A while back, I moved to Mobile Vikings as my mobile operator. I was quite enthusiastic. The picture looked idyllic. 2 Gb per month of data transfer seemed like an offer you cannot refuse, given the state of the Belgian mobile phone market, characterized by high prices, wicked contracts and not-so-honest salesmen. Mobile Vikings is a MVNO, using the KPN network in Belgium.
Tag Archives: mobile
I got my mobile phone bill in the mail the other day and, again, I nearly got a heart attack. It has been like this for over the last 10 years. Whatever I do, this bill is always way higher than expected.
I tried everything from switching operators to spending hours figuring out the optimal subscription plan. I do not place calls from my mobile if I can avoid it, especially abroad. I avoid SMS when e-mail is possible. I do not even dare to use the data services, although I have a 3G phone. Still no luck. The main issue is that I work in a small country, live in the country nearby and often go to a two other countries for shopping and leisure. I am roaming on other networks than my home one 75% of the time. While this may sound unusual, actually this is what the whole European Union construction is all about: abolish borders.
I decided last year to subcribe to Transatel, a MNVO (Mobile Network Virtual Operator). In short, they do not have a network on their own, but buy capacity from other operators. It looked attractive because they cover several countries. They give you a local phone number in each country you choose. This makes it cheaper for the people calling you. I can receive calls on my Luxembourg number while in Belgium and no roaming charges will apply. Sort of. Because, actually, you only get a limited number of minutes each month for call transfers across countries. Once you have reached the threshold, you are billed for the call transfers. This is just roaming charges by another name. At the time of subscription, they promised my monthly bill would be 50% lower. It looks like my usage profile was not part of their statistical sample…
The European mobile market is very fragmented. Each country has 3 or 4 mobile operators. Even those self labelled paneuropean networks like Vodaphone or Orange are actually alliances of different national operators, loosely tied by a similar logo. All the rest of their offerings is different: subscription plans, services, phone numbers and roaming charges. As for roaming charges, I noticed on several occasions in the past that if your home network operator is a Vodaphone partner, it may sometimes be cheaper to select a non-Vodaphone network abroad.
Those alliances are another way to make the offers more opaque to better fool the customer. On the economics of the mobile market, there is this interesting post from Kurtis Linqvist (thanks to Patrik Fältström for the link) . Just like Kurtis, I agree that there is no such thing as free and open mobile markets in Europe. I, too, hope the European Commission will continue to regulate the market until such time that it will cost the same price to call a mobile in Stockholm from Madrid that it is to place call from Los Angeles to Washington. At&T in the US has a subscription plan for unlimited voice calls throughout the US for USD99.99/month. Unfortunately, given the current market conditions, I do not see a similar paneuropean offer any time soon.