Behind Massive International Data Roaming Charges

Finance Minister Audley Shaw’s massive $8-million cell phone bill has raised questions about how an individual can rack up such a large bill in such a short time.

The charges include $4-million in October alone. He’s blamed the astronomical figure on data roaming.

Data roaming occurs when you use data services through your local network while you’re out of the country.

It can rack up pretty fast using popular applications like Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube.

For example, both Digicel and Flow offer prepaid local data packages of 1.5 Gigabytes.

Senior Advisor in the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, Trevor Forrest, says a heavy data user can burn through this in less than a week.

But it’s fairly cheap to do when you’re on your plan in Jamaica. Those 1.5 Gigabytes will cost you just JMD$700 on Digicel, and JMD$1000 dollars on Flow.

When you go over your allotment, that’s when it starts getting expensive.

Once you go over your plan, the telecoms companies start charging 10 dollars per megabyte.

There are 1000 megabytes in a gigabyte. So those same 1.5 Gigs now cost $15,000. And it gets really really expensive when you go overseas and start roaming.

According to Forrest, that costs as much as USD$10 per megabyte…. bringing that same 1.5 Gigs to USD$15,000, or just under JMD$2-million!

And that’s exactly what former Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, says happened to him.

Mr. Golding wrote a letter to the Editor of Gleaner, which was published on Thursday. He says he received a JMD$320,000 bill after a two day trip to China. He says the provider told him that he was billed at USD$8 per megabyte.

Nationwide News contacted both telecoms providers to find out exactly how much they charge customers who use data roaming outside of a pre-arranged plan.

Up to news time, we’ve received no response from either.