Improving Ting's handling of international roaming
Answered

I've recently traveled for 10 days from the US to Norway, Romania, and England. Somewhere in Romania my data access seemed to suddenly stop working, and in the most annoying way - I'd see good signal, connection to LTE, and everything would time out. I chalked that up to some obscure issue with the Romanian cell provider and was hopeful that things will work just fine in London.

They didn't. So I land in LTN and prepare my route to the hotel (Aloft Excel) on Google Maps using airport's WiFi (also loaded offline maps). The route involved one bus, one train, two subways, and some walking over the span of two hours. At some point along the way I must have taken the wrong subway because I got to a subway station I wasn't supposed to be at. So I just exited with a suitcase and a backpack in a random corner of London past 10 PM trying to find my way to the hotel. And of course there was no cell phone data. Google Maps (even with Offline Maps) is useless for finding trains, kept on saying "No Route Found". No Uber. Fortunately I could flag a taxi that took me to the destination for $35 more than planned.

I email Ting customer service asking what's happening and got a most surprising explanation. Ting places a cap on roaming so customers don't get shocked at the end of the month with a large bill. Raising that cap took Ting 24 hours, meaning one more day without navigation around London.

Just to put things in perspective, the bill from that period ended up $65.71 (two phones total), which is below my average Ting bill of $73.76 and way below the two largest Ting bills I paid ($231.08 in September and $169.98 in November on account of similar travels). These still compare well with the competition! So Ting was protecting me from a surprise I wasn't going to have. 

There must be better ways of doing well by traveling customers than leaving them without data exactly when they need it most. There are simple solutions to announcing the customer of inflated bills. The Ting app allows alerts to be set. A few ideas follow:

  • Why are there alerts for SMS messages, megabytes, and minutes, but not for money? It would be really useful if people could set alerts "Your bill has reached $60." The accumulated bill is available in the app and online, shouldn't be too hard to put alerts on it. 
  • When someone gets near their roaming data cap, DON'T CUT THEIR DATA! It's about the worst you could ever do to someone traveling. Send an SMS "Your roaming data usage is high ($50 MB/$15). Reply YES to add $15 more data roaming capacity, NO to suspend data roaming for this billing cycle".
  • How about an alert that the running bill has crossed the average monthly bill? "Warning: your current bill of $80 is larger than your average past bills of $73.76."
  • How about an(other) alert that your bill has reached a new high? "Warning: your current bill of $235 is greater than your largest past bill, $231.08 in September 2016."

Thanks!

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Comments

13 comments
  • Ting's roaming page is at https://ting.com/outside_usa

    Assuming you have a GSM phone, I did not see England listed as a roaming location so the London issue may be expected.

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  • @Bruce, "United Kingdom" is the country name to look for.

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  • Oops sorry

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  • I support this.  Recently posted a similar idea (https://help.ting.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/115000546327-Warning-about-international-rates), but yours may be easier to implement.  

    They turned off my data as well, (which I was glad - since I didn't know I'd racked up $107 in a couple hours of light data use in Finland).  However, I would have been OK with using the data in Belgium and the Netherlands later in my trip - since those rates are only $0.30/MB.  Since the data had been cut, I wasn't able to use data even in those cheaper rate countries later on.  

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  • Hey Andrei.

    I do agree with a lot of the points you are bringing up in this post, especially the data cap option for international roaming (it should be increased, or the option for you to increase it yourself should be there). We try to cover our costs with the data usage caps.. sometimes customers tend to get upset over a large bill that they weren't aware of (high data usage).. this could especially hurt someone if they are travelling and eat up international data roaming costs. One thing I will bring up in the next feature request meeting is giving the option for a usage alert based on the amount of money your bill is accumulating, or better yet, perhaps a completely separate alert system for international usage. Thanks a lot for bringing attention to this.. I definitely agree that 250 MB for international data usage really isn't enough (I've had experience with my current provider in Canada in this). 

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  • Same thing happened to me in Canada. No explanation for why my data stopped working. I spent a lot of time troubleshooting. The next day reached ting and found out I had hit that (low) limit. No notification to me explaining the cut off.

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  • @Jamie any update on this? I'll soon leave for three weeks to Europe and am increasingly worried about my emergency connectivity abroad. Particularly after I've had the Experience From Hell(tm) with FreedomPop.

