use:

Turn off all automatic updates on your phone

Some app updates can use a lot of data when downloading. To limit this, update your phone via Wi-Fi before you leave and turn off automatic updates on your phone. Alternatively, switch all phone updates to Wi-Fi only if your accommodation has Wi-Fi.

Use public Wi-Fi hotspots

If you’re travelling in built-up areas, you could restrict your internet use to public Wi-Fi hotspots. Just make sure you’re using a VPN or other security measure to protect your data while you do it.

Avoid streaming video and online games

Videos can make a journey seem much shorter but can also use a significant amount of mobile data. Download movies or TV shows beforehand and save them to your phone or play offline games or online games in offline mode. Use Airplane Mode on your phone if you’re not sure.

Disable data roaming altogether

The easiest way to avoid exceeding your data allowance is to disable mobile data completely. That way, you won’t be able to use data at all while you’re travelling. Make sure to not enable data hungry apps and you should use virtually zero data on your travels.