Vodafone's magnanimous gesture in waiving roaming charges over the summer amounted to a nifty bit of misdirection - few noticed that it also slipped out some radical changes to the price of data for the traveller who can't be without their email.
The changes to the cost of roamed data were posted onto the company website without press release or notification. However, one keen-eyed Reg reader noticed a footnote on their bill and decided to check out the changes, only to discover the details are obscure and the company support was unable to clarify how much it will cost to use data abroad from July 1.
In general the changes seem for the better, though you wouldn't guess it from the company's explanation. The world is split into three zones, and users into those with a laptop-connected dongle and those on a phone.
Zone one covers Europe and surrounding area, and will cost a fiver per 25MB for a phone, doubling to a tenner for the same amount of data downloaded to a laptop using a dongle. Zone two includes most of the rest of the world including America, and will cost three times that: £15 for a phone, £30 for a laptop. Zone three includes some of the more obscure destinations and remains at a fiver per megabyte.
The confusion arises when it comes to users who don't touch those figures - the BlackBerry user who downloads an email on the Eurostar, or the lost walker who checks Google Mobile Maps while in Germany - with Vodafone's support being singularly unhelpful when it comes to how much such minimal usage will cost.
Even we had trouble getting figures out of the company, whose people just wanted to talk about how great Voda is at cutting the cost of voice roaming; but we eventually established that in zone one users will pay 50p for each 100KB (or part thereof) of data while roaming, up to a total of 1MB at which point the fiver-for-25MB rate automatically kicks in. Those figures double for zone two and don't apply to zone three.
Overall the deal seems good, and should make using data abroad less of a crapshoot for those who didn't check tariffs before leaving, as well as putting the cost of data well below the €1-per-MB wholesale rate mandated by the EU. All of which makes Vodafone's reticence to discuss it, even with its own support staff, all the more mysterious. ®