I'm in Taipei this week to cover the annual Computex convention, and like an idiot, I brought my smartphone thinking I could get a good deal on roaming through my carrier. As it turns out, I can't. Somehow after Aussie telcos spent a year of trying to fix it, international roaming is still stupidly broken.
After a few hours online in-between press conferences today, I decided to double check what it would cost to get my phone working here in Taiwan.
It's a 4G-supported country hosting one of the world's most cutting-edge tech conferences: surely it's cheap and easy enough to get online from overseas here, right?
Instead I wasted precious time realising that Australian roaming offers still stuck.
The closest thing to useful international roaming from an Australian carrier is still Vodafone's Red Roaming offer.
Red Roaming sees Voda cap your excess plan spend at $5 per day for everything from international calls through to data. Considering that Vodafone still charges $1 per MB for pay-as-you-go roaming, the $5 cap is great. For the five days I'm away that'd be $25 on top of my bill. That's cheaper and significantly less hassle than getting a SIM from Globalgig or from a local carrier at my destination.
Sadly, my current destination isn't on the list for Red Roaming support. Mostly, Red Roaing is only supported in Europe and the US, rather than countries on Australia's geographical doorstep in Asia. (It has China and Thailand, but the gaps are still massive).
The most frustrating thing is that carriers have been crowing for over a year now that its roaming solutions had been beefed up and fixed. Roaming overseas would now be a breeze for anyone who wanted it, and the days of roaming bill shock were over. Not so.
Vodafone's offer has massive country coverage gaps, Telstra is hysterically expensive despite making changes to its plan structure and Optus isn't much better, giving users just 50MB a day for an added price.
What adds insult to injury is the fact that Globalgig — the great hope of international roamers — seems to have recently upped its costs as well, once again separating the countries in which various plans work. For me to use 1GB of data would cost $50 in Taiwan. Sure, it's cheaper elsewhere, but why does it have to be? Why can't it just be simple?
So here's a message to Australia's telcos: you haven't fixed international roaming.
You aren't even close.
If anyone needs my I'll be at ATT 4 FUN in Taipei spending NT$400 on a SIM card I shouldn't need.