The Logic Behind Roaming Charges

Flexiroam Calls

In this article, we hope you will better understand how the Roaming Charges work, what services are most influenced by these charges and the exact amount that you pay when you roam overseas. Most of all, you will understand why even a careful traveler might suffer from huge roaming bills.


The human arm starts at the shoulder and ends at the tip of a mobile phone. This could be the new anatomy description for it. We can’t stay away from our mobile phones as they have sort of become our go-to device for information, communication; oh and let’s not forget, our focus after seeing someone we really want to avoid talking to. Some even say that in the not so distant future, mobile phones will start behaving like humans (I wonder if the opposite is not already happening). But with the way things are looking right now, it seems that we don’t need to wait for the future to see that this is already happening.

iPhone users are already interacting with a human-like known as Siri, that’s for sure. We also have Google Now and Cortana for Android and Windows Phone, respectively that already adds a little bit of “humanity” to the smartphones. What you probably don’t know is that mobile phones are treated as humans especially when they travel overseas.

When you are in your home country, you are known as a local. You have your local ID, speak the local language and you know the local delicacies. But, when you enter into a foreign country and present your passport;everything changes. You are a visitor. Guess what, the same thing happens to your mobile phone.

When you use your mobile phone within the coverage area of you home network, it is local, like you. It has its own local ID and usually a stable reception. But, when it crosses the border and enters into a foreign network, it becomes a visitor – just like you. The problem lies after you’ve entered into a foreign country because using your mobile phone as a visitor is expensive. And the bigger problem is that you’ll have to pay the bill.

1. Why Is It So Expensive?

The same mobile service can cost over 4000 – yes, four thousand – times more when you use it abroad than when you use it on your home network. Don’t believe me? Read on. The truth is that making a call or using data abroad is just a little bit more complicated than making a local call or using local data. The real source of it’s high rates is mainly commercial.

When you use your mobile phone through a visited network (in other words, when you use it overseas), the operator you are roaming on charges your home operator. What happens then is that your home operator will then charge you – with a markup, of course. But, it’s not this markup that makes the things tough for you, it’s the charges between the operators.

charges-network

These inter-operator charges are very high. Why? Because of the lack of competition. If your home provider wants you to be able to use voice and data abroad, they have to ink contracts with overseas operators. The problem is that many countries have highly monopolistic networks. This way, your home operator won’t have many options and will have to accept the high charges that they are forced into.

To the visited network operator, you have two options as a roamer: you pay high prices to call or you don’t call at all. Now that doesn’t sound fair, does it? With such limited options, travelers usually opt to make calls anyway and end up paying absurd roaming charges.

2. The Paid Services And The Costs.

Most travelers assume that they will be safe if they don’t call or use data abroad. But that’s not the whole truth.

To paint a clearer picture on how much you are charged for each service, try imagining U Mobile and DiGi. All the prices that are going to be shown are available – sometimes not so easily – on their websites.

Make sure you know exactly which services you are using, otherwise you might be charged without knowing. These are the services that you should pay special attention to while overseas:

  • Outgoing calls

The most basic one. You and almost everybody knows it will be charged. What you probably don’t know is how expensive it could be.

Using U Mobile or DiGi for local calls inside Malaysia would cost you approximately RM 0.20/min. However, if you are in USA and you use U Mobile to call a local number in Malaysia it would cost you RM 7.20/min. On the other hand, if you use DiGi you will be charged RM 7.00/min for the same call.

  • Incoming calls

Sometimes, while overseas, travelers innocently pick up a phone call believing they won’t be charged for it. They couldn’t be more wrong. Incoming calls usually are free when you are inside your home network. But once you are in a different country the charges come right at you – remember the explanation in the beginning?

Receiving a call on your U Mobile sim-card while in USA will cost you RM 7.00/min. DiGi, however charges you an “affordable” amount of RM 5.50/min for the same services.

  • Outgoing SMS

Now, this one is easier to control as you can count how many text messages you send or plan to send in the future. Even so, this is way more expensive than it usually would be.

You would probably pay less than RM 0.08/SMS in Malaysia. A simple SMS sent from the USA comes with a price tag of RM 3.00 more in your U Mobile bill. DiGi? RM 0.99 per SMS from the USA.

  • Internet

Here’s where the danger lies. This can turn your whole trip into a complete nightmare once you return – because that’s when the bill reaches your door (or bank account, if you opted for direct debit). If you aren’t careful with this, believe me, you won’t want to be traveling again anytime soon.

U Mobile gives you a package of 3GB high-speed internet for RM50 in Malaysia. This represents less than RM 0.02/Mb of data. However, lets say you are in USA and you turn on your U Mobile Data Roaming, you will immediately be charged. But hold on to your seats, because you will be charged RM 55.00/Mb?! No, you did not read that wrong.

Does it sounds crazy? Well, you should be glad you’re not in London, because UK rates are RM 75.00/Mb. Yeah, you probably might want to give a heads up to your friends and family that you might not be in touch if you happen to travel there.

  • Voice mail

Okay, maybe you figured “Maybe I could just tell my family that I will contact them when I can and they can leave me messages if they miss me”

Bad move though.

When someone leaves you a voicemail while you are overseas, you’ll be charged for it. Don’t ask me how much though cause I couldn’t tell you. There is no information in both U Mobile and DiGi websites (believe me, I searched really hard).

Yes, even if you control your voice and data usage, you might still be charged.

If you happen to pick up a voicemail, you’ll be charged as well. How much, we’re still wondering, but bottom line you are charged as well.

3. What You Can Do About It?

Well, the obvious solution would be: turn everything off. “How can they charge me if I leave my mobile phone off?” True, you won’t be charged if you do this. On the other hand, you won’t have access to most of the benefits of carrying a mobile phone abroad.

The good news is that some companies already offer mobile services designed specially for travelers. A good example would definitely be FLEXIROAM. The company has developed a travel convenient app that brings instant communication benefits to a traveler’s fingertips

Flexiroam app

The FLEXIROAM App

Traveling abroad should be memorable and exciting. Moving between borders also means that you will need to stay connected with those whom you leave behind. Roaming charges are still most notably the biggest hassle for overseas travelers; so we’ve designed the FLEXIROAM app, which means no sim-cards will be needed, and you will have instant – chat, video calls and voice calls charged as low as 0.01 cent per minute.

Simple, inexpensive and travel-friendly.

So, what are you waiting for? Download the app onwww.flexiroam.com/app today.

And see you guys on the other side!