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Lessons in Data Roaming
By Seow Tein Hee - on 02 Mar 2011, 7:33pm

An overseas trip is always a heart-pounding affair. Not for the excitement that follows with the discovery of a new place. On a more pragmatic approach, the cost of the roaming charges on your phone bill should be the main concern. Basic amenities such as voice call and messages aren't the focus here. The real bill shocker comes from data roaming charges, be it deliberate or accidental.

More so often than not, the onus is upon the users. Data roaming might be one of the greatest fears for a smartphone user, but that can be easily rectified by deactivating it. Be it on an iPhone or an Android device, the option to deactivate data roaming is always available. Reminding yourself to do so, however, can be a problem. No matter how careful one can be, there is always the slightest possibility of forgetting to adjust your data roaming settings.

 Even if you know how to switch off data roaming, you might forget to do so before you catch your flight.

And for situations like these, telcos such as StarHub have a notification system to remind you of roaming data usage through its new Roam Manager service. Available for all StarHub customers, regardless of devices or plans, Roam Manager is essentially a report on your data charges, usage and notification. By dialing *100# (no prevailing charges, both local and roaming), users can access a menu that allows them to set notification rules to alert them of data usage. Depending on the level setting, once your device reaches a specific charge for data usage, reminders via SMS will be sent to alert you. Wihin the same menu, you can also deactivate your data services, keeping your bill safe from additional roaming charges.

StarHub customers can dial *100# to access the Roam Manager to check data charges, track data usage, set notifications and even suspend their data services.

Now, we have to say the notification is arguably useful to curb further accidental data usage. As for data deactivation, you can do so within your phone settings. Accessing the said settings, however, can be a little tricky, so we do concede that the option within StarHub's Roam Manager does have its advantages. The question is, why not give users an option to auto-suspend their data once it hits the specified threshold? According to StarHub, there are plans to include such an option at a later date.

And if you do intend to use data roaming for even a short burst, the final bill can still give you a mini heart attack. Here's a story to ponder upon: a friend was in Japan, feeling lost and trying to figure out his destination. Thinking data charges are still manageable if he only logs on for a short while, he activated Google Maps on his iPhone, got the relevant map, and deactivated his data immediately. No resizing and moving were done to avoid additional map downloads.

His final bill? A whooping $98 for just a minute's worth of map loading. Needless to say, the said friend went "!@#$!$" the minute he saw the bill.

Here's the moral of the story: while we can't predict when we'll need to access data roaming, telcos do have some plans in place with its network partners. SingTel, StarHub and M1 have unlimited data roaming charges in specific countries, ranging from $15 per day, to $20 per day.

Ending Pointers

With all said and done, we leave you with a few items to include in your checklist before you embark on your next trip:

  • Remember to deactivate your data service, through the phone or the telco
  • If you wish to access data when you're roaming, check the prevailing rates from your respective telcos.
  • Depending on your destination, you might enjoy unlimited data roaming for a fixed price on certain networks. Choose your networks manually and lock it down. Refer to the table below for the list of supported countries and network.

Seow Tein Hee

Seow Tein Hee / Former Associate Editor

Attuned to the latest mobile technology and news, Tein Hee is always on the lookout for innovation and creativity in the mobile industry.