Revolutionary Measures

Holiday roaming headaches

Wi-Fi Signal logo

Wi-Fi Signal logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re living in an increasingly mobile-oriented world, using our smartphones to surf the web, keep in touch and interact with the world around us through apps like Google Maps and technologies such as QR codes.

All fine and dandy provided you have cost-effective data plans for your phone or easy access to wifi. And in the UK we pretty much do – competition has brought mobile data costs down to a reasonable level and most coffee shops offer wifi access for the price of a latte. Lots of organisations/cities are now rolling out free wifi, realising that it both attracts visitors and enables you to sell location specific advertising and offers.

Everything looks rosy – until you leave the country. I’ve just returned from holiday in France where I faced the choice of paying nearly 30p per megabyte for data or trying to find cheap/free wifi, which was nigh on impossible. So all the lovely QR codes outside interesting buildings/on brochures were out of bounds to me and finding out up to date information on attractions was nigh on impossible. While that’s an annoyance now, as more and more people rely on their mobiles for information the problem will only get worse.

Before people think I’m criticising the French, I’m sure data roaming charges are equally steep if they come to the UK, though there’s more free wifi here. It did amaze me that there weren’t any forward looking town councils/tourist offices/coffee shops that had just stuck an open wifi network up around key buildings – I’d have happily registered for access or bought a croissant to get my mobile data fix.

There’s also a bigger picture – we’re being encouraged to store more and more of our lives in the Cloud, and that relies on cost-effective internet access, wherever we are. So cutting us off from our personal data is going to hold back moves to the Cloud-based world, which could hit the likes of Google and Amazon hard. The EU has forced operators to reduce their charges, but even with the latest cuts it is still way above what you pay in your home country for data. If we’re to have an open, mobile (in both senses) population then cost-effective internet access needs to be a priority for governments, operators and wifi providers across Europe.

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August 9, 2012 - Posted by | Marketing


  1. I’m facing that dilemma with our trip to Italy via France and Belgium. Hotels do have wifi and for the rest (Italy, chez my parents who have no internet access) I’ll have to do without. Last year we took a dongle that failed to find any signal, a total waste of money. I’m told I’d need a native dongle, but to be honest I want to enjoy my holiday so I’ll rekindle my internet addiction when I’m back in Cambridge. I suppose that’s the reason why I don’t own a smartphone, nobody needs to be permanently wired to the internet.

    I can understand it’s a pain if one travels for business, but then I’d expect to put any costs incurred on expenses, which are tax deductibles for self-employed people.

    Comment by simone | August 9, 2012 | Reply

    • I definitely didn’t want to be ‘at work’, but found it frustrating that I couldn’t access lots of local information – the big questions with hotels and wifi is if they charge you an arm and a leg to use it! Have a good holiday!

      Comment by Chris Measures | August 10, 2012 | Reply

  2. Hi Chris I am somewhat suprised that you did not manage to find free wifi in France. I live in France and I have never had a problem wandering into a cafe and ordering a coffee and using their wifi, on the whole wifi is free in France (unlike most places in the uk where you have to be a member or buy an hour at a time)

    I currently have a UK registered mobile with Vodafone, the reason why I still have it is that they offer a very competitive “passport” for people who travel frequently, as my job takes me to a number of countries outside France, the French alternative was vastly more expensive than the UK option. Vodafone now even keep a eye on my account and when I reach pre determined amount on my phone will send me a text telling me I am approaching my limit and if I don’t contact them they will stop my data roaming. Occasionally they have stopped my roaming, this has happened twice in 12 months and both times it was a Sunday evening and it was back on Monday morning when I called them.

    Comment by jonluckhurst | August 13, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Jon,

      It could be simply where I was in France (the Vendee) – I seemed to have plenty of availability of wifi from service providers (SFR, Orange France etc) but obviously needed to have an account with them.

      Ironically I had a text through from Orange offering me a reasonable roaming package. Trouble is it arrived last week – after I returned from holiday!

      Comment by Chris Measures | August 13, 2012 | Reply

      • Normally if I am not at home any cafe will have their own wifi that is free for customers, obviously….. indirectly you are paying for it as you end up buying a coffee. But it does save the headache of trying to get your phone, ipad or laptop to do it remotely. Most places will have the code written on a board behind the counter.

        However recently I have seen this changing and you have to ask for the code as there have been people misusing the internet to download images. The Gendarmes arrested a large network of people back in June for down loading illegal images sat in their cars next to cafes in France. Sign of the times sadly!!

        Comment by jonluckhurst | August 13, 2012

  3. It’s sad there are still problems. In the Citizens’ Initiative “Europeans for Fair Roaming” ( we tried to get the EU to lower prices even more. Providers kept them high this year and next year, but until 2014 prices will go down to levels that are ok and you will be allowed to choose another operator for roaming…

    Comment by ccroaming | August 14, 2012 | Reply

    • I’m in France using hotel wifi. All the hotels we have stayed at offer free wifi – we are not in luxury hotels… I noticed you can get it on the motorway too at some restaurants/cafes along the way. It was a bit trickier in Italy where our mobile dongle (we have one for Italy as the village is too small for wifi outlets) failed again to pick up any signal. I blame the hill in front of my parents’ house. I also noticed many signs in cafes in towns we stopped. It’s probably a question of asking as they might not display a sign.

      Comment by simone | August 27, 2012 | Reply

  4. […] be served up in the tourist’s mother tongue. But there are still a few barriers to overcome – roaming charges (though Gibraltar is looking at free wifi to combat this), persuading non-techies to download a QR […]

    Pingback by Scan my Aura for a Quick Response…….. « Revolutionary Measures | September 19, 2012 | Reply

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