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GSMA pledges end to data roaming bill shock

But prices still high for Asian biz travellers

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Mobile industry body the GSMA reckons it has come up with a plan which should help international business travellers avoid bill shock and better understand their data usage.

At a meeting in Shanghai this week, the organisation cracked together the heads of 24 major global operators including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, China Mobile and Unicom and KT Corporation.

The result is an agreement to make roaming more transparent for punters.

Measures agreed by operators include sending users a text when they arrive in a foreign country to remind them of data roaming tariffs, and enabling a monthly data roaming spending limit to be set - although there's no info on who decides what this upper limit should be.

Operators have also agreed to text users when they’re approaching their spending limit and to suspend the data service temporarily when the limit has been exceeded.

The GSMA says the operators will roll out the measures by the end of the year to cover over four billion global connections, and that it will identify those that have complied with a trust mark.

GSMA chairman Franco Bernabè said that many operators had already implemented the measures.

“The initiative announced today will help to promote an even broader adoption of principles that will offer a more transparent and uniform experience for billions of consumers, wherever they travel,” he added in a canned statement.

Data roaming charges are being tackled by the European Union, which has already managed to slash voice costs for travellers across the region and will introduce a cap on data charges from 1 July.

However, prices remain high in Asia, where there is no region-wide political institution to bash heads together.

Analysts were pretty pessimistic about that situation changing any time soon.

“This initiative will help to prevent ‘bill shock’, which is increasingly attracting the attention of regulators. It is wise of the industry to address this matter voluntarily,” said Ovum principal analyst David Kennedy.

“But by itself, it won’t lead to lower prices. The customer has little bargaining power against mobile operators in the roaming market.”

IDC’s Alex Chau told The Reg that the new rules could even be a nuisance to business travellers.

“Many users will not like it because the worst case scenario is been cut off while waiting for a crucial call or email,” he argued. ®

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