For most of us, using our phones overseas has always been something of a leap of faith. The easiest option for many has always been to turn off roaming altogether and simply wait for a local wifi signal, whilst those of us a little braver might have a roaming package with our network provider giving us some limited access capped at a daily rate. My one at O2 for example gives me a data package for £4.99 a day in Europe and I get a text when I’m nearing my limit, but calls and texts are still a premium consideration.
Wherever you look however, it’s more often than not a complex business which ultimately always ends up giving you a shock when you get your bill at the end of the month. That’s the one constant thing you can be sure of.
Roaming is the one area where mobile operators have been slow in producing real competitive advantage, up until recently that is, when last year, sensing a real opportunity to grab roaming headlines, Three announced a ‘Feel at Home ‘ package which it proudly proclaimed you can use your phone abroad as if you were still using your ‘at home’ plan.
An excellent move then, which at first glance seems too good to be true. Is it really? Has Three’s Feel at Home package finally put an end to our foreign leaps of faith? I embraced my inner demons, took a deep breath and put it to the test.
The Three Feel at Home plan currently works in 16 countries: USA, France, Italy, Australia, Macau, Hong Kong, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Indonesia, Israel, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Switzerland and Sri Lanka and is designed to let you use local roaming partners to let you call and text friends and family back in the UK and use data as part of your monthly plan at no additional cost.
I was in southern France and once I arrived my LG G3 phone quickly hooked up with local roaming partner FreeMobile and my Three Feel at Home plan was off and running. I called home, just because I could, and I’m not afraid to admit this but it did feel pretty good. Checking my emails and doing some online surfing proved convenient but a little slow though, so a local cafe wifi ended up being my preferred option.
There were one or two close calls as well. On my travels in SW France I got perilously close to the Spanish border a couple of times and roaming switched to a Spanish service which was not part of Three’s Feel at Home service and therefore I was at the mercy of high roaming fees of nearly 20p per meg data and nearly 19p per minute for a phone call and 5p per minute to receive one, although texts were free to receive but almost 6p to send.
Another point to note too is the Three Feel at Home package is designed for you to call back to the UK as part of your package, so calling a local number incurs more dreaded roaming fees. There is also a fair usage policy in place for data so if you are in a Three Feel at Home country for long periods you will find your service limited after a while. You are also at the mercy of local partners speed limitations as far as download speeds are concerned.
If all this sounds negative it’s not meant to. I really do applaud Three for being brave and offering us a revolutionary new way to combat excessive overseas roaming fees. The service is there for us and it works and in my view is an excellent first step to bring international roaming back to realistic fee structures.
It is not designed for people living a fair chunk of time abroad, it is primarily for tourists or short term business use and once you’re familiar with what is achievable and what isn’t, you can tailor your usage accordingly. Clearly, Three will expand its overseas network partners and make adjustments to its Feel at Home plan taking into consideration some of the drawbacks.
But this is a vital first step and something which in my view has the potential to outmaneuver the other main mobile carriers who just seem to be burying their proverbial heads in the sand about international roaming and stalling for as long as possible.
Well done Three for being first out of the traps, and I for one can’t wait for Feel at Home 2!
I want Three feel at Home. Where can I find out more?
Three Feel at Home