Mobile Data Roaming abroad – this is one sore subject! In an age dominated by the need for mobile internet, why is it so problematic to actually get online when you’re abroad?
What we thought was the perfect solution to getting online on the road, has materialised as not being the case at all.
Rewind to last Summer, a lifetime ago in travel terms – I know. After a few months on the road, we’d somehow began using far more data than on previous trips.
We have two iPhone’s. Both had an allowance of 12GB of mobile data roaming per month with “Three”, costing £14 per month.
I would also buy a data only sim to use in our iPad. A fairly costly solution but it worked well on past trips. The one I used to get gave 24GB for around £55 however, I’d buy one when they were on offer.
Before this, we only had 4GB each of data roaming and the same 24GB amount for the iPad. So, basically, we should have been far better off than on past travels.
We’re not completely useless with technology, so we made sure our background data was switched off. Turning off unused apps and anything else that we rarely used.
Never ones to watch TV, films or Netflix, our only data use was Apps such as Park 4 Night, Campercontact and the usual Social Media, e-mails and the WordPress blog.
However, on the last trip, we were running out of data each month. Despite having 8GB more on each phone, we could no longer use Apps to find somewhere to park up each night, having to switch off both Park 4 Night and Campercontact to reduce data.
On our return to the UK, being fed up with the situation and finding free or public Wi-Fi inadequate – now we had to take action.
Taking a short break in London before heading home, meant an opportunity to sort our data out with “Three”, before heading off on our next adventures. Then, we passed a Three store so ventured in to get advice.
Explaining to the Sales person our predicament, we ended up being in store for a some time. We told them what had happened on our trip through Europe and how it’s strange, as we used to manage on far less data.
Both our contracts had expired, so we were free to go elsewhere or renew to a different contract with “Three”.
Giving information, such as length of time in Europe, what we use data for etc and most importantly, concerns over our upcoming trip to New Zealand. Most importantly, it was imperative we had enough data for future trips.
The sales person checked our data usage on the Three system for each month, confirming what we already knew – that we were using the 12GB allowance.
After some lengthy conversations, checking our accounts, usage and our brief of what we need from a contract, they suggested what they described as the best solution.
They recommended reducing our phone data back to 4GB per month from the 12GB. This would reduce our bills from £14 per to £10 per month. Above all, we’d still be able to use the data abroad – including New Zealand for our next big tour.
Now’s the time to confirm for those reading this, that we own both our phones and the iPad, so these aren’t on contract.
In addition, Three suggested buying two HUAWEI mobile broadband device’s. This would be on a “Three” monthly contract of £9 each per month, giving us 20GB of data each. So, in total they said we’d have 48GB between us each month.
This way we’d be getting double the amount of data per month, for £10 more, between the two of us.
The ‘Three” sales person showed us the device, explained how it worked and suggested that if I just wanted to use it for my iPad, that I could put the SIM card directly into that instead.
They also explained, that each broadband device could connect to five devices. Useful, to share between us, by spreading the data being used.
Next, we asked a number of questions including: If there was a “fair use policy”; if the data was capped; was there any restrictions for use etc. Most importantly – was the data roaming of 20GB included in our destination of New Zealand as well as Europe?
The staff member went off to double check, confirming that it was 20GB unrestricted. We even had a conversation about New Zealand too, as they didn’t know much about the country.
So, with our questions answered and reassurance about the data allowances and where we could use them – we decided to go for it. Hoping this would now be enough data for our internet usage on tour.
Finally, after almost 2 hours in store, we said our farewells.
Once we arrived home, we set up the Huawei devices and downloaded the App that connects the device and the phone/iPad – all before leaving for New Zealand.
Next, on our arrival in New Zealand in early December, we switched everything on and started to roam.
Fortuntately, the signal strength was superb and the roaming fast and reliable – we were really pleased.
Then came the first sign that something was wrong. Nigel had a message on the HUAWEI App, stating that he’d used 90% of his data. This only became apparent after we’d gone on the App itself.
It then ran out altogether! Thinking it must be because we’d watched the General Election on the Sky News Facebook page – a one-off occurrence, we dismissed any concerns.
Instead, we simply switched on the 2nd HUAWEI device which was linked to my name, so we’d start a new 20GB of data.
