The absurdity of global data roaming charges is back

by: William Neilson JrJuly 25, 2014

att-bill-640x888 StopTheCap

For years, carriers have been charging consumers with massive global data roaming fees.

Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters, was given a $10,000 bill by AT&T for his trip to Canada. A Chicago Bears fan watched his team play while on a cruise ship on the AT&T network and it cost him nearly $28,000. A Portland family got a $20,000 bill from AT&T after he used an AirCard while traveling into Canada.

When T-Mobile announced last fall that customers were being offered free data roaming while travelling internationally on 2G speeds, customers not surprisingly flocked to this offering by calling three times as much abroad, texted seven times as much and used 28 times more data than they did previously. Additionally, 53% more of its customers now roam on cellular in supported countries than before it unveiled the plans.

Now, Scott Matteson over at TechRepublic discusses his issues with global data roaming charges on Verizon’s network. Scott and his wife traveled to Ireland and signed up for Verizon’s international roaming data plan for his Samsung Galaxy S3.

“Jet lagged and sleep deprived, I stumbled around Dublin with Wendy that first day, using the Droid only to take pictures of cathedrals, the GPO, various parks and the River Liffey. Ironically enough, I wanted the international coverage in case I needed voice or data access, but I didn’t check email or social media that first day, largely because it was spent in a fog that wasn’t helped by a visit to the Guinness Storehouse.” – TechRepublic


Verizon’s first text message to him was a reminder that global data cost $20.48/Mb. After several days, he realized that Verizon was claiming that he had racked up over $500 of data usage charges in 24 hours. He had apparently used just 24.5 Mb which meant he owed Verizon more than $500.

Now, Verizon did in fact help out by allowing him to backtrack and select their other global data plan (as if he had chosen it before he left for Ireland) which lowered his bill down to just $25. To be clear, Verizon sent him messages to warn him about his data use and did allow the customer to backtrack on his plan.

The issue at hand is in general how much the wireless carriers are charging for those going around the world.

Although this is an old video from 2007, I still recommend watching it as it can be a reminder of how confusing it can be to configure your phone’s data plan when going overseas.

  • Myown Polidinho

    In Europe most companies limit the cost at around 50 euros per day with unlimited use.

    • MasterMuffin

      That’s because Europe is better :P

  • What

    “former co-host of Mythbusters”??????

    • Yeah, I changed that. I meant that he was one of the two original co-hosts and now they have added a number of new people

      Didn’t mean he had left.

  • mjh49783ab

    Why not just turn off data roaming on your phone, and use Wi-Fi where it’s available, for starters? I even go as far as digging into my mobile network settings and manually selecting my own network so that it doesn’t roam at all. Whenever I’m in Michigan, I just find a hotspot, and text back and forth with Google Hangouts, instead of using SMS. My cell phone bill stays low and manageable, and I’m not hit with any nasty surprises.

    Alternatively, you can get the phone unlocked, and stick in a different SIM card for when you’re roaming.

  • Rubber Chicken


  • stupid americans

  • gommer strike

    Pull out your SIM before you board that plane…

    • Elliot Derhay

      You could also turn off mobile data with a setting in your phone. No need to pull the SIM out.

      • gommer strike

        Yes, agreed. But the reason for pulling the SIM out completely is to even avoid any possible voice-based charges. That way when you’ve travelled from say, America to Europe, it’ll encourage you to buy a local SIM, should you really really need to have an actual number to make calls from, and not use Skype, for example.

  • Virginia Kluiters

    I’ve found that the best way to keep from racking up high cellphone bills is using G3 Wireless. G3 offers services to U.S. and Canadian citizens traveling to Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico and so on. They also have a pay-as-you-go plan but with no roaming fees. The only catch is that your phone must be unlocked, but you can purchase an unlocked phone through G3.

  • John Zakaria

    Ehm unlocked phones ROCK !

  • huttese bebop.

    My mother went on a trip to Japan last October, and decided VZW was going to charge her way too much so she opted to not use her phone, and instead opted to contact us with her WiFi tablet. Around April we discovered VZW was adding another forty dollars to our bill every month under their shady “we can change it whenever we want for whatever reasons and not tell you” charge.
    Well, we weren’t having any of it so we contacted Verizon, and they said it was a roaming fee.
    They charged her $40 a month despite the fact that she specifically said she didn’t want any kind of roaming (she had it turned off the entire trip, only bringing it with in case of emergency). $280 later we caught on, and they refused to give us a full refund. I can’t remember what they cited the reason as, but we eventually got our full refund, so it can’t have been a very good one.

  • the5th

    Whaaaaaaat??? $20 per MB???? You guys are crazy. That’s madness. Insane. And not just roaming fees; from what I can see the price of your contracts over there is exorbitant. Now I understand why you Americans hate your mobile carriers so much. You should all get contracts with a European carrier and just use the phones in the US, it would probably cost you less!

  • MichaelSammler

    Japan sells sim cards in vending machines at airports now.

  • Truly outrageous! Don’t forget to turn off your data or get an international data plan! We’ve put together a helpful tutorial for appropriate phone settings while traveling with an iPhone: and Android: to avoid data roaming fees and minimize data usage. You can also make unlimited calls and text to friends anywhere in the world using YouRoam. Download for Android:

    • Marco Biasin

      Wow. How long you waited for a way to advertise yourself like this?

      • Since it’s a free app and completely free for you to make calls and texts, we think of it more like a public service announcement to help you stop spending money on roaming. You are welcome ;)

  • Guest 2014

    Or just get T-Mobile.

    • LL11

      Yeah, and then they get bought out of that market by another carrier under the guise of ‘efficiency’. My T-Mobile coverage was bought out by Sprint. We have to stop letting these kinds of events, mergers or otherwise to limit true “free market” competition.

  • Steve Frank

    Last attempt by the Jewish mafia to extort money from the goyims.