Australians’ international roaming bill put at $1.4B

Australian mobile phone users have spent somewhere in the vicinity of $1.4 billion on international roaming fees, according to new estimates by market research agency YouGov Galaxy.

The study, commissioned by Vodafone Australia as a vehicle to tout the telco’s $5-per-day international roaming product, suggests that up to 5 million Australians have been subjected to international roaming fees.

Of these 5 million people — who represent about 41 percent of smartphone owners in Australia — the average international roaming fee per person comes to $290, the research suggests, equating to about $1.45 billion in total. It should be noted that this figure is not restricted to a particular period of time.

The study also suggests that around 250,000 Australians claim to have paid more than $1,000 in international roaming fees.

Interestingly, the research found that Australian Baby Boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — were far less likely to have been charged international roaming fees than younger Australians, with just 29 percent having paid roaming fees. This is compared to 45 percent and 51 percent for Millenials and Gen X, respectively.

Regardless of the billion-dollar estimated total amount paid for international roaming by Australians, Vodafone Australia’s chief commercial officer Ben McIntosh claims that just 3 percent of smartphone users will continue to use their phone as normal while travelling.

While this percentage may seem small, international roaming has been under some scrutiny recently, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) wrapping up a review of the International Mobile Roaming (IMR) Standard in Australia in October last year.

According to the review’s report, released in October 2018, there were some key areas found that could be improved upon “to make regulation more flexible in light of changes to mobile phone use overseas”.

“TIO [Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman] data indicates that complaints to it about IMR services has risen again in recent years. While complaint numbers remain low, the amounts in dispute per complaint can be high,” the report said.

The Vodafone-commissioned YouGov Galaxy study comes just a few months after industry analysis firm Juniper Research found that operator revenues from international mobile roaming are expected to remain flat over the next four years, representing about 6 percent of total operator-billed revenues and $51 billion in value.

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