The cost of international roaming


WhistleOut
16 May 2014


Image credit: Kuster and Wildhaber Photography

Facing increased pressure from both the government and public to sort out the global roaming rip-off, Australian telcos have almost uniformly slashed what you’ll pay to use your phone overseas.

The popularity of Vodafone’s initial Red Roaming deal – which allowed customers to use their plan’s domestic inclusions when travelling abroad, for an extra $5 per day – led to the telco extending the offer to all postpaid plans, and in March simplifying its pay-as-you-go international roaming rates in over 200 countries.

With Vodafone customers now paying $1 per MB used overseas – a reduction of 90% - it was only a matter of time before rivals such as Optus and Telstra followed suit.

So even though the situation is improving for Australians who prefer the convenience of taking their own phone abroad, rather than switching to a local or prepaid travel SIM, international roaming costs (particularly data costs) can still add up quickly.

International travel is still one of the leading causes of bill shock in Australia, so it’s important to do your research before you head to the airport.

International data packs

Despite the company recently changing up its roaming rates, Telstra customers are still stuck paying big money to roam on their phones, especially for data use. The telco do offer prepaid data packs which are cheaper than its pay-as-you-go cost for downloading, starting at $29 for 100MB, with a 30-day expiry period.

If you’re a heavier data user, you can expect to pay $85 for 300MB, $160 for 600MB, and a jaw-dropping $350 for 1.5GB – all the more reason to save your Web browsing for Wifi only.

Optus offers a slightly better deal through its Optus Data Travel Packs, allowing customers to access data in selected countries for a flat daily rate of $10 for 70MB. Customers can buy multiple days and roll over data - for example, buying 7 days of access for $70 gives you 490MB to use as you like over the week. Destinations include Hong Kong, India, Singapore. USA, the United Kingdom, and China.

Travellers can also buy a $10 per day Optus Travel Pack which includes unlimited voice calls and SMS and 50MB of data. As with Optus' data packs, buying multiple days means you can accumulate data, so you're not necessarily limited to a daily 50MB.

In comparison, Vodafone's $5 Roaming deal lets customers use all the data, voice minutes and text messages already included in their monthly plan in 47 countries worldwide, at a price of $5 extra per day. You'll only pay on the days you actually use your phone, and you can receive messages without being charged the $5 daily fee (assuming you don't respond).

If you have a Vodafone data add-on, you can also use this under the $5 Roaming offer. However, Vodafone does advise that customers who use this offer for more than 90 days may find the privilege being revoked, under the telco's fair use policy.

Countries outside of the included 47 are subject to Vodafone's pay-as-you-go rates.

We've compared both big and small providers below to see what their standard rates are for five common destinations for Aussie travellers. More information and rates for many more countries can be found at each provider's website.

Optus

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00
Cost to send SMS to Australia $0.50 $0.50 $0.50 $0.50 $0.50
Cost of data $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $20.48 per MB

MVNOs operating on the Optus network and offering the same international roaming rates:


Telstra

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $2.50 $1.50 $1.50 $2.00 $3.00
Cost to send SMS to Australia $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75
Cost of data $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB $3.00 per MB

MVNOs operating on the Telstra network and offering the same international roaming rates:


Vodafone

(standard pay as you go rates)

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00
Cost to send SMS to Australia $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75
Cost of data $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB $1.00 per MB

Virgin Mobile

Unfortunately, Virgin Mobile is not as forthcoming with its roaming rates, when compared to other Australian telcos. When asked about rates for Hong Kong, we were informed that Virgin Mobile doesn't supply these costs as they are 'dictated by the provider', e.g. the Hong Kong wireless network that a customer roams on.

Virgin Mobile lists some destinations on its website, but customers may need to call Virgin's helpline or visit a retail store for any information on the countries not included.

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute Not available $0.25 $1.79 $3.34 $1.88
Cost to send SMS to Australia Not available $0.38 $0.75 $0.90 $0.46
Cost of data Not available $0.08 per MB $15.65 per MB $30.46 per MB $0.72 per MB

Amaysim

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $1.00 + $0.35 flagfall $3.00 + $0.35 flagfall $1.00 + $0.35 flagfall $1.00 + $0.35 flagfall $1.00 + $0.35 flagfall
Cost to send SMS to Australia $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75
Cost of data $24.38 per MB $24.38 per MB $24.38 per MB $24.38 per MB $24.38 per MB


Dodo

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $1.50 + $0.50 flagfall $1.50 + $0.50 flagfall $1.50 + $0.50 flagfall $1.50 + $0.50 flagfall $1.50 + $0.50 flagfall
Cost to send SMS to Australia $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75
Cost of data $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB


Live Connected

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $2.00 $2.00 $2.00 $2.00 $2.00
Cost to send SMS to Australia $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00
Cost of data $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB


LycaMobile

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $2.45 $0.52 $2.45 $0.46 $2.61
Cost to send SMS to Australia $0.25 $0.22 $0.25 $0.22 $0.64
Cost of data NA NA NA NA NA


TPG

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00
Cost to send SMS to Australia $0.50 $0.50 $0.50 $0.50 $0.50
Cost of data $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB $0.50 per MB


Vaya

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $2.00 $2.00 $2.00 $2.00 $2.00
Cost to send SMS to Australia $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $1.00
Cost of data $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB $1.24 per MB


Yatango

Hong Kong New Zealand Singapore United Kingdom United States
Cost to call Australia per minute $3.00 + $0.35 flagfall $3.00 + $0.35 flagfall $2.00 + $0.35 flagfall $3.00 + $0.35 flagfall $5.00 + $0.35 flagfall
Cost to send SMS to Australia $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75 $0.75
Cost of data $22.53 per MB + $0.22 flagfall $22.53 per MB + $0.22 flagfall $22.53 per MB + $0.22 flagfall $22.53 per MB + $0.22 flagfall $22.53 per MB + $0.22 flagfall


MVNOs that don't yet offer roaming:

  • Aldi
  • Lebara Mobile
  • GoTalk

Things to remember

Despite the relative savings, a major problem with buying an add-on international data pack is that not all customers will be able to monitor their usage when travelling internationally, as most of the services provided by telcos will only track data and call minutes used domestically.

Another point about data use: many telcos don't necessarily charge per kilobyte, rather in increments of 10KB or more. Make sure you're aware of the minimum cost of each data session before you go online.

Overall, sticking with your local provider when abroad isn’t the most wallet-friendly option. Even Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) such as Amaysim, Boost and Vaya will charge rates comparable to those of the big telcos if you want to roam internationally with any of their plans – not surprising considering small operators all use either Telstra or Optus’ networks.


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