01 December 2015
by David Ramli

Telstra's early Christmas present to travellers – higher roaming rates

The biggest losers are travellers to the United Kingdom and United States.

Telstra has issued fresh price hikes for its mobile customers travelling overseas just in time for the Christmas holiday season.

Australia's biggest phone and internet provider offers International Travel Passes to customers going abroad. These come with phone call and download allowances that cover most of the world including the United Kingdom, Indonesia and the United States.

Good thing my contract ends this month, I'm done with Telstra.
Unhappy customer

But on Monday Telstra told its customers it would change the terms of these passes with excess data charges tripling and travellers to many popular destinations being forced to pay hundreds of dollars more per month.

Telstra has handed travelling customers an unwelcome Christmas present.

Travellers to Thailand and Indonesia previously paid $35 for a seven-day pass that gave them unlimited calls and texts while abroad, and 350 megabytes of download data.

Under the new plans tourists or business travellers to these popular destinations will be forced to pay $70 for the same amount of calls and texts and a slightly increased download limit of 525 megabytes.

The biggest losers are travellers to the United Kingdom and United States, who will now be forced to pay $450 for a monthly travel pass – up from the $300 they previously paid.

Don't break the limit
The cost of going over the data limit has also more than tripled from 3¢ per megabyte to 10¢ per megabyte. This means customers who paid $30 for running 1 gigabyte over their data limit will now have to pay $100 for the same thing.

On the plus side, customers will get more data in every pack. A three-day pass will now come with 225MB instead of 150MB, while a 30-day pass will come with 2.2GB instead of 1.5GB.

The increase in fees comes despite all three mobile carriers, including Telstra, moving to slash their global roaming prices in recent months.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership signed but not ratified by Australia was also meant to help slash global roaming bills for Australian travellers.

A Telstra spokesman said it had expanded its traveller pass to include 20 extra countries, although Cambodia has been dropped from the list.

"Telstra has made changes to the International Roaming Travel Passes to expand the number of countries covered and to increase the amount of included data available when roaming," he said.

But Telstra is at a disadvantage because it is locally owned compared with Vodafone Australia and Optus, which are both owned by foreign telecommunications providers.

Telstra customers responded furiously within minutes of the news being publicly announced through the comments section on its website.

"I travel to the USA/Europe twice a year and now instead of 2x$300 I would have to pay 2x$450," one customer said. "Other networks offer $5/day for the same destinations, that's half of the cost.

Another customer named Alistair Gray said they were unhappily preparing to visit the United States on Thursday for five days.

"Previous cost [was] $70 now $105," he said. "How a 50 per cent increase in cost is justified is beyond me in a zero-inflation environment.

"The cost for my needs was already over the top and now not economical at all and will use other work around and avoid Telstra altogether."

Telstra currently has 16.7 million mobile subscribers compared with the 9.36 million at Singtel-Optus and 4.9 million at Vodafone Hutchison Australia.