One of the first things most frequent international travellers do before boarding their flight is disable international data roaming on their smartphones. Current international roaming charges that most carriers charge is the equivalent of the atrocious rates hotels used to charge for telephone calls a decade ago. Unless you have an international roaming data pack, you could end up paying as much as Rs 5.50/10KB or approximately Rs 565/MB of data when you travel to most countries! Also Read - 89% gamers in India prefer PC gaming over mobile gaming: Reveals HP Gaming report
“For carriers in emerging markets, roaming forms 7-8 percent of their total revenue, with significantly high profit margins (in excess of 80 percent),” said Jayanth Kolla, partner at Convergence Catalyst, a Bangalore-based telecom research and advisory firm. Also Read - COMPUTEX 2021: Intel launches two new 11th Gen U-series processors
The above number includes both national and international roaming with international data roaming accounting for a miniscule part of their revenues. That is hardly surprising considering not many users are willing to pay the high data roaming costs even after some carriers have introduced special country-specific data roaming packs. Also Read - Laptop guide: 5 best laptops under Rs 30,000 you can get for work from home
HP is looking to change the game with its DataPass service. Currently in a pilot stage in 13 countries, DataPass gives 250MB of data per month for two years on select HP devices. The basic data cost is accounted for in the price of the device itself and users can top up additional data in case they run out of the 250MB limit. DataPass is not available in India, yet, and HP India won’t comment when it would launch it in India. In Singapore and Hong Kong, where it was launched yesterday, the service will be available to those who buy HP’s Slate VoiceTab phablets. In other markets, DataPass is available on some HP laptops that have Qualcomm’s Gobi chipset for cellular data connectivity.
While it is still early days for DataPass, this could easily be the future for smartphones and connected tablets and laptops. Rather than looking out for free Wi-Fi hotspots while traveling, which can pose security risks as well, users will be able to be online on the go anytime, anywhere.
But HP isn’t the first to explore the idea of global carrier tie-ups to provide seamless data connectivity. Amazon already does that with its WhisperSync service on its Kindle e-book readers and has tied up with carriers in over 100 countries. However, unlike earlier when one could access the Internet with the basic experimental browser, the service is now limited to access the Kindle store to buy e-books.
“Going forward, as proliferation of data enabled devices and usage of associated services increases, carriers should look at moving away from legacy tariff and business models and focus on potential partnerships with ecosystem players to drive seamless adoption and usage,” Kolla says.
The trend is already visible in the European Union where carriers slashed data roaming fees by over 50 percent after the implementation of roaming caps by the EU telecoms commission. American carrier T-Mobile offers a Simple Choice plan that offers free GPRS/EDGE Internet connectivity while roaming in 116 countries where it has tied up with local carriers. In case a 2G network isn’t available, it automatically shifts to 3G for no additional charge.