WiFi? Why Not!

It still makes me cringe – the fees that cellular carriers charge for US & International data roaming.  The pricing model is so out of whack that paying for this service from your provider has become expensive and impractical.  From a Canadian perspective, does it make sense to pay $6/MB for data roaming in the US* and $51.20/MB Internationally**?  Is any email really that important?  NO!
*Source:  Bell US Roaming Rates
**Source: Bell International Roaming Rates

Not with the proliferation of WiFi.  It’s everywhere and access to open or unsecured networks is abundantly available – especially across the United States.

I hope I’m like most people; well aware of the fees that my carrier charges for data roaming on a foreign network.  I have worked in Telecom and have experience creating and marketing those very cell phone plans that you purchase and then scream at your carrier when you get your next cell phone bill after taking your BlackBerry on a trip to Boston.  I know that I need to turn off the data feature of my smartphone when roaming in the US or Internationally – and I tell everyone that I can who might have cross-border travel plans to do the same.

I can also tell you that in testing one of the first EVDO smartphones with global roaming capabilities, taking your BlackBerry to Australia for a month and using it as you normally would is not in your best interests.  Smartphone

3-years ago I racked up a $3,000+ bill in testing this device to see what the average person/small business could expect if travelling internationally & continuing with operating their business as usual.   Since I now consume almost 400MB of data per month versus 2007 where it was closer to 40-50MB, using my BlackBerry in Australia in 2010 for the month would now cost me $20,000!!  Anyone want to pay that?  I think not.

I think carriers have missed the boat on generating meaningful data roaming revenue from their clients.

If I’m going on a trip to the US for two weeks, I would much rather pay $5 or $10 for a US Data Roaming feature that would cover my data usage while away.  Even with the abundance of open WiFi networks, it’s still a slight pain to find one, connect to one and do whatever I need to do on one.  That said, I know that it would cost me $6 as soon as I light up the data services & roam on a US network.  That’s how feature & data intensive smartphones are today.

On a recent trip to Hawaii, I was surprised at how easy it was to find an open WiFi network almost anywhere on the 3 islands we visited (O’ahu, Maui and the Big Island).

Hawaii

If we needed to send an email update to friends & family or brag about a rainbow that was watching over us as we relaxed on some of the worlds best beaches, we were always able to do so – for free.Waimea Beach, Hawaii

WiFi networks will continue to roll out and smartphones will become standard with WiFi antennas.  Soon, there will not be a need to pay for data roaming from your provider.  That’s why carriers have missed the boat.  Instead of managing the price sensitivity of this segment, they have kept prices astronomically high and people have just turned their radios off.  Isn’t some revenue better than zero?

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  1. Ryan Shantz
    December 22, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I enjoyed reading this Matt… on the McCarran Airport free WiFi network… whilst waiting for yet another delayed flight… (AirCanada)

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