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Half of Brits too scared to use mobile phone abroad

Monday, March 30th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

More than half of Britons don’t use their phone or tablet outside the UK for fear of being hit with huge roaming charges, a survey has found.

Research from international network specialist Worldsim revealed that 52% of Brits don’t use their mobile devices abroad, while 26% search for the nearest wi-fi hotspot to avoid incurring expensive data charges.

More than a third (34%) of the 1,000 people questioned in the survey said they only use their phone to send text messages.

More than a quarter (26%) said they often ended up paying more than they need, because of a lack of education about how data plans work abroad, while 15% said they were often stung by extra charges because they do not understand jargon like ‘data roaming’.

The poll comes after the European Union pushed back to 2018 a decision on scrapping roaming charges for mobile phone users.

Worldsim CEO Arif Reza, said: “For a long time we’ve been aware of what we call the ‘silent roamers’ problem – people who basically switch off their phones.

"They take it abroad maybe for pictures and music saved on there but their phones are switched off because they’re terrified of the bill they might get whilst they’re out on holiday.

“From our point of view it shouldn’t be so complicated.

“With millions of Brits travelling abroad every month, there should be more choice to help them keep in touch with loved ones at home.”

Part of the problem is that smartphones are often “too smart”, Mr Reza said.

“You think you’re not using it, but because of all these apps that you’ve downloaded in the background they’re either getting updates, syncing data, doing something, and using data without you actually knowing it."

'People can get stung'

Mr Reza said progress to improve global services and reduce costs is slow, and it is difficult for consumers to know when they will get charged and how much.

He said there are a lot of countries that people assume are part of the EU and so will be paying the EU regulated rate for data – 15p per Mbps.

"If you went, say, to a country that you think is in Europe, say Serbia or Montenegro or Turkey, the rate will jump from 15p a Mbps.

“Most people think 'alright it’s 15p in Europe. What’s the worst it can be, double or triple?'

“Actually it can be 10,000 times more expensive – you can pay up to £15 per Mbps in neighbouring countries, so people can get stung.”

Mr Reza urged people to do their homework about where they are going, and to look at alternative options, from using wi-fi where possible, to alternative sim providers like Worldsim that specialise in roaming, or even using a local sim.

“We’re living in this connected generation at the moment, and some people almost say it’s not worth going on holiday unless you can put your pictures on Facebook while you’re out there.

“When people are going abroad they want a data connection or a wi-fi connection so they feel like they’re synced up and they’re not cut off from the world.

“So what I would say is if you are part of this young connected generation and this is something that you need, then do your homework before you go abroad."

He said it was important to find out what your normal network operator is going to charge when you are abroad, particularly for data, and whether there are bundles available in the countries you are visiting.

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