Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Etisalat Roaming Package Competitive Shock Horror

English: Etisalat Tower in Sharjah, United Ara...
English: Etisalat Tower in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We pay about double what consumers in, say, the UK do for mobile data here in the UAE. So you can imagine my immediate scorn at seeing one of our cosy, regulated duopolists Etisalat advertising a global data roaming package of Dhs150 (about $41) for 35 MB of data per week.

They actually used the word 'only' in the ad, which carries the idiotic headline 'Instagram from India'. You'd get less than five images up to Instagram with 35MB of data...

Just for fun, I took a look at some UK operator rates for data roaming. And it's a little shop of horrors that makes Etisalat actually look quite good. I know, I know. Sit down for a while and it'll pass.

The problem of mad data roaming prices has been extensively documented, with tales of unwary travellers notching up bonkers mobile bills because they haven't turned off the data function in their mobiles. It's so bad, in fact, that the EU introduced a roaming data cap of €50 back in 2010 that cuts subscribers off at this mark unless they specifically ask their operators to increase it.

Tariffs in the UK vary pretty widely, but the worst of them is BT, which wants £7.70 ($12) per MB of roaming data. At that rate, your 35MB of data would cost Dhs 1,617. (Oh, and you'd hit that EU data cap downloading a couple of songs)

Etisalat beats out BT? It's pretty amazing, isn't it?

Orange will sell you a 200MB plan for a cool £120 (Dhs 188), while Virgin comes in with a neat £10 ($15.72) for 50MB data within the EU only.

So Etisalat's mad-looking plan is actually pretty competitive to UK operators. That doesn't mean for one second that they're off the hook for their insanely expensive broadband and call costs. And it doesn't make international roaming 'affordable' for UAE subscribers - it's actually because it's insanely expensive that our insanely expensive operator's package looks reasonable.

Compared to competitor Du (I couldn't find a package offer, so if there is one please correct me), which charges Dhs1 for 50 kilobytes of roaming data, Etisalat does have the local edge however. For those of you who have grown up since they were relevant, kilobytes are 1024 bytes or 1024th of a Meg. We used to use them back when I were a nipper and Bill Gates said 640 kilobytes should be enough memory for anybody's PC.

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Paul O' Kirwan said...

It is not just the roaming data packages that suck. I bought an iphone recently and have disabled GPRS data completely. I use it as a phone and SMS with WIFI only for data. Etisalat enrolled me on a 'special" deal. 99Dhms for 50mb ! that went in the first day as you can imagine.
So its back to blackberry for now with all its quirks. At least I know exactly how much I am going to pay for Domestic and International data services.

kenna said...

It's cheaper to use a local sim and avoid using romaing services when traveling specially if you'll stay out of your home country for more than a week. That's where BB becomes really useful since, BIS service is usually very cheap anywhere and people don't need to know your mobile no. specially if you'll need your mobile for data and not voice and SMS. At 1aed per 50kb, 35Mb / 50 kb = 716.8, wow, 716.8 dirhams for du! That offer from Etisalat is actually cheap.

Luke said...

I have a box full of sims for different countries although I have found getting on the BIS service for just a couple of weeks is not possible on many local prepaid sims.

I sometimes take my wifi with me in the form of a router with a 3g usb stick and local sim in it.

Chirag said...

Definitely just easier to do a local SIM. I paid $7 for a micro-sim, a little talk time and 200MB of data in Kenya last week that I happily plugged into my iPhone.

Sigh, I'm sure the demand will bring it down, since more people are running away from RIM. But still, it's a bit ridiculous.

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