Thursday, April 21, 2005

Happy to be unlocked

I was just checking out T-Mobile's International roaming rates for my upcoming trip to Israel.

$2.99 per minute! Ouch!

It's quite ridiculous, especially for a country that probably has more mobile phones than citizens... which is why I'm quite happy that I went out of my way to make sure the last two phones I purchased were unlocked.

See, in the US - the land of the mail order rebate and 3-year service contract, mobile carriers program the phones they sell to only work with their service - a practice known as "locking". Consumers of many other countries would never stand for such a thing, but the average American would rather save $200 (subsidized by the carrier) up front, and get hit with fees over the life of her service contract.

So while the average international American tourist will pay $2.99/minute, I'll be happily chatting away while paying only $0.17/minute using an Israeli sim card. His 15 minute phone call will cost $44.85. Mine will cost $2.55 (or $4.05 if calling back to the US).

I was originally planning on bringing two phones to Israel - my older Nokia 7250i, and my newer T-Mobile MDA III, and giving one my US # and one my new Israeli #. But at $2.99/minute, I doubt I'll even answer the US phone.

An even bigger rip-off: $15/megabyte international data rates

With the media-rich nature of the Internet these days, it's difficult to spend even 15 minutes surfing the web without downloading at least 10 megabytes of data. That's $150 for 15 minutes of Internet usage. Hit us where it hurts, T-Mobile!

Unfortunately, I haven't found a solution to the data rate yet. When I traveled all across Western Europe 2 years ago, T-Mobile didn't charge me any data fees. But at $15/megabyte, I don't think I'll test their billing systems this time around. I suppose I'll inquire as to whether or not the Israeli carrier provides data service via the pre-paid sim cards. Anyone happen to know? ;-)

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