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Etisalat Roaming Package Competitive Shock Horror

mobile broad ban

Alex McNabb finds out Etisalat's mad-looking data roaming plan is actually pretty competitive to UK operators

June 23, 2012 4:23 by

We pay about double what consumers in, say, the UK do for mobile data here in the UAE. So you can imagine my immediate scorn at seeing one of our cosy, regulated duopolists Etisalat advertising a global data roaming package of Dhs150 (about $41) for 35 MB of data per week.

They actually used the word ‘only’ in the ad, which carries the idiotic headline ‘Instagram from India’. You’d get less than five images up to Instagram with 35MB of data…

Just for fun, I took a look at some UK operator rates for data roaming. And it’s a little shop of horrors that makes Etisalat actually look quite good. I know, I know. Sit down for a while and it’ll pass.

The problem of mad data roaming prices has been extensively documented, with tales of unwary travellers notching up bonkers mobile bills because they haven’t turned off the data function in their mobiles. It’s so bad, in fact, that the EU introduced a roaming data cap of €50 back in 2010 that cuts subscribers off at this mark unless they specifically ask their operators to increase it.

Tariffs in the UK vary pretty widely, but the worst of them is BT, which wants £7.70 ($12) per MB of roaming data. At that rate, your 35MB of data would cost Dhs 1,617. (Oh, and you’d hit that EU data cap downloading a couple of songs)

Etisalat beats out BT? It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Orange will sell you a 200MB plan for a cool £120 (Dhs 188), while Virgin comes in with a neat £10 ($15.72) for 50MB data within the EU only.

So Etisalat’s mad-looking plan is actually pretty competitive to UK operators. That doesn’t mean for one second that they’re off the hook for their insanely expensive broadband and call costs. And it doesn’t make international roaming ‘affordable’ for UAE subscribers – it’s actually because it’s insanely expensive that our insanely expensive operator’s package looks reasonable.

Compared to competitor Du (I couldn’t find a package offer, so if there is one please correct me), which charges Dhs1 for 50 kilobytes of roaming data, Etisalat does have the local edge however. For those of you who have grown up since they were relevant, kilobytes are 1024 bytes or 1024th of a Meg. We used to use them back when I were a nipper and Bill Gates said 640 kilobytes should be enough memory for anybody’s PC.

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