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05 November 20120 Comments by Jon M

O2 hikes non-EU roaming charges

O2 has just announced tariff changes that will see mobile users hit by massive increases in their non-EU roaming charges. The new prices will come in on 28 November and see the cost of making and receiving calls and texts when travelling abroad rise significantly. In some cases, the price hike is greater than 130%, making calls can now cost as much as £1.50/minute and data is still charged at a gargantuan £6/MB.

When roaming in the US, the cost of making calls has increased from 90p/minute to £1.10/minute, the price of sending texts has risen by 60% from 25p each to 40p each. The biggest increase is in the price of receiving calls while using US networks on an O2 SIM – it’ll soon be 90p/minute instead of 39p minute previously.

In the Asia Pacific region including regions such as Hong Kong, Singpore and Austrialia, making calls has gone up from 60p/minute to 80p/minute, receiving calls from 43p/minute to 80p/minute and the price of texting is up 10p to 40p each.

Roaming outside the EU, North America and Asia Pacific has the most expensive prices with the cost of making calls now up to a huge £1.50/minute. Even receiving calls has increased from 85p/minute to £1.25/minute. In all countries outside the EU, O2 have kept data roaming at an exorbitant and completely unusable £6/MB. We were recently discussing iPlayer bandwidth requirements in light of the expensive EE mobile internet tariffs but these really take the biscuit – if it weren’t for mandatory caps and roaming add-ons, watching an hour-long episode on iPlayer while on holiday in Turkey would cost you a bank-breaking £3792. And that’s not even using the HD version.

Critics will be quick to point out that these roaming price increases come rather soon after the EU-mandated price caps on roaming in member states. Surely O2 aren’t subsidising these price increases with tariff hikes elsewhere? O2 have denied this but we remain rather sceptical. Still, having said that, it has to be admitted that O2‘s prices were much cheaper than other rival networks until these price increases. Even after 28 November, their roaming costs will be lower than T-Mobile’s and Vodafone’s.

So what can you do to avoid being impacted by these usurious price hikes? One thing we have always recommended is to ensure that your mobile is unlocked then you can buy a cheap PAYG SIM card when abroad and use that instead. Even calling home with a SIM on a local mobile network is usually much cheaper than using your normal SIM and making calls within the country is substantially less expensive.

The only other thing you can do is to look into moving network. For example, look at other virtual networks using O2‘s infrastructure such as Tesco and Giffgaff. With Giffgaff, text messages are much cheaper at 8p each when in the EU and 30p each anywhere else. You can save money over O2‘s “Rest of the World” roaming rates and making and receiving calls are only £1/minute compared to £1.50/minute and £1.25/minute respectively. Even data is marginally cheaper at £1/MB less than O2‘s tariff.

What do you think of O2‘s roaming price hike? Another sign that the network’s lost it? Or only fair given that the other networks still charge even more? Will you leave to join a cheaper network, use a local SIM in the future or just suck it up? Has it changed your opinion of O2? Let us know…

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