European telco, data roaming, and a great lesson from T-Mobile

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Europe is comparable, by surface and population, to United States of America, even more since it was somehow unified under the European Community. “Somehow”, because regardless the long-time efforts at the end we only have a common currency, the Euro. And it’s not even used in all the european countries…

The horrible european situation in telecommunications

data_roaming_chargesFor all those travelling in other european countries like me, one of the biggest sign of the fragmentation between countries is the insanely high roaming charges. There are really few multi-country telco companies allowing you to go abroad without charges, and even here they are limited to the few countries they operate in. The rest, is a jungle made of plans, rules written in size 2 font, options changing day and night, and specific options you need to enable on a per-country base.

European Commission, and its Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding, tried in all those years to rule above these problems with several laws. First putting a limit to SMS price, than with other limits for data roaming. A huge effort, but not yet enough for people travelling Europe, who are at risk every time of being charged 4 digit bills, or be force to buy a local number in any Country; and without a dual SIM phone, this is another problem.

The lesson from T-Mobile

Last August I’ve been in San Francisco for VMworld. Usually in my previous trips to the USA I never used data roaming, I was too scared for my wallet, and I always relied on wi-fi connections available in the places I was attending some conference. This time I decided to buy a prepaid SIM from T-Mobile.


Since the beginning my experience has been really positive: they asked me only for my credit card a my passport, I signed only once on a tablet, no paper at all, and after 15 minutes I was exiting the shop with my US phone number and 500 GB of data plan to be used in the next 3 months; all for 50 USD. After 3 months without using it, you cansimply trow aways the SIM card and buy a new one the next time, or you can re-charge it via T-Mobile website and keep it alive.

This little experience alone was already by far better than with any italian telco (and talking with other european guys, their countries are no different), but few days ago I was again shocked by T-Mobile for good.

T-Mobile announced a change in their plan called Simple Choice, and I fell off my chair when I read the details. This is what you can find in their website:

“That’s right. Unlimited data coverage in over 100 countries will be included in our Simple Choice Plan at no extra charge. Even better, texting is free and calls are only 20 cents a minute.”

Yes, you understood correctly. T-Mobile customers will not pay anymore roaming charges and will be able to connect to internet abroad at the same price they pay at home. Also, even SMS will be free. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

T-Mobile, with this “simple” move, has shown how we do not need dozens of laws to limit european telcos and their greed, confirmed that costs for data crossing between telcos from different countries are only an excuse to gain more money, and most of all showed that even with today’s laws it’s totally possible to offer a real worldwide service, designed for users.

Next time you talk with your telco, ask them why T-Mobile was able to do so, and they don’t.

About me, I’m really thinking to buy a new Simple Choice plan when I will be again in the USA, and to use it as my Pan-European data plan. It sounds so ridicolous, but it’s cheaper than almost any european plan even if it’s from a US telco…