Traveler Alert – Data Roaming and the T-Mobile G1

By David Goldes on 11 June 2009
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We’ve recently heard from multiple business travelers who used their T-Mobile G1 smartphones on overseas trips.   All had a common complaint: they followed T-Mobile’s recommended guidelines to turn data roaming off yet they still received a bill for hundreds of dollars of data usage during the trip.

The T-Mobile G1 smartphone

The T-Mobile G1 smartphone

A report from our client RJ, a road warrior who flies to Europe several times per month, was typical.  After purchasing his new G1 and turning data roaming and data synchronization off, his bill for data roaming was $319.55.  T-Mobile customer service did agree to credit him for the charges without arguing the point – but the customer service representative also said that the G1 will turn data roaming back on regardless of what he does and that “you have to either keep the phone home or keep it off during your trip.”   “It’s sophisticated,” the representative added.  The rep suggested renting a phone from T-Mobile for future trips or unlocking the G1 so RJ could purchase and use a local SIM.

We spoke with T-Mobile to better understand the issue at hand.  A spokesman confirmed that data roaming can be turned off and supplied a written statement issued by the company in December 2008.

It reads:
If a T-Mobile customer would like to use their T-Mobile G1 while outside the country, they should contact Customer Care before they leave to ask that the WorldClass feature be added to their service at no additional charge.  If they choose, customers can also disable data roaming on the G1.  This can be done by going through the following steps: Home Screen > Menu > Settings > Wireless Controls > Mobile Networks > Data Roaming.

There is, however, a caveat:
Some third party applications available for download on Android Market require access to the Internet and have the ability to turn on data roaming when in use. Customers are informed whether an application will use this feature prior to downloading, but should also be aware when traveling outside the country.

As RJ’s customer service rep put it, “It wasn’t your fault.”

David Goldes is a Contributing Editor at Executive Road Warrior and President and Senior Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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