Just the other day, I’ve received a SMS from Vodafone NZ asking me to ring 495 to learn about the new, streamlined and improved roaming charges. Interesting enough they’re notifying their customers by SMS, but that’s a different story.
There are a few changes which I’m – to be polite – not really thrilled about. First of all, they’ve lifted up the fee for sending an SMS while roaming from 20 cents to unbelievably and outrageous 80 cents. Secondly, they’ve “streamlined” the costs for receiving a call on roaming to a fee of 1 NZ$ per minute.
Seriously, the fees for SMS roaming of 80 cents are absolutely ridiculous anyway – but the new roaming fee for incoming calls is even more of a joke.
Let’s create the following (realistic) use case here. I’ve got family and friends back in Germany – so I’m usually over there regularly – using my Vodafone NZ phone in Germany the fees above would apply.
Btw: one of the big advantages Vodafone NZ is trying to sell their customers here is supposedly that you wouldn’t have to manually search your preferred network (to get the best rates for calls) while on roaming. Hmmm – it might be just me, but my phone pretty much always books into a Vodafone network (whenever the particular country had one). And anyway – why should I subside people who don’t care about using their mobile in a cost effective way while roaming?
Back to the example. If my parents or some friends came down to New Zealand for a few weeks and are on Vodafone Germany – the following charges apply for them roaming the other way around:
Incoming calls: 0.75 Eurocents (=ca. 1.50 NZD) PER CALL for calls of up to 60 minutes. AGAIN: 0.75 Eurocents PER CALL. Did I mention that it is PER CALL.
Outgoing calls: back to Germany as well as within New Zealand – any airtime will just be deducted from your minute package + a surcharge of 0.75 Eurocents PER CALL (again – someone seeing the pattern here?)
Vodafone NZ and Vodafone Germany are separate entities, but both belong to the Vodafone corporate. Does anyone besides me also has a problem with understanding the justification why roaming from Germany into New Zealand is significantly cheaper AND allows one to use the included package minutes opposed to Vodafone New Zealand literally ripping off their customers when they go overseas? Well – it’s technically the same, isn’t it? Or are maybe the guys from Vodafone Germany the evil empire here as all the billions of Vodafone NZ’s customers travelling to Germany would force their infrastructure to collapse, so they (VF Germany) charge the poor guys from Vodafone NZ those high rates themselves and they have no choice to pass it on to us, the customers? (sniff…)
The answer is basically: Lack of competition. Bad enough that there are just two mobile networks in New Zealand, even worse that you – realistically – just have the choice of Vodafone New Zealand for roaming in large parts of the GSM world.
I bet with a third or even forth player in the game here, mobile fees would come down as fast as marbles come down stairs.
We’ve just seen prove of that about two months ago when Virgin Blue has entered the New Zealand domestic aviation market. Before their step into NZ, Air NZ and Qantas used to be the only players offering regular and full service within the country. With Virgin Blue now servicing Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch (the main centers), Air NZ and Qantas fees have come down, perks such as free drinks and newspapers are re-introduced and Qantas put a few millions in finally upgrading their local Qantas club lounges.
Oh, btw: the example of Vodafones Germany/NZ is picked pretty much arbitrarily – the same observations (with slightly different figures and setups) apply for Vodafone NZ towards any other Vodafone branch and also (but not to that extent) between Vodafone branches in Europe (actually the European Commission is looking into the outrageous roaming fees between European telcos now).