Typically when we think about roaming charges, what comes to mind is the unavoidable 10 minute call to your bank at home, or weighing up the decision to turn on roaming data to use Google Maps vs. wandering around lost for another hour. Roaming charges are expensive and unpleasant, there’s no doubt about that. However at least they’re made more palatable by the fact that you’re enjoying a nice holiday somewhere.
Not everybody has that luxury. For some people living close to their country’s border, roaming charges are an ongoing and daily nuisance.
One Canadian woman recently interviewed explained that she frequently receives messages from her telecom company warning that she has surpassed her $100 data roaming limit, without ever leaving her home town. According to TheTelecomBlog.com, despite having a Canadian SIM card and living in Canada, her phone thinks that it is roaming in the United States.
Similar problems occur for owners of UK SIM cards in Northern Ireland. Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, estimates that in some parts of Northern Ireland, 30% of the population experience inadvertent roaming on a daily basis.
In these examples, the messaging from the network companies is fairly similar: while they empathise with the problem, the way our modern technology works can make the solution difficult. The radius of cellular towers doesn’t neatly follow borders, and two neighbouring towers from different countries can cause interference with one another. However as more regions, including European and African countries, are talking about eliminating or restricting international roaming charges, this problem may fade away over time.
So if you’re living or staying in a border region, is there anything that you can do to avoid expensive roaming charges? Luckily there are some solutions at hand.
Firstly you can disable your phone’s ability to select a local wireless carrier, and manually lock it to your own contracted company.
Secondly, you could consider buying an additional SIM card for your neighbouring country. Living close to a border opens up opportunities to very easily work, shop and socialise “abroad” so it’s possible that there’s a need to be in touch with both communities frequently. For example, people living near the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could buy both an Irish sim card and a UK sim card. You could buy either a second phone, such as a cheap unlocked mobile phone, and have two numbers on the go. Alternatively you could buy a dual SIM card phone which allows you to use two SIM cards simultaneously.
Finally keep complaining! Just because you understand why the technology switches you between countries doesn’t mean that your problem is solved. Local networks still have a responsibility to avoid passing on these roaming charges to their customers. The more noise you make, the more seriously the problem will be taken.