roaming

AT&T has a new set of international plans, and while they'll still hit your wallet hard, they're an improvement of what came before. AT&T's new plans, dubbed Passport, Passport Plus, and Passport Pro (not to be confused with plans for the new BlackBerry Passport), bring the same data allotments, but at least offer easier billing international data packages than we've seen before from Ma Bell, though heavy users will still find themselves shelling over the big bucks.

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Mobile operators in the UK have rejected government proposals on setting up national roaming, according to the Financial Times. Earlier this year, operators were urged by officials to look into the possibility of sharing infrastructure in rural parts of the country, as well as locations where consumers seemingly loose signal coverage. While this would help prevent customers experiencing drop outs in connectivity, mobile operators didn't believe the plans to be viable.

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If you're looking for a sweet deal with regards to using data abroad on this year's holiday, O2 may well have the right bundle price at just £2 a day. We've all been in that situation, looking at pricing and being stunned by just how expensive roaming can be, even when travelling within the EU. UK mobile operators are attempting to tackle the issue of high charges (as is the EU, which hopes to have said charges abolished by 2015).

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The European Commission has announced that charges to roam within Europe will fall by as much as 50 percent this summer. The EC is imposing yet another limit on mobile operators, further reducing the caps from July 1 to pave the way for removing roaming charges altogether by 2016. Currently, calls within the EU are capped at 24 euro cents per minute but will fall to 19 cents per minute. More importantly (particularly in 2014 and beyond), the fee for using data abroad is falling too.

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Sprint has signed agreements with 12 carriers to expand the LTE footprint of everybody involved. The dozen carriers, all smaller regional and rural networks, cover 34 million Americans not touched by Sprint's fledgling LTE network. The roaming agreements will expand Sprint's LTE coverage into those areas, as well as giving those carriers access to Sprint's network.

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Rogers has announced some new roaming add-ons for Canadian travelers. Not too long ago, Rogers unveiled a $7.99 daily roaming plan for the U.S. (which already faces stiff competition against WIND’s $15 unlimited plan), and this new one is built for roaming worldwide. But don’t get too excited; it’s $9.99 for a day for up to 20 MB (depending on where you're going), with no voice or text. That’s better than the $10 - $15 they’d normally charge per megabyte without a package. This add-on will be applied automatically after you start using data abroad, though you’ll get SMS alerts about usage.

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Free roaming within the European Union is a step closer today, after the European parliament voted in favor of laws that would abolish roaming fees between EU member states, as part of a package of telecom reforms. The package, originally proposed by EU lawmaker Neelie Kroes, moves Europe closer to a single market for mobile communication, especially with the recent arrival of 4G LTE roaming agreements between European carriers.

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Late last year saw AT&T adding international LTE roaming in Canada and the UK, and today they're adding 13 more nations to the list. If the added services are treated in the same way as AT&T's deals with EE in the UK and Rogers in Canada, the rates charged for the "Data Global" add-ons won't change with the addition of LTE services, though AT&T did not say if that would be the case in their press release. AT&T put a full list of the countries where you'll be able to get LTE speeds while roaming starting today:

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Hotspots are available across the world and offer an easy way to get connected when you're not at home. Microsoft has released a Skype WiFi app (www.skype.com) for Windows 8, enabling consumers to connect to said hotspots and chat with friends and family over WiFi, instead of racking up expensive roaming charges or fumbling around with direct registration.

Should you find yourself travelling abroad and require to remain in contact with friends and whatnot, this app is definitely a must-have for you. What's also cool is the fact you can also use the Internet access for general web browsing too. The best part is there's no extra step to get started. Simply log in with your Skype account and add some Skype Credit.

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US mobile operator AT&T has signed a deal with UK WiFi hotspot provider The Cloud, which is owned by BSkyB. The partnership will see AT&T customers able to utilise up to 1GB of data in the UK free of charge, when connected to one of 16,000 locations using the operator's WiFi International app. While this deal sounds like a bargain, it does require a subscription to an international data add-on.

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For those familiar with CDMA handsets, you'll remember the old "PRL" (preferred roaming list) and "Network Profile" options. It  took a few years to get direct OS support for it (Anyone remember calling Sprint to get your PRL update "flagged"? Yeesh), but we did with later versions of Windows Mobile.

So it's nice to know that in Windows Phone 7, part of the CDMA integration that came with the 'NoDo' update on the Sprint Arrive was PRL and Network Profile support. To update them, simply go to Settings --> System --> Carrier and scroll to the bottom. There you can just tap either/or and it will walk you through the update, which takes about 30 seconds.

You can later check your PRL version under Settings --> System --> About --> More info, under PRL-ID (mine is currently v60677). For those wondering what any of this is, your PRL is a list of towers that the phone looks to for roaming and in some cases, data connections. From Wikipedia:

On many networks, regularly updating the PRL is advised if the subscriber uses the device outside the home area frequently, particularly if they do so in multiple different areas. This allows the phone to choose the best roaming carriers, particularly "roaming partners" with whom the home carrier has a cost-saving roaming agreement, rather than using non-affiliated carriers. PRL files can also be used to identify home networks along with roaming partners, thus making the PRL an actual list that determines the total coverage of the subscriber, both home and roaming coverage.

So, if you roam, it helps to have the latest version on board. Meanwhile, the Network Profile is good if you ever run into connectivity issues with the CDMA network, as on occasion, though rare, your profile may get corrupted.

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Nothing to shocking here, though still nice to see.

Paul Thurrott, besides having a WP7 developer device to play with, is traveling to Germany for a bit (some guys get all the breaks). He was curious as to how WP7 will handle both phone and data roaming, so he shares his experience.

In short, throwing in his AT&T SIM card along with a travel plan, the phone switched to roaming with no problem as evidenced by the traditional roam triangle. Even better, data roaming is off by default--you have to go into settings to enable. While that seems like a not a big deal, Thurrrott compares it to the older iPhone experience, which according to him was far from ideal (it's now fixed).

Now the interesting question is how much data does WP7 consume, especially with automatic syncing to the cloud for email, contacts, backups, photos and social networking?

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