This is where it all gets very tricky. The only way we could find out how much data we had left was to check our ‘My3’ account. This we could only do when we had the data on! Otherwise it only recognised our mobile phone sim and that account, which unbelievably isn’t linked to the other data sim contracts.
We only realised this a little later on, although the HUAWEI App showed data used, it didn’t correspond for some reason. We then had a message on the HUAWEI App, stating the data was running low at 90% used.
Then, just a few days later it ran out. There was no further notification, other than not being able to access the internet and the light on the device showing red not green.
I then couldn’t access the ‘My3’ because the data had run out, so there was no way to double check. Despite numerous attempts to log on, it just wouldn’t allow me.
As we approached the re-set day – this is when the new month started after payment, we eagerly awaited switching the devices back on.
Then, two weeks in and Nigel’s roaming stopped. On checking the HUAWEI App, a message showed that he’d gone over his data allowance for the month.
We then switched to my device, I’d kept the sim in the HUAWEI device rather than put it direct in the iPad.
When I switched it on and checked the HUAWEI App, it showed I’d used 14GB of data despite it having not been on since re-set.
I then checked the ‘My3’ App, which thankfully, showed I had used ‘0 data’ with ‘20GB remaining’. I thought the HUAWEI App must have been delayed refreshing, so carried on regardless.
Then, without warning, I had a message a week later, on the HUAWEI App, stating I’d gone over my allowance for the 2nd time in 12 months – so my account was suspended!
There was no warning, other than a message the day before stating I’d used 90% of the allowance, which I didn’t see, as I hadn’t opened the App.
It displayed a usage of 24GB, this we couldn’t understand, as we knew that just a week before, the actual account on ‘My3’ showed 20GB remaining and 0 used.
The first thing we attempted to do was access the actual Three account to check the data use. This we couldn’t do because we had no data for it to recognise the account!
After wasting time trying various methods to get online to our account, we had to give up. I then noticed, in small letters, on the Three website, that you can’t access the mobile data account through registering in the normal way, If you’re on an iPad. Instead, you have to contact Three!
With this, we thought the easiest thing to do would be to phone them – wrong! When calling from abroad, the time difference of opening hours and numbers to call were not obvious. Instead we chose online chat.
This started promising enough, with me doing the introduction message, explaining the problem. Stating we were in New Zealand, couldn’t access the internet etc and the device showing I’d used 24GB data. Explaining too, that the previous week it showed 14GB, but my Three account showed 0.
They checked my account and reassured that I’d used 11GB of data with 9GB remaining for the month.
It seemed there was an error on the HUAWEI App, so I was told to re-set it, take the App off and install it again! This would be easy if we had wi-fi – but as I wrote in my chat – how do I do that with no internet connection?
I then asked, how could I access my remaining data? I’d re-set the device, but it still wouldn’t connect. I was reassured again that I had 9GB of data left – then the bombshell!
Out of the blue, came a chat declaration! I couldn’t access my remaining data because I was in New Zealand! A country that only had an allowance of 12GB not 20GB.
I asked for a password so that I could access my account and look for myself. This was sent straight away by e-mail. I could then clearly see the ‘My3’ account showing the data remaining as 9GB.
I was adamant we had 20GB, because that’s what I’d been told and sold in store. Chat was still telling me I only had 12GB. This disagreement continued for some time, whilst I explained that no, we definitely got told 20GB for NZ. Then Chat then disconnected me from the chat!
I could see where this was going, but firmly believed the online chat were wrong. Instead, we found a phone number and got through to a Three call centre.
Firstly, I was told never to use the HUAWEI App to see what data is remaining! Advising, to only check the ‘My3” App, this being the only accurate way to see what data I have.
The call centre advised that many mobile providers use HUAWEI. As it’s not inclusive to Three, it’s no good for determining the data use.
She then checked my account and advised that I had 9GB of data remaining. Once again I was instructed to re-set the device, trying several times, without any luck!
She then declared the worst outcome! That because I was in New Zealand, I only had 12GB of data not 20GB!
To cut a long story short, she eventually logged a complaint. Stating that we were given incorrect information when told we’d have 20GB.
When I asked how we could check how much data we have, she confirmed that we can’t. So her initial statement of the ‘My3’ App being correct, turns out that we have to ignore anything it tells us!
