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Check roaming rates before travelling

Published:Wednesday | August 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Elon Parkinson, Guest Columnist

By Elon Parkinson, Guest Columnist

LIME Jamaica has noted with importance the letter written to you titled 'Shocking $89,000 phone bill', which appeared in your publication on Monday, August, 18, 2014. As a customer-centric organisation, we are eager to have the matter addressed and I use this medium to ask the affected customer to kindly send me an email at elon.parkinson@lime.com with his/her account details so that we get started with resolving the issue.

We understand the concern the customer would have on being billed this amount for roaming and we appreciate the opportunity to address the specific issue as well as to educate the public about this increasingly popular feature of mobile connectivity.

There are two issues at work here: One has to do with how a customer can reasonably determine costs associated with connecting to a telecoms operator in the visited country. The other is in relation to how more advanced smartphones consume data services while at home or roaming.

Regarding the first, roaming charges are generally determined by the carrier a customer connects to while overseas, for which LIME is billed and then passes on the charges to the subscriber. We regularly update voice and data roaming rates on our website (www.lime.com) so that customers are able to make an informed decision about what to expect should they use these services while overseas. Via that portal, we also let our customers know that roaming is a premium service. As a result, it is billed at higher rates than would normally be charged while at home.

Although the customer did not indicate which country he/she visited, there are destinations with above-average roaming charges, over which we oftentimes have very little control. However, we encourage customers to read the helpful tips posted on our website to reduce their roaming costs. These include connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots while overseas - most of which are usually free of charge.

In the meantime, LIME continues to work with overseas mobile operators to deliver affordable roaming rates that are more in line with our value tradition. One positive result of that collaboration is our recent announcement of free incoming calls and text messages along with voice call rates as low as $8.39 per minute for prepaid customers roaming in the USA and subscribed to our seven-day plan for $900.

Concerning the second issue, the customer wrote, "I made one text, I read email, and sent a handful of emails out and uploaded a few pictures to my Facebook page. In fact, most of the time my phone was actually turned off and only turned on when I wanted to use the camera, as I find the picture quality very good on this device!"

It is important to note that all these activities can amount to the consumption of large blocks of mobile data, especially if the emails had large files or when high-resolution photos from his/her device are uploaded while roaming. Even for the purpose of turning on the device while roaming to only take photos, it must be noted if the subscriber did not switch off data roaming, he/she would be billed for apps (like Facebook) still running in the background, as well as for routine reconciliation of email boxes with their host server. These are all activities that require little or no action on the part of the subscriber, but nonetheless count as mobile-data consumption. We advise and remind customers about these features whenever the opportunity arises, especially at the point of upgrade to more advanced smartphones.

More Jamaicans are travelling abroad for business or leisure, and with that comes the increasing desire to stay digitally connected almost seamlessly from their chosen location. At LIME, we commit to enhancing that experience through further consumer education and meaningful negotiation with overseas mobile operators for the delivery of coherent mobile value for our valued customers wherever they may roam.

Elon Parkinson is corporate communications manager of LIME. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and elon.parkinson@lime.com.