As discussion carries on about whether Neelie Kroes is going to actually manage to massively cut roaming fees for data across the EU, or not, thanks to a discussion with @JoeThorpe1963 on Twitter, here is an additional suggestion for Kroes and the Commission.
Both Joe and I are regular travellers across Europe, and our solution for mobile data is more or less the same – to get SIM cards for each country we visit regularly, and use those cards for data access. My own solution is to have a contract in Denmark (with Oister (uses Three’s network)) that has unlimited data and tethering allowed, and then put Pay As You Go (PAYG) data SIM cards in a Mifi when I am in Germany (with O2), Belgium (with JIM Mobile), Austria (with Three) and UK (with Three).
The problem is that this is administratively a pain. To even be allowed to sign up with O2 in Germany I had to give a German address, something I did not have, and hence used a friend’s address. I suspect I am breaking O2’s terms, or even German law, by doing this, but what is my alternative? I need cheap 3G data in Germany, and I travel there very often, and the SIM is only PAYG – if I do not put credit on it, it does not work. Simple. Not as if I can run away from Germany and run up a huge bill and disappear.
In the UK the problem is different. I bought the SIM when I lived in the UK, but then changed my address to my Danish address. The problem is that when topping up the account, Three’s system does not allow me to add a Danish postcode into their billing system, and hence credit card payments fail. To recharge I hence have to do it the traditional way – to go to a shop and get a top-up card… which I of course buy with the same credit card that Three will not allow in its online system.
Taking all this further, I have tried a couple of times to work out a way to get a SIM in France, but have been so confused by the address requirements that I have not yet managed, and one SIM I did have was suspended. I tried to get a SIM in Denmark before I formally moved there, and this was also impossible without a Danish address.
I could of course use a dedicated roaming SIM (something like Maxroam) but even their rates are still too high for a day of intense use.
So what’s the solution?
At the very least any EU address should be able to be used to sign up for a PAYG SIM card in any EU country. It would allow me to buy cards for the countries I visit simply and easily, and not – like the case of Germany listed above – fear I am breaking the law. So, Neelie Kroes, how about it?
Isn’t it illegal to refuse your services to EEA citizens living in EEA countries?
Same problem: I have tried getting a “Rejsekort personligt” (http://www.rejsekort.dk/koeb-rejsekort/sammenlign-rejsekort/rejsekort-personligt.aspx) for travel in Denmark, but this seems to be very difficult as I don’t live in Denmark. I could easily get a “Rejsekort anonymt”, but I need to have more money on the card before I can make a trip. For example, if I travel from Roskilde to Ringsted (about 20 km), then the trip itself costs 40 kr., but I need to top up the card with at least 750 kr. before you can make your trip. A “Rejsekort personligt” only needs to be topped up with at least 50 kr. Same problem with several other short trips, such as Middelfart to Fredericia (5 km or 20 kr.), or Hvalsø to Tølløse (5 km or 24 kr.), but “Rejsekort anonymt” must be topped up with at least 750 kr. whereas “Rejsekort personligt” only needs to be topped up with at least 50 kr.
The issue is locked & unlocked phones as much as access to networks. Vodafone do deals where you pay a small fee for EU travel use as you would at home. Meteor (Irish) have no roaming charges anywhere in Europe & they post out their free PAYG sims to anywhere. If Phones could only be locked for the term of a contract there would be a rush for sims for travellers. If networks were forced to provide details in “your language” you would see what you are doing on your phone much more easily when you slip a sim into your existing handset. None of these ideas would cost the networks much more than one programmer spending a day tweaking their software. Networks shouldn’t be told what to charge it should be the user choosing to whom it is they wish to pay. I have often been badgered to buy unlocked dual sim phones direct from China maybe ill try one sometime as these hop onto the best network for where you are (supposedly) but as I said if phones were unlocked once out of contract & usually when they have been replaced with an upgrade it would open up competition to travellers