Basically, the HUAWEI app showed a usage of 24GB in one week, whilst the My3 App showed 9GB remaining. Nowhere did it show that the allowance was capped at 12GB.
As it stands, we have no data on either of the mobile broadband. As a goodwill gesture, the call centre added an extra 3GB of data to my phone, reassuring me that she’d filed a complaint and I’d hear back within 2 days.
Just as I told her we’d need to also put the same complaint in for our other account, she put me on hold! 10 minutes later she returned to the call, asked if I was still there, just as I said “yes, what about…..” she hung up on me!
What a nightmare!! So Nigel then had to contact Three, he received an additional 3GB of data for his phone too, whilst they promised we would duly get a phone call back about our complaint. Of course, we are still waiting and I’m not holding my breath!
We live in a world dominated by Apps and getting online. Everything is geared for being able to access the internet, yet it always seems so difficult to do so.
Despite trying our best to achieve the best possible data before leaving home, we were given the wrong information it seems.
Luckily, we have some wi-fi today, using our Son’s broadband connection.
I’m not sure how we’ll use the ‘Three’ devices when our data re-sets next week, if it does re-set!
With no way of knowing how much data we’ve used, it will be impossible to know if we go over, before it actually switches off.
If it gave a simple notification when using it, that would be fine, but the message in the HUAWEI App, if you’re connected, comes too late. Also, the call-centre advised these were incorrect anyway, so who knows what is the correct information.
In the meantime, our mobile data roaming abroad is still not sorted out. We’d love to know how you connect whilst out on the road. Hopefully, there’s some solution, feel free to let us know the trick to staying connected out on the road!
Just before I click “publish” here’s a quick update – as we’ve still not been contacted by Three, Nigel got in touch this morning on online chat. They have assured him we will be getting a phone call back today! Once again, we have no faith that this will happen, but time will tell!
Watch this space, we’ll keep you updated!!
So, how did we get on in the end? Would you be surprised if I told you we never did receive a call back from Three? On top of this, we never had our service resumed, so we were paying monthly for a contract that we weren’t receiving.
Despite numerous “Chat Conversations” with Three to chase our complaint along with messages to their Twitter feed and Facebook messages not forgetting phone calls – Three totally ignored our complaint.
Each time we contacted them, we once again had to repeat the whole issue to them. Quite frankly, it was a waste of our time and theirs but they didn’t want to assist in the issue.
Then, out of the blue in Mid-March, I had a voicemail message received in the middle of the night. Unbelievably, it had been from Three – stating they were returning my call! I have no idea if it was about my complaint from January or even if it was a scam caller – who knows?!
Once we arrived back home and began contacting Three again to follow up our complaint, things only went from bad to worse.
All this time, we were still paying our monthly contract fees. Finally, we spoke to one call centre member of staff who was willing to cancel our contracts. This would at least prevent us from paying any more for a service we weren’t receiving.
At this point, we had acquired quite a large amount of evidence in order to file a complaint with the Ombudsman. So, without further ado, we submitted all our evidence and details of each complaint – both separately as is the official way of doing so with the Ombudsman.
Luckily, we had both taken screen shots of our online conversations to Three, along with making written notes on phone calls to them and the dates these happened.
After submitting our complaints, we then had to wait some time for a response – probably this was due to lockdown more than anything.
Eventually, the verdict came from the Ombudsman – our complaints were both upheld!
Yes – we had won! Not only was this a huge relief, but it also brought a sort of fair justice for all us consumers who are constantly battling against these big mobile providers.
Not only did the Ombudsman instruct Three to write to us with an apology. But also to award us with a refund – for the monthly fees we had still been paying along with compensation for the appalling customer service throughout.
So, in the end, it was well worth the work submitting a complaint. Although this could have been prevented if Three had dealt with our complaint properly in the first place.
The conclusion – well, like anything, we’ve lived and learnt from the experience. We now know that most UK providers cap data for roaming abroad at 20GB for Europe and 12GB for other countries outside the EU.
Of course, this will change again after January 1st 2021 when the UK leaves the EU.
So – Be careful if you’re heading across the Channel next year or anywhere else abroad for that matter.
Finally, don’t always believe what you’re told either in store or otherwise – data is big business and they know it!
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