From June 1st, customers of Vodafone, the world's second largest wireless carrier, will be able to text and call from over 35 countries at no extra charge. Attention American carriers: Be more like this.
The service, called "Passport", will be available as a three-month summer trial for UK subscribers, and can be activated for free. Customers will be able to travel to just about any country that Vodafone operates in and tap into the minute and text allocations from their regular plan, or in the case of pay-as-you-go customers, call and text at their usual domestic rate. Data roaming still applies, but come July it'll be capped at about $1.40 per megabyte as per new EU regulations.
As someone who's stuck in concurrent T-Mobile contracts in two separate countries, I take this news kind of personally. Steep roaming charges make some sense when you're jumping between carriers, but they're stupidly frustrating when you're paying way more for services from a different arm of the same company.
This obviously doesn't mean much for Americans (although Voda does own a 45% stake in Verizon), but it does represent a precedent we should all push for. Aside from steep taxes (as in the UK), it's mainly plain old price gouging—of carriers by other carriers, or of customers by their carriers—that keeps prices so high.
Although this announcement means that British Vodafone customers in Australia will get cheap phone calls, it doesn't work the other way around for Australian Vda customers travelling abroad. Yet. Hopefully Vodafone will roll it out across their global network soon though.