• Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub


By Dario Betti, CEO Mobile Ecosystem Forum

Using our mobile phones when travelling overseas is something we all take (mostly) for granted. Mobile roaming started in Scandinavia in 1982, making 2022 its 40th birthday! But it might be showing worrying signs of premature aging.

Simply put, for many people their phone might not work abroad anymore even in areas that were perfectly covered before, and their bills are still not yet worry free everywhere. There is plenty to concern customers, and frankly more work from mobile operators is needed to protect one of the true successes of the mobile revolution.

Roaming is one of the great liberations of the mobile age – being connected abroad made globalisation possible. It requires the complex organisation of mobile operators, phone manufacturers, masts, and regulatory bodies all working seamlessly, making it one of the greatest technical achievements of mobile operators – there are more than 750 mobile networks to connect with each other giving a headache inducing number of potential connections.

Yet all is not well.

Customers travelling to the USA and some European countries might have already experienced these growing challenges and be aware that ‘roaming malaise’ is travelling fast to other destinations. No more phone calls or SMS, or not even data for that matter for some of you with specific operators, and certain devices. Yes, things are getting complicated just like the early days of mobile telephony and international travel.

We appear to be going backwards. Not forwards.

Mobile operators such as the ones in the USA are decommissioning their older networks known as 2G and 3G, in favour of more efficient 4G and 5G network. These new networks are not yet fully supported for roaming by all operators.

Here is my experience. Once I had landed in Las Vegas, Nevada, airport, I got an SMS from my mobile operator sharing the following insight “Please note, major operators in the US have closed their 3G networks so your services might be impacted”. The vague message was followed by a link to a website that unfortunately was not working. This operator did not score much on the helpful scale.

Another mobile operator of mine (yes, I have many phones with me…) was more open about it: most probably I would not be able to make phone calls or send/receive SMS within the USA, but I could still get data. And then it went on to say that it depended on the phone that I had, and that they would make things better in future, but not yet. A follow up SMS confirmed prices of 6 USD per MB, or about 1200 dollars to watch a Netflix video in low quality for 90 minutes (equivalent to my phone bill for the next 10 years). This operator scored much higher on information level, still low on managing to get me to communicate with anyone, and the price was enough to make me set my smartphone on fire in fear of the potential roaming bill.

A third mobile operator (yes… you guessed it… I work in mobile telephony…)  was not much better: it went on to say that frankly I was lucky to get that SMS in the first place, and why not use a messaging app to keep in touch with my family over WiFi. I had a mobile operator suggesting using WhatsApp & co. Will turkeys vote for Thanksgiving next? Mobile operators are letting roaming fall to pieces, and our travel is getting less seamless.

However, I might have something to make your life easier.  Here is a “Roaming Survival List” for travelling consumers.

The Roaming Survival List for all travellers:

Is your phone 4G ready?

Check if your phone shows a 4G or LTE sign, if your phone is 5G ready you are ready to travel. But see the next steps.

Is your phone older than 2015?

Even some of the 4G devices might not work well. It is mostly the earlier models, sold before 2015 that do not support ‘Voice over LTE’ (or VOLTE). Time to buy a new device if you want to roam freely in USA and other places. If you are an Apple fan, from the iPhone 8 onwards they are all compatible. If your phone is good, it is now time to check your operator.

Is your Mobile Operator supporting VoLTE for Roaming?

Not all operators have ‘turned on’ the Voice over LTE function for roaming. About 700 networks have launched VoLTE in their market domestically, but in 2021 only 50 operators globally support roaming on 4G. A check on the operator’s website or a visit to the shop might help, but often you might have to call customer service to get a proper answer.

Get the pricing right

The choice of roaming package is still important. Regulation made roaming in the European Union simpler to understand, but if you are travelling outside the EU or are arriving from another country prices might still be complex and often disproportionally high. Many operators have built international packages and options that make it easier to budget for international travelling – but not all.


Dario Betti is CEO of MEF (Mobile Ecosystem Forum) a global trade body established in 2000 and headquartered in the UK with members across the world. As the voice of the mobile ecosystem, it focuses on cross-industry best practices, anti-fraud and monetisation. The Forum provides its members with global and cross-sector platforms for networking, collaboration and advancing industry solutions.

Web: https://mobileecosystemforum.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mef

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mobile-ecosystem-forum

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MobileEcosystemForum/

By mac