Internet Roaming

Good morning everyone and Happy New Year! I know this comes a little bit late (it’s already 15th of Jan), but I have been travelling in Spain the last few weeks.

During the trip I needed internet access quite often. Or at least, I would have needed had this been possible. Travelling on your own time when you are supposed to work brings a few requirements – like reading and answering to your emails if nothing more. During this trip I also realized that I was badly addicted to internet. I have an iPhone and Android tablet, both quipped with massive data plans (my phone contract has 2Gb transfer/month and my tablet has unlimited transfer every month). In my study & workplace (the Lappeenranta University of Technology) a Wi-Fi connection is available all around, so I am basically hooked to cyber world all the time. Not having internet in my pocket and available all the time made me feel inferior. It was like my left hand had been cutoff.

Having Internet in your pocket (almost like in this joke of The IT Crowd from YouTube) makes life just so easy! Especially when travelling in a strange country (to be honest, I lived one year in Madrid, so it was not that strange, but nonetheless) internet does have its upsides.

For example, almost every phone has Google maps. It can be used to search for streets and to show public transportation routes – but only if you are connected to the web! Otherwise you can only use it like a normal map, but you have to load the maps to your phone’s memory beforehand. Another good help is the access to messaging applications. No need to send expensive SMS if you can just use WhatsApp or MSN. No need for international calls if you use Skype or Viber. The amount of money you can save! But alas! the prices for data roaming!

Data Roaming

Roaming in telephone operator slang means using other than your original carrier’s network. This happens when you go abroad and don’t have your original service provider to connect to (you have AT&T but when you come to Finland the operator does not exist here – thus the phone has to connect to either Sonera, Elise or DNA network). Data Roaming means using the foreign teleoperator network for surfing the web.

Internet roaming is very, very expensive. I can give an example of my own to help understanding the situation: My phone operator is Finnish Sonera. The price for data roaming in Spain was 0.121 € for every starting 50 kb. Just looking at my Facebook profile picture would cost me over 20 euro cents (the picture is 50.5 kb)! Opening just my Facebook home view would probably cost more than 1 euro! Cheap? No way!

Another option to approach this is to purchase a SIM card from the local operators. Well, getting a normal plan is impossible again (at least in Spain you needed local bank account, some residence number and minimum time for contract was one year). Luckily, there are also prepaid cards to which you can also buy data plan. Sounds great in theory, but…

Prepaid Pricing

I started searching for the different operators for their prepaid internet offers. Honestly, the options were pretty bad. Not many of them offered anything at all, but I found few acceptable from Orange and Vodafone.

Orange offered prepaid internet for 3.5 €/day. Not that bad, but there was data limit included. For the 3,5 € you can surf the web with maximum speed until you reach 250 mb. After that the speed drops down to 64kb/s (slooooooow). However, for checking email, twitter, Facebook and doing some navigating and few searches this should be decent.

The other notable provider was Vodafone. They offered a wider range of options and underneath is the table describing the services offered. A quick translation for those who don’t understand Spanish: Bono means the type of contract. The options are Fin de semana (weekend), seminal (weekly), mensual (monthly). So for example 1Gb/month is 22.42 € with VAT included. Not really bad offer, considering the hotel we were in offered internet connection to room with “reasonable” price of 15€/day.






Fin de semana

9€ (10,62 IVA inc.)

Hasta 500 MB

3 días



15€ (17,70 IVA inc.)

Hasta 1 GB

7 días


Mensual 100 MB

8€ (9,44 IVA inc.)

Hasta 100 MB


Mensual 500 MB

15€ (17,70 IVA inc.)

Hasta 500 MB


Mensual 1 GB

19€ (22,42 IVA inc.)

Hasta 1 GMB

30 días


Mensual 2 GB

32€ (37,76 IVA inc.)

Hasta 2 GMB


Someone! Do something!

In the end, all I can say is that the telephone companies are evil for not letting me to use Internet for a decent price! That is a violation of my human rights (if you didn’t know, internet access is a human right according to UN)! Luckily, the European Union is taking action and limiting maximum tariffs for roaming. But we still have a long way to go, until I can enjoy from mobile internet even abroad.

Purchasing prepaid SIM cards is not the perfect solution for a one week trip, but it’s a start nonetheless. So please, phone operators, make prepaid internet available in every country! We need internet; it makes life so much easier! Paying 20 euros for a 1 GB internet for a one or two week trip is not that big a deal. I will gladly pay it, because it makes my life so much easier and my trip more enjoyable. So please, follow the example of Vodafone and do the same in other countries (or even better, make roaming affordable!)!