Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Roaming & Pillaging

It seems the stink from carrier pricing schemes in regards to roaming charges is starting to be smelt by everybody, because in Europe the EU is starting to investigate such charges and will make a list public of what people are getting charged when they're roaming (since it generally remains a mystery to customers who roam) -- with the goal of helping people select the better carrier when they are roaming (I guess).

I remember back in 1999, when I went back to the Seattle area with my GSM phone from Prague -- OMFG. GSM was available (by VoiceStream at that time) ... even if nobody knew what it was ... and with my pre-paid SIM card (with about 20 dollars credit), I could generally manage to send SMSs to friends in Prague (and they to me) for a 2-week stay, and I generally had credit left. It seemed, everytime I came back, I could do less and less. What's worse, I used up 10 dollars of credit in like 5 minutes on a train in Germany -- the "neighbor" of the Czech Republic. I dn't know if it was Deutsche Telkom murdering me or if it was the Czech carrier I was using (I'm guessing a little bit of both). All I know is after I used up all my credit, added more, I REFUSED calls from abroad -- they were simply too much. To this day, I still do -- even if I have a contract from a different carrier ... prices for calling are STILL out of this world (SMS'ing is a bit more reasonable).

What I find funny is it has taken so long for people to say something (Europeans are generally used to getting screwed by their Socialist governments, so it's nothing new -- I still find it funny that I pay "by the pulse" to make public calls from HOME!) -- but what is worse, is that mobile carriers act more like cartels -- the prices they have generally ARE because of AGREEMENT between them all. Sure, they have different programs, but when it comes down to it, calling "per minute" isn't much different nor is "per SMS" pricing -- only their packages and promotions differ. Unless it's regulated (which, lets be honest, NEVER WORKS) somehow, the prices will remain the same. Carriers know that Euros go SOUTH during the summer (warm), so prices go up -- it's basic economics (supply and demand, but in this case, supply never runs out -- just demand increases). I don't know the roaming charges in Norway, but I'm guessing Italians visiting Oslo pay less than Norweigans visiting Rome .... just a guess.

The only "true" way to let market forces dictate pricing would to be have a SIM card that could connect to ANY carrier at anytime .... that way, you might use carrier XYZ during the weekend, ABC during roaming, and QRS during weekdays -- all because of better pricing. The technology is there -- it's just locked when you're in the "native" area of your SIM card -- the EU should just force "open sims" -- that'd be fun :-) (obvioulsy, carriers would charge more to open sims than to "customers" -- so, maybe there is no hope?)

Ooh, the new Jellingspot website is getting there -- you guys (I hope) won't be disappointed -- hang in there -- I'm slow! But, the Windows version if ready for you guys :-)

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