    So I looked around for good international data services and found FreedomPop. So I got a card (http://www.ebay.com/itm/FreedomPop-3-in-1-Global-SIM-Card-700MB-Pre-activated-Expert-Guideline-/292034268936?hash=item43fe994f08:g:IAYAAOSwLnBX9bZa). Free minutes, free messages, free data - what's the worst that could happen? A lot, it turns out.

    So I get the SIM card along with instructions worth maneuvering the damn Space Shuttle. I spend the better part of a morning reading them, then I follow everything to a tee and it all works well... except for tethering. So I write back the ebay seller (who advertised tethering does work) and of course his first comeback was that my iPhone is locked. Which it isn't. After a number of backs and forths during which I manage to convince him it's not locked, he contacts a fellow who says that for some reason FreedomPop disallows tethering on the iPhone specifically. So if I only could buy an Android device or a mobile hotspot to go with my $6.50 card, that would be great.

    In desperation, I buy the "premier" FreedomPop service bundle (https://support.freedompop.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2108/~/freedompop-phone-premier-bundle), which does guarantee tethering, along with a bunch of services of remarkable uselessness. Fine. Full of hope ("your premier services are active immediately"), I try again - no avail.

    But wait, there's more. I call customer service - the appurtenance of the premier bundle, yay. First, I get to talk with a nice fellow but sadly I don't speak Hindi. I hung up. The second fellow had a less strong accent so I could understand him. Sadly he apparently couldn't understand me - he kept on asking me to place a call using my SIM phone, does it work? "YES, you and I are talking using it right now, if you hear me at all then it does work!" Then he asked me to take the SIM card out of the device - but then I need to hang up don't I? He seemed unfazed by the notion that he'll be waiting for me to take the SIM card outta the phone and put it back. So I hung up again.

    The third fine Indian gentleman I talked to (oops I assumed gender _and_ nationality...) rummaged a bit through the system and said it'll take some 2 days for the whole thing to become active, so why don't I wait. Then he said, oh wait let me take a look at something... sorry the tethering service is only offered for Sprint devices. Of course the site doesn't bother to mention that.

    I pondered whether I should fight him for the $10.99 I paid to get literally nothing, but then figured hey I'll gain half an hour of good life for that money so why bother.

    So here I am, head in hand, turn my head to the wall... can you folks at Ting help my undying loyalty to your service by making international roaming work predictably and reliably?... Thanks!

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  • I ran into this problem last week. It is very frustrating, especially because there is no indication or alert telling you what has happened. At the very least it would be good to be able to see what the cap is, and next be able to increase it before a trip.

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  • Yes, indeed, we need to have charge warnings! I was just hit with a bill in excess of $500 !!!! for using some data roaming (less than 100MB) in Tanzania.

    The most annoying part of this whole incident was that I could not get data roaming when I most needed it in Kenya, except on a few days of my 2 week stay. However, rates in Kenya seem to be one tenth of rates in TZ (according to what I saw on my billing summary). By the time I hit Tanzania, I had a backlog of things to address, so did a bit of data roaming there, and happened to check my current bill and almost fell out of my chair. 

    Ting says to use a local SIM for data, as if this is super easy to do in all countries. Let me tell you, I used to do this, but many countries have a 6 month limit on SIM's so if no new money is added , the local SIM expires. I travel to dozens of countries, mostly in Africa,  and it can take quite some time to get a local SIM in some places.  The stories I could tell........

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  • Hi Karen,

    Sorry to hear about the surprising bill! We offer roaming but with the high cost of providing this service we do generally suggest using a local SIM where possible, though we do understand this is easier said than done in some places.

    A good idea would be to set alerts or caps on your usage when travelling to make sure you're notified and its also very important to make note of the International roaming rates where you are connecting as in some cases that can be a huge difference.

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  • thank you for the sympathetic reply but I am prompted to look at alternative plans, like google Fi.

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  • You still haven't answered why you do not allow for a cap on total cost of the data roaming. If I could put a cap at $50; then I would have done it. that way, I do not have to look up each country I am in to see what the cost is. Some of these rates are as much as $20 per MB!

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  • With International usage being that important to you it does make sense to look elsewhere as we offer roaming as a fall-back option given we don't have bargaining power like a company like Google and we face much higher roaming costs.

    As far as the caps go we don't offer them based on monetary cost for service but rather for incremental usage so it would be necessary to set alerts/caps at levels of usage (minutes/messages/megabytes) since we can't currently account for stopping service at say $100 etc.

    I'll reach out in an email over to you as I do see how we could implement a type of cap on your usage for International travel if you're interested so please do look out for that.

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