Warning – Cellphone data usage internationally can cost you thousands of dollars

From time to time one reads of someone who returns home from international travels to find a multi-thousand dollar cell phone bill awaiting them (the largest I’ve found mention of was for C$85,000).

These charges are due to the exorbitant cost of using internet/data services out of one’s home country, and the reason they are so high is because our local wireless service providers may charge us as much as one thousand times more per MB of data used in a foreign country than the regular retail rate paid by local citizens of that country.  Watching a streamed movie on your cell phone, while possibly free at home, could cost you $10,000 in another country.

If that’s not the biggest rip-off out there, I’m not sure what is.  It makes paying an airline more to travel with an extra suitcase than the cost of the ticket for your own travel seem positively fair and reasonable!

Accessing the internet on our phones is rapidly evolving from being a novelty of no practical value on a teensy tiny grey screen to now being almost an essential part of our modern connected lives – and, oh yes, the screen is now as large as we can comfortably fit in our pocket and in glorious color.

Unfortunately, not only can data roaming charges be outrageously expensive, the ability to access data at all, when out of the country, is even more a complicated and uncertain process than is the ability to make a simple ordinary phone call.  Sadly, it seems as cell phones evolve, some of the underlying usability issues get worse not better.

So, here now is the first of a two part article that simply and clearly explains all you need to know about using wireless data on your cell phone – what it is, how to get it, and so on.  You really should read it before you next leave the country – the tens of thousands of dollars either spent or saved could be your own!

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