Cellular roaming with g33ky toys. 1998 vs 2009

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 6-Jun-2009 15:03

In 1998 I spent several months travelling around Europe and was excited to be able to use BellSouth's GSM roaming service to stay in touch. Since I'm heading back over there in weeks I thought I'd do a comparision of then vs now.

I had a trusty Nokia 2110i (THE best phone at the time), Cassiopeia A20 and a Nokia data card. This allowed me to establish CSD dialup connections to iPass roaming numbers to download my emails.

11 years on things are a little flasher - my E71 supports 3G/HSDPA data roaming (only downside being that data roaming is so expensive nobody can afford to use it!) and I can also use a Bluetooth connection to my netbook which obviously supports WiFi as well.

The only downside is that roaming now costs MORE in many cases than it did 11 years ago. I'm still trying to find BellSouth's roaming pricelist that I do have still but I know local access calls in the UK roaming using one2one were typically billed in peak and offpeak rates and from memory were around 55c per minute 24/7 on one2one and slightly more on Vodafone, BT Cellnet and Orange. This is under 1/2 of the cheapest per min rate that is now available while roaming.

Inbound call rates were also typically billed at peak and offpeak rates - this means I could answer a roam forward call from NZ during the day in UK (offpeak rates in NZ) and pay 44c per minute (49c less GST) and also have per second rounding for roam forward. Now all inbound roam forward calls are $1 per minutes rounded up to the next minute.

SMS roaming was also great but rates were actually very similar to what they are now. Each GSM carrier had it's own surcharge which was typically between 20c - 80c meaning sending an SMS could cost between 40c and $1.00 whereas now it's 80c flat rate.

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Comment by paradoxsm, on 6-Jun-2009 16:57

lol and wow for hanging on to the devices for all those years, +1 for the cassiopeia. I seriously miss mine.

Yes I agree roaming has definately gotten quite a bite more expensive as the years have gone by but the "having to select partner networks" for the published rates is gone. I hated the complexilty of old but the prices were sure better, especially using o2 with Telecom and vodafone 50503AU

Even data has gotten a lot more expensive locally until very recently. I used to dial-up to the old xtra 0800 number and my 10 free hours plan from my Vodafone mobile all for the flat price per month on my 8110 and said cassiopeia c 1999-2000, I still the 8110, it was an absolutely bleeding edge phone then too but battery has failed.

I found another relic today, my CDPD datacard and a Nokia WIFI-B PCMCIA card and Windows95 drivers on floppy.

Comment by zocster, on 6-Jun-2009 17:02

you're an antique collector? hehe .. again I am wanting a cheaper Berry plan, local and roaming grr at duopoly

Comment by scottpalmer, on 7-Jun-2009 08:48

Pull all those poxy stickers off your netbook!

Comment by paradoxsm, on 9-Jun-2009 19:31

No, leave them on, if he holds on to that for as long as he's hung on to that cassiopeia, it should fetch a lovely price on Trademe>computers>vintage in 2020 :-)

how are you finding the msi? my second EEEpc has failed (bad fan again and failing keyboard) so mighty see if I can swap.

Comment by marcthom, on 11-Jun-2009 18:39

atleast you have good data roaming rates with Telecom. $12/mb US and UK. Vodafone is still $30/mb.

Comment by johnr, on 11-Jun-2009 20:09

@marcthom check your facts before putting them all out in public Vodafone UK $10 per meg AT&T US $10 per meg for Vodafone NZ customers

Author's note by sbiddle, on 11-Jun-2009 20:17


Not quite correct..

Vodafone is $10 while roaming on most VF group networks worldwide including the UK and USA.

Telecom also charge $10 while roaming to many countries, not the $12 you mention.

Across the entire list of countries both support I'm not aware of any where the roaming costs actually differ - they are all either $10 or $30 per MB.

Comment by scottpalmer, on 11-Jun-2009 20:18

and $12/MB isn't "good" anyway

Comment by cokemaster, on 13-Jun-2009 12:59

Have a look at http://web.archive.org/web/19970116230824/www.bellsouth.co.nz/main/services/html/roaming.htm for the old bellsouth rates

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at stevenbiddle@gmail.com