Note to self, you: Do not roam internationally on AT&T – UPDATE: AT&T responds

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I’m not a vindictive man. I believe in sweetness and light. But I would encourage anyone with a brain who travels, especially in these trying economic times, to buy an unlocked GSM phone and purchase pay as you go SIM cards or a MaxRoam SIM and a Rebel SIMCard for the iPhone 3G. I also encourage you to use Boingo for Wi-Fi roaming in airports and, increasingly, cities. Why? Because I just paid the equivalent to a flight to Paris and back just because I wanted to use Google Maps on the iPhone 3G to find my way around gay Paree.

Note that I understood the costs involved in roaming, but I think it’s worth a post to warn business travellers of potential pitfalls and to call out a few good services I’ve used over the year (MaxRoam, Boingo) but, for various reasons, weren’t able to help me on this trip.

I used voice very sparingly during this trip and tried to use as much Wi-Fi as possible. Ultimately, however, my scrupulous use of the “Turn Data Roaming Off” button was for nought. AT&T charges $.0195/KB ($19.96/MB) while T-Mobile charges about $.015 ($15.36/MB). This, in the parlance, is bullshit. I checked email and Google Maps. I didn’t download hardcore pornography or video of dogs on skateboards. I did what any business user would do in the same situation.

Yes, I brought this upon myself and yes, I can write this off as a business expense, but it’s instructive to see how AT&T treats the business traveler. These charges are egregious and the last revenue refuge of a model that needs to die. I don’t think I’ve paid $15 for a megabyte of anything since I stopped paying at bottomlessfurrysex.com, and that was just one summer.

UPDATE

John
I have just added a discount offer for Crunchgear readers on Http://maxroam.com
when you buy a sim card enter the word “crunchgear” in the panel and you will automatically get a 10% discount on your sim card purchase
Many thanks for the mention.

UPDATE – Here is AT&T official advice. Had I known about these buckets, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. AT&T customers – buy the buckets!

We advise customers to either call 611 or visit www.att.com/wirelessinternational to check availability and rates – including special voice and data discount plans. (For example, there are a number of data “bucket” plans that offer significantly reduced rates in many countries.)

Consider purchasing an international data package, which can significantly reduce the cost of using data abroad. You can sign up for a package before you travel and de-activate it when you return. AT&T offers Data Global plans with low rates in 70 countries.
$24.99 per month – 20 MB package
$59.99 per month – 50 MB package
$119.99 per month – 100 MB package (iPhone only)
$199.99 per month – 200 MB package (iPhone only)

· iPhone users, make sure you click on the link on the wireless page specifically for you (http://www.att.com/wirelesstraveltips)

· Visit www.att.com/travelguide to build a customized itinerary for up to 10 international destinations including cruise ships. Your itinerary will spell out you where your phone works and what the costs are.

· Our wireless network operates on the GSM world standard, which allows you to easily connect around the globe using your AT&T mobile phone. We currently offer wireless voice coverage in more than 200 countries and wireless data coverage in more than 150 countries. Of those, AT&T data plan subscribers can access ultra-fast 3G mobile broadband services in more than 60 countries.

· AT&T’s specialized international help desk is available for problems or questions while traveling outside the U.S. by calling +1-916-843-4685, a free call from your wireless phone.

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