Despite a significant drop in roaming charges for voice and data services since we last looked at this issue in 2009, there is still much room for error – and unexpected charges on one’s bill.
For example, as a T-Mobile representative recently explained to FBT parent company Accura’s accounting manager, even though calls made from outside the United States to the United States using Wi-Fi are essentially free, if the Wi-Fi drops the call, even for a few minutes, it will be billed as a regular call.
In addition, many travelers assume that, by allowing a call to ring and then go to voicemail they won’t be charged. This is where things get interesting, such inaction on the part of the user might result in a phenomenon known as “tromboning,” which is where the call goes unanswered, is redirected back to the United States through an extra circuit to get to its destination, the mobile operator’s voicemail system.
The reason it’s called tromboning is simple: all you have to do is imagine a trombone player pulling out the slide, thereby creating an extended route from mouthpiece to the end. Only one of the four major carriers in the United States – AT&T – will charge customers in such instances. The other three companies – Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless – will not.
In all cases, if a subscriber checks his voicemail by placing a call to the mobile operator’s voicemail system (versus listening to a voicemail message on an iPhone that was delivered to and stored in the device using a data connection), the call will incur the same charge as if the subscriber were dialing an individual in the United States.
When we last examined this issue in the magazine, two of the carriers – AT&T and T-Mobile – said they would charge for unanswered calls and calls that ring to voicemail when the device is on, while Sprint and Verizon Wireless said they would not. Fast forward eight years to the present and only AT&T charges customers for such calls. If you travel frequently outside the United States, you might want to consider this factor in your choice of mobile operators and plans.