Reducing data bills when roaming

Richard Benson27 October 2009Consumerscomments

Although data costs when at home are practically zero these days, and there are plans to reduce the cost of roaming when in the EU, using data whilst roaming is presently very costly and with more reliance on fetching e-mail whilst away from the office, bills have already started to creep up.

On more than one occasion Dixcart have had a very large bill dropped on our doorstep for unintentional over-use of data whilst roaming.
If you have a company mobile, PDA or iPhone and visit other offices, or even take your phone on holiday with you, read on to find out how to save yourself and the company a large phone bill.

There are two important concepts to grasp here, firstly what actions result in data use, and secondly the different ways data can be received.

What uses data?

The easiest way to sum this up is "anything that a normal mobile phone doesn't do", so everything except phone calls and text messages.  This does, of course, include checking for your e-mails, which is something that still needs to be done when roaming but it needs to be managed to avoid large bills.  Users of both the iPhone and PDAs have a number of applications installed out of the box that will check the internet from time to time without warning, so even if you haven't added to your phone, you need to be aware of these programs. 

Windows Mobile PDAs

These have an application called "RSS Hub" that not only checks for data on the internet when roaming, it also come pre-stocked with a number of feeds, so even if you have never run it or even heard of it, it will be using up your data allowance.  If you have no need for this application the easiest option is to go to Start > Programs > RSS Hub > Menu > Options.. > 'Auto Update Mode:' and select "No auto update".  If you do wish to use it, then you will have to remember to disable the auto update whenever you leave your home network.

E-mail is very well catered for on a roaming PDA, and the default setting is not to automatically check when away from the home network.  In addition, doing a manual send & receive will prompt you to confirm you are happy to accept additional data charges.

There is no simple way to disable data whilst you are away on a PDA, it will tend to reconnect itself whenever a program requests any data, but these instances should be less if keeping an eye on what programs are running.


The weather and stocks applications come pre-installed on all iPhones and even if there are no cities or symbols it will still check for updates to themselves and their internal databases.

Whenever you roam, it is suggested that you disable the data functions of the phone, known as the EDGE network, until you need them and then switch them off again straight after.  To disable EDGE on an iPhone you go to Settings > General > Network > Data-Roaming and switch it off.  When you want to check your email, remember to re-enable this or use wi-fi as detailed below.

Other ways to receive data

It is possible to use data hungry apps, without incurring any bill by making sure you are not using the mobile (EDGE) network to get that data.  Most PDAs and all iPhones support wi-fi and this is offered in many hotels and airports, as well as all Dixcart offices.  Some places will charge a small amount for the use of Wi-Fi, so check for signage or ask for details, however they will always be pre-pay, so you won't incur a bill without realising, you just won't have access.

To enable wi-fi on an iPhone is remarkably easy, just click Settings, then Wi-Fi and click "on".  The first time you do this in a location, your iPhone will present you with a list of available networks, simply touch the one you want to use and enter the security key (if there is one) provided by SBIT or the airport/hotel/etc.

If you have a Windows Mobile PDA, there can be subtle differences between the models, so these steps should be taken as more of a guide than a direct how-to.  For most the following should work:

  1. Click Start
  2. Click Settings
  3. Select the "Connections" tab at the bottom of the screen
  4. Click on "Wi-Fi"
  5. Press the right-hand action button labelled "Menu"
  6. Select "Turn On Wi-Fi"
  7. After a few seconds the screen will list all available wireless networks, or automatically connect if you are in range of a network that you have previously connected to.
  8. If you are not automatically connected to a network, select the preferred network and the phone will try and connect, asking for the security key if applicable.
  9. To turn wi-fi off when you are finished with the data connection, select the menu action key again and choose "Turn Off Wi-Fi".

For both the iPhone and PDAs, having wi-fi on permanently will drain your battery very quickly, so it is worth turning it off whenever you are done with the connection.

Remember to try out turning wi-fi on and off, and EDGE on and off whilst still at home, so that you are familiar with the process and can always log a call with DTS for tips and advice.

Windows Mobile (touchscreen) Example

Click the fist image to start the instructions:
Click Start then Settings Select the Connections tab and click on Wi-Fi Click Menu (right-action button) and select Turn On Wi-Fi When some networks become available, click the one you want to join Press next If a key is required, uncheck the box and enter the key in this box Click Finish If everything is ok, this screen should switch to Connected Select this to disable Wi-Fi

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