T-Mobile gets into summer holiday spirit with lower data roaming charges

Last week I complained about T-Mobile’s not-so-unlimited, “flat-rate” data plans for iPhone users in Europe: the nasty roaming charges, the unnecessary extra fees for using T-Mobile’s own networks in other countries.

Today, T-Mobile UK announced that it would be slashing European data roaming charges by 80 percent starting in August 2008, just in time for the summer holiday season (at least for the French, Spanish and Italians; Northern Europeans, like the British, the Germans and the Dutch, tend to go on holiday earlier so they’ll need to put up with those roaming charges for another month). I don’t know whether to be thrilled with the price cut or outraged over having paid so much money over the years.

Here’s T-Mobile’s holiday giveaway (at least to residents of the UK): instead of paying £7.50 per megabyte, you pay £1.50. After August 30, sending text messages from EU countries to the UK will be 25 pence instead of 40 pence per message. To emphasize that they are in the holiday spirit, T-Mobile has introduced a summer holiday marketing campaign called “Euro Holiday Boosters”, where they confuse you with bundles of packages priced at £5, £10, £20 and £30. Which one to choose?

For those who prefer to avoid roaming charges altogether and stick to Wi-Fi, you’ll be charged pay even if you use T-Mobile’s network abroad. How’s that again? Why is Wi-Fi included in my T-Mobile plan at home, but not abroad? Who knows? It’s a telecom operator and its business model is to create as many billable moments as possible.

To use T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi network abroad, you will pay £1 for 10 minutes. If you use Wi-Fi for 30 minutes, you pay £3. That’s two beers in a not-so-fancy beach resort (half a beer in an Ibiza night club). I think I’ll save my beer money and go to a cafe/bar with free Wi-Fi. I have never had any trouble finding fast, free Wi-Fi in a hotel, B&B, bar or cafe in Spain, Italy, France or Portugal.

Why is T-Mobile playing nice? They see the writing on the wall. Viviane Reding, the EU’s telecommunications commissioner, will introduce legislation to force the operators to lower data roaming charges. Last year, she forced them to lower their voice roaming fees and succeeded. This year, she’s doing it to data. The operators know she’ll get her way. So why not dress up the Inevitable in a marketing campaign and make it look like you’re doing your customers a favor?

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