Vodafone roaming cut 'disappointing, unacceptable'

From September 23, Vodafone will cut price of data roaming in Australia from $10/MB to $5/MB.

Unlike a previous cut, the carrier says this one is permanent.

A new txt warning system will see customers receive alert at 2MB, 5MB and 10MB to avoid bill shock.

The cut comes at a time when Communications Minister Steven Joyce has teamed with his Australian counterpart, Senator Stephen Conroy, to launch an unprecedented transtasman investigation into mobile data roaming rates.

READ ALSO: Pack a lunch, regulation could take years

The early stage of the investigation has seen some travelers to Australia asked to fill out questionnaires on data rates.

Mr Joyce has said suggested that roaming rates are too high per se and not clearly enough explained to customers.

Although roamers will appreciate the Vodafone halving its rates, $5 a megabyte still equates to a stupendous $5000 a gigabyte (or about 50 times the domestic mobile data rate, which is itself barely cheap).

To head off the government regulation - a la mobile termination rates - two things will have to happen.

1) Telecom (which charges $8/MB for Australia) and 2degrees ($30/MB) will have to offer steep cuts too.

2) All carriers across Australian and New Zealand will have to make much steeper cuts than those announced by Vodafone today.

Vodafone and Telecom have previously said they have little wriggle room; they are merely passing on high international charges.

"Pathetic. Time to regulate"
NZCS Chief Executive Paul Matthews, who is currently in Australia attending the World Computer Congress, said that while a price drop is good, the new pricing was still "hugely disappointing" and "unacceptable".

To his Twitter followers, Mr Matthews offered an even blunter assessment: "$5/MB roaming in Aus? I had to re-read that and yes, that's MB. $5000 per GB. Or $8000 on XT. Pathetic. Time to regulate."

$49 vs $20,0000
Later, he told NBR: “Of course you expect to pay some sort of premium when using your devices overseas, but this is simply ridiculous”.

During this visit to Australia, the NZCS boss bought a local SIM and prepaid data pack for $49 including 4GB of data from Vodafone Australia.

Using the same data but through Vodafone’s New Zealand subsidiary, roaming in Australia, it would have cost a whopping $20,000, or $32,000 on XT. Same network, same data.

Mr Matthews said he finds it hard to believe that the same data they would charge $49 and presumably still do okay from would somehow cost $20,000 simply because it was being charged by Vodafone New Zealand rather than Vodafone Australia, or even more on XT.

Blatant profiteering; time for govt to step in
“Either way, it’s blatant profiteering and enough is enough. It’s great to see the trans-tasman Governments finally preparing to do something about it, and if the telecommunications companies themselves aren’t going to deal with it seriously, it’s high time Government stepped in”.

2degrees bites back
"Vodafone is in a privileged position to be able to offer a lower data rate as they own networks on both sides of the Tasman," 2degrees head of corporate communications said, when asked if her company would make a similar cut.

"Unfortunately we are not in that position and so we are burdened with much higher wholesale rates, which need to be passed on.

"We're upfront with the fact that we think using data overseas is quite pricey and we recommend to our customers to be cautious with their data use and look at other options for checking their email, or surfing the web, if they are going to be overseas for an extended length of time."

No GST increase
As a bonus completely un-related comment, Ms Hilless did note that ""We've even made the decision not to pass on the GST increase to our customers so our prices will remain the same, unlike other mobile providers."

A Telecom spokeswoman confirmed her company charged $8/MB, but had no further comment.

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