UK owners of 3G-enabled tablets have been warned that using data roaming in Europe or elsewhere could be 1,000 times more expensive than similar use in their home market.
This warning, issued by the consumer group Which?, follows research by the organisation that suggested current tablet tariffs of around £7.50 per month for 1GB was reasonable when in the UK. However, this cost increased to £50 for 50MB when data roaming in Europe, and then rocketed to over £7,600 for 1GB downloaded when outside of Europe.
While data charges have been limited in Europe to about €50 following EU regulations, and some UK operators have imposed limits for outside the EU, other service providers allow subscribers to build up tablet data roaming charges by not implementing restrictions.
Which? illustrates the problem by claiming that tablet data roaming in the US for subscribers with 3UK would cost £3 per MB. If this was applied in the UK the user would be hit with a data roaming bill for more than £3,000 for the same GB of data that could cost around £7.50 within the UK.
The problem becomes more extreme if the 3UK user crosses over into Canada, where they would then be hammered with £10 per MB equivalent to more than £10,000 per GB.
However, this extreme scenario is unlikely given that 3UK automatically halts broadband access when any of its subscribers' bills reaches £50. T-Mobile sends an SMS advising users on data roaming charges when they arrive in a country, and Orange users need to have their tablet activated before the device can access networks outside of the UK. O2 has taken a simpler approach by not allowing its tablet owner any overseas access.
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Ceri Stanaway, a Which? mobile services specialist, said: "With tablet data roaming costs often so astoundingly expensive, we would like to see all operators do all they can to keep their customers informed of costs."
"Until costs come down my advice to anyone considering using their tablet for more data-heavy web tasks--such as watching online TV or video calls back home--is to steer clear of 3G data roaming and instead use free Wi-Fi access where available," added Stanaway.
New data bundles unveiled ahead of EU roaming caps
Vodafone cuts data roaming costs by 60%; analyst unimpressed
Freemove alliance to offer improved data roaming packages
Mallinson: Closing time for all-you-can-eat buffets