The term “data roaming” refers to a situation in which a telephone or other device is connected to a wireless network through the infrastructure of another operator. This mechanism is mainly used during trips to other countries. It is possible that roaming ends up with a fairly high invoice – for most Polish subscribers, this only applies to countries outside the European Union. How does roaming work, how to use it and how to control payments?
How to activate international data roaming?
The roaming function can be turned on or off in the phone settings. Suitable options for both Android and iOS can be found in the mobile networks menu. The exact process may vary slightly from model to model, but often we have to find the right point in the parameters. It usually ends there – but if we do not provide the operator to connect to other networks, we will most likely have to enter the appropriate code. They look like this on the most popular networks:
- Plus – free “Unblock” SMS to iPlus service or 2601 number;
- Play – roaming is active by default, phone number in Play Online * 500 or 790 500 500;
- Orange – online or by number * 500 or 501 550 000;
- T-Mobile – My T-Mobile application or 602,900,000.
Detailed instructions should be available on the operator’s website or on the relevant hotline. If we use two SIM phones, we can activate or deactivate roaming separately for each card.
When is it worth using roaming?
The main task of international roaming is to provide connection to the network while abroad. We can also use roaming in the country, but then we connect with other operators in Poland and access to the service is free. As for foreign travel, it is a bit different – the amount of fees depends on the country where we are located. In the EU (and in a number of other countries), while we can rely on free roaming, we need to consider payments in other countries.
Tariffs can be quite high and can even reach tens or more zlotys for a gigabyte of data; we usually pay a few dozen more for SMS and phone calls. For this reason, it is worth avoiding roaming outside the Union and using it only in situations where we really need to connect with the world. However, it is necessary to note the roaming limit, which is usually about 200 PLN. When the limit is exceeded, access to services is blocked to limit undesirable costs.
Mobile data, roaming, wi-fi and airplane mode
All of these aspects of phone use are closely intertwined, but it’s worth learning what makes each method of communication different. Mobile data mainly covers connection to its operator’s network, but this feature also applies to internal roaming. In the case of Wi-fi, we usually do not charge extra. Therefore, if we have access to the appropriate network, this type of communication can be considered the most profitable abroad. We can’t use mobile data when using Airplane mode, but the wi-fi feature is still available. For this reason, flight mode abroad with free wi-fi access points is often the safest option.
Roaming, to be precise, means Ability of the mobile customer to use telecommunication services outside the geographical coverage of the home network due to the use of the visited network. This includes making and receiving voice calls, sending and receiving SMS and MMS messages, and transmitting data. This often happens automatically, although we can also use the network option manually. Their existence depends on the contracts concluded between individual operators.
Contact flow while roaming
The details of roaming vary depending on the type of mobile network, but the overall look of the process is very similar. The first step is to update the location of the device to determine how it will connect to the network. Then, messages are sent between the receiver and the transmitter to provide a connection from the visited network.
What is the process of obtaining roaming?
The visited network first communicates with the home network. Information about the services is provided based on the IMSI number, ie the unique identifier of the issued SIM card.. It is especially important to check that a special device is allowed to use roaming.
After receiving a positive response, the visited network maintains a temporary subscriber record for the equipment in question. The home network updates the data in a similar way to show that the phone is on the network being visited. This allows you to redirect any information sent from the device to the device.
Can the visited network refuse roaming services?
When a mobile device is turned on or handed over to the network, the visited network can “see” that it is not registered in its system and try to identify the home network. In the absence of a roaming agreement between the networks, the service cannot be provided and the visited network refuses to provide the service.
The signaling process is an important element of a roaming connection
How is the connection in roaming? The starting point is the same as in the standard case – the subscriber dials another subscriber’s phone number (or rather MSISDN number) containing information such as country code and subscriber number. Based on them, the call is forwarded to the Access Center (GMSC) with the appropriate message.
How does the access center determine the location of the subscriber?
To determine the location of the subscriber, the ATS sends a request to the home subscriber register for information on the way to the rich buyer. This message contains the MSISDN number obtained by the network IMSI code (unique phone number used in internal systems). When roaming is active, it is possible to get a roaming number from the guest subscriber register by updating the location information. Therefore, we are actually dealing with three numbers – the home network, the visited network, and the unique IMSI. Thanks to the “translation” of individual options between the registers of operators, it is possible to use other networks without problems..
While roaming, the phone internally uses a temporary MSRN, ie the number of the mobile station. Individual messages sent between mobile network systems are responsible for the proper conduct of this process. Their task is to check whether the given subscriber has access to roaming, how to access his device or what services are active and establish the correct connection.
Under what conditions can a subscriber register in the visited network?
This is necessary for the subscriber to register in the visited network roaming agreement between the home network and another operator. The condition for its closure is to pass a series of tests carried out by IREG and TADIG – international roaming organizations. The task of the first is to check the correct operation of the established telecommunication lines, and the second focuses on the accounting of the connection.
The subscriber’s use of the visited network is registered in the relevant systems maintained by individual operators. They contain all the details, such as the location, time, duration of the calls, or the numbers of each party. Fees are set according to the tariffs of each network. The home operator then settles with its subscribers with the option of applying a margin or a locally applicable tax. Many operators have introduced their own roaming packages and retail tariff plans, which means that internal systems are mainly used for wholesale payments between networks.
Roaming inside and outside the unit
In the case of the European Union, roaming is mostly free, and subscribers have access to certain mechanisms that protect them from unfair practices. We have already mentioned issues such as the EU roaming limit and the amount of payments abroad. What are the roaming rules in each country?
Asia and Australia
Non-EU countries and other supranational bodies may also provide this service free of charge or at lower rates on the basis of separate agreements, directives and other regulations. In April 2011, Singapore and Malaysia announced that they had agreed with operators to reduce tariffs for roaming voice and SMS calls between the two countries. In August 2012, Australia and New Zealand published a project report offering coordinated roaming services. This was followed by a final report in February 2013, which recommended that both countries equip their telecommunications regulators with a wide range of legal measures when investigating international roaming. The prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand have said they will then introduce legislation to implement the recommendations in the final report.
On February 19, 2020, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru voted to suspend roaming charges with each other. The agreement will come into force in 2022. It is also planned to provide free roaming for all members of the Mercosur group (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay) and even for the entire continent.
Mini-Schengen zone, ie roaming in the Balkans
From July 1, 2021, non-EU Balkan countries have abolished roaming tariffs as part of the Open Balkans project (formerly Mini-Schengen).. They include: Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Macedonia and Kosovo. As a result, SIM card holders in these countries can use packages in other countries without paying any commission.