International calling / SMS rates — Why so high?

business and consumers, business cheers and jeers, communication tools, technology

Okay, BLADAM friends, apologies for two rants in a row (in a sadly otherwise dry AdamBloggingSeason), but… why does T-mobile—an international company—charge so much for international calling, roaming, and texting?

And Cingular—the only other American mobile phone company I know of that supports international roaming—has rates that are even worse, from what I gather.

Anyway, on T-Mobile, the rates for me to call from the U.S. overseas are more than triple what I’d pay via a discount calling card or even AT&T Callvantage.  Calling from overseas to *anywhere* ranges from about $1 to $4 a minute for incoming OR outgoing calls.

But what *really* gets my hide is T-Mobile’s charge for text messages sent to and from my friends in Europe.  15 cents each for me to send a handful of text characters, and 35 cents each to receive the same.  What the heck?!  I know, I know, this voluminous amount of data has to potentially pass through companies that aren’t T-Mobile, but still!  And no, T-Mobile’s varied texting-bundle plans do *not* include international SMSes.

I’ve played with various SMS options online, but haven’t found any to be reliable for either sending or receiving text messages internationally.  Oh lazyweb, anyone know of good options? (other than calling up T-Mobile and telling them they’re provincial jerks for their usurious rates, which, I admit, doesn’t exactly qualify as a good option)

19 comments… add one
  • ThomasB Oct 23, 2006

    Adam, I know your pain. I’m currently in frequent contact with somebody from the US and the costs for text messages from my German T-Mobile to her US T-Mobile are just way too high. Unfortunately I haven’t found a good way around it either, but once I have I’ll let you know. If you figure a way out, tell me. 🙂

  • Ryan Nov 3, 2006

    Adam, I run Txt2Day – a free text message site…  what countries / cell phone providers are you trying to send messages to?

    hit me up with an email of where you’re having difficulty sending and I’ll add support to my website for it.  Then, you’ll just be on your own with the replies… but the sending will be free.

  • Joe Duck Nov 9, 2006

    Rant on, dude!  I suspect it’s market driven but I’m also confused about text pricing which seems to run contrary to their costs.

  • wentasurfin Nov 18, 2006

    hey there, check http://www.bliblo.com
    I use the South African site, can’t view International – so I can’t compare rates for you.  But hey, by South African standards they rock for data rates!

  • Julia Dec 16, 2006

    I am from Germany but live in the US, also using t-mobile.  I use http://www.3Utelecom.com for my calls to Europe, they charge 4.8 cents/minute and bill by the second, no signup fees, no monthly base-fee, they bill you only for what you talk.  Very convenient if you register your cell phone with them – you don’t have to enter any codes like with a calling card.  Been using them for four years now, nice guys.  I don’t text message, so can’t say anything about that, but I hear your pain.  – Maybe this helps.  Have a good one!

  • Adam Dec 16, 2006

    Thomas, glad I’m not the only one 😉

    Ryan… neat service, and I got a test SMS I sent to myself (in the U.S.) in about 2 seconds!  But I really would prefer to have my friends be able to reply directly to me, and—understandably—they can’t do that with your generously free service.

    Joe, maybe it’s ‘cause they assume that people sending international text messages are doing so for business (a much smaller percentage of folks, probably, internationally text friends socially).  And, as we all know, it’s all about socking it to the business folks.

    Wentasurfin… fascinating service, but not quite text messages 😉

    Julia… yep, that’s seemingly reasonable (though, perhaps surprisingly, AT&T CallVantage charges me even less!), but cheap LD is a dime a dozen, so to speak.  I think that’s ‘cause there’s competition there, whereas we’re locked into a single provider for bidirectional text messaging.  No competition = screw the customer, I guess.

  • Ben Pfeiffer Dec 27, 2006

    Just saw this post, a bit late, but was glad to know someone else is annoyed by the high rates. When I try to call my brother in China with t-mobile the rate is $1.64/minute. Its incredibly expensive.
    Cingular does offer a international plan that lets users call internationally for 0.15 a minutes as well as a monthly fee of $5-15. A lot cheaper than t-mobile, I wish they could do something similar.

  • Alex Jul 10, 2007

    I use Internet telephony, it saves me a lot of money.

  • Jenn Aug 4, 2007

    I feel your pain. I had a foreign exchange student stay with me and now I can’t keep in contact with him without it costing a ton! I’ve found a lot of places online that you can send messages to the receivers phone, but you might as well just im them from AIM or MSN. AT&T came out with international SMS but once again it is expensive. 100 text messages for $10. Not much of a bargain but i guess we’re still living in the stone age. If you find anything. Post it. I’m sure there are a lot more people out there struggling with the same problem we do.

  • Bee Aug 28, 2007

    I don’t know how this service works from the US, but I have used Blitzplanet
    to send cheap picture messages and text messages from Germany and Spain to the UK.

    I know that it works from the UK to the US, the charges for international SMS are 10p,
    which is a lot cheaper than the average of 35p we are charged here.
    With Blitzplanet I can also send picture messages at just 10p.

    The service is free download, and sits on your computer like any application would ‘Snakes’
    for example; it works quite like Skype, but it requires only the sender to have the service installed
    to send SMS or picture messages internationally.

    This service works only if the user has Internet, NOT WAP, installed. So the user needs to add
    an Internet data package to their phone. They need GPRS.

    Every time a message is sent off a maximum of 160 bytes is deducted from that data package,
    this leaves users with hundreds of messages to send on just one MB.

    There are free trial options on the site, the benefits over the other services here,
    is that Blitzplanet doesn’t use re-routing, so you can used your contact address
    book on your phone.

    There’s lots more to the service, just go to the website.

  • Bee Aug 28, 2007

    forgot to mention the URL http://www.blitzplanet.com

  • John Feb 25, 2008

    It’s just because, while calling at distance level,
    service operator need to use services of another services provider, signals are going to transfer from their towers and than it will reach to us.

  • Christopher May 8, 2008

    I bought a T-Mobile SIM Card it’s PAYG but everyone time I send a international text it sends but when I want to receive international texts it doesnt send to me

    any reasons why?
    Do i need to activate it?
    I get messages from the UK but not from international

  • Online Shopping May 22, 2008

    Now i have got few websites which allow us to join for free and allow to send text messages all over the world and getting from my friend too.

  • Kathy Jun 1, 2008

    My daughter is travelling in Europe, with a Netherlands prepaid Tmobile phone.  Does anyone know how I could purchase prepaid minutes for her, from here in the US?  Tmobiles giftcard site doesn’t seem to work for internatational nbrs.

  • allergy Jun 19, 2008

    even i prefereed to send email and sms due to higher rate.

  • Brian Sep 1, 2008

    I just took a job in Iceland to play basketball. I am looking for the best way to be able to talk to my girlfriend in the United States. Anyone with any information on the best cell phone rates, companies, anything please tell me. I dont want to spend alot of money but I am willing to pay alil so I can talk to my girl. I looked into t mobile and att but its so expensive. I heard to buy a unlocked phone and just get a sim card over there but I dont know much about that..Anyone with anything..I would apprecaite it.
    Thanks guys

  • Al Dec 12, 2008

    http://Send2World.com offers cheap messages between Taiwan, USA, and Canada.  You can even try it for Free, no credit card needed.

  • Adam May 24, 2009

    Well, now Google Voice offers free texting, but alas, unless you had a Grand Central account, the service isn’t available yet publicly :-(. 

    As a Googler, I’ve been using it for a while and really like it, so… the moment it’s out, jump on it! 🙂

    In the meantime, check out this help page and sign up on the waiting list via the leave-us-your-address link!

What do you think?