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Mobile Data Charges – avoid Telstra!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Using your home country mobile phone when you’re overseas – roaming – can be extraordinarily expensive, particularly when it comes to data charges. Of course figuring out just what it’s going to cost can also be extraordinarily difficult. I have two mobile phones, one on Telstra’s Australian network, one with Vodafone in the UK On a recent trip to India I checked out the cost.

• Vodafone offers a Vodafone Data Traveller option which outside Europe costs you £5 a day for up to 25MB, then £3 a MB for the next 5MB, followed by £15 for every subsequent 5MB block. Telstra is much more expensive, anywhere outside Australia cost 1.5c Australian per kB.

Of course many hotels offer free wifi in which case your data charges are zero, you simply use their system, two of the three hotels we stayed at in Delhi and Jodhpur offered free wifi. At the flash Imperial Hotel in New Delhi, however, the wifi connection charges were equally flash, 1200 INR (Indian rupees) a day, about US$24. So what would it cost me if I’d downloaded emails and data to my laptop or iPad via the phone rather than with the hotel’s costly wifi?
Telstra 190
Vodafone 170

Day 1 – Oops, I’ve not downloaded all the Lonely Planet Rajasthan chapters I need to my iPad before arriving in India.


The complete book is 34MB and although I don’t download the whole thing, with today’s International Herald Tribune and some emails for me and Maureen I’m up to 44MB for £57 before I know it. That’s US$89 so I would have saved a lot of money by using the hotel’s US$24 wifi charge, although presumably that would have been US$48 for both of us? On the other hand if I’d done it on my Australian Telstra phone the cost would have been about US$700! Even 1MB of Telstra data costs US$16.

Day 2 – Just a smidge under 5MB so well under the 25MB Vodafone limit and it only costs me the £5 basic charge. Telstra would have been 10 times as much.

Day 3 – 17MB, still under the 25MB limit, but if I’d done that with my Telstra phone the cost would have jumped from US$8 to US$270!

So here’s the story on what the costs would have been using the hotel’s wifi, my UK Vodafone phone or my Australian Telstra phone

                                            Day 1                 Day 2                  Day 3
Imperial Hotel                   US$24              US$24                US$24
Vodafone                            US$89                 US$8                  US$8
Telstra                             US$700              US$80              US$270

India has plenty of very reasonably priced internet cafes if you don’t want to use pricey hotel internet services. McDonalds in India give you free wifi – for 10 minutes – after which it’s 15 INR (about 28c US) per half hour.

The conclusion, avoid Telstra like the plague if you’re planning to download data overseas. Beware of big emails, it’s amazing how often I get sent emails with jpg pictures of 2 and 3MB attached when they could easily have been sent as 200 or 300kB, or even less. And beware of those nice newspaper and magazine apps – The Economist at 5.4MB, the IHT 6.5MB and the Melbourne Age 6.7 MB. A travelling Australian catching up with the news from home via their Telstra Mobile phone would be up for A$100 for today’s newspaper!