Difference between Mobile Data and Data Roaming

Difference between Mobile Data and Data Roaming

Mobile data and data roaming – they’re both related to how you access internet on your smart phone and they’re both settings under the ‘mobile networks’ tab on your smartphone, but they are different things. Although they sound similar, they are not the same in terms of functionality. That doesn’t mean that one is more important than the other or can be ignored entirely.

If you’ve never stopped to really work out what the two terms are, it’s important to understand the difference and how they could affect you – and your mobile phone bill.

Mobile Data:

Mobile Data is the functionality that allows your smartphone to access the internet. You can access the internet without mobile data on your device by connecting to a WiFi network. However, if you want to use your SIM plan, you will have to turn on the Mobile Data under the settings tab (under the SIM settings on a dual SIM smartphone). Once you turn on mobile data, your device should connect to the internet and all your apps and browsers will be able to access the internet through the data inclusions on your phone plan.

Knowing how to turn your mobile data off can also be important, as many apps can use a significant amount of data and are best used over WiFi. Some smartphone functions like watching videos on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, or downloading apps via the app stores will quickly use up the data you have included with your mobile phone plan unless you pay a lot of money for a plan with lots of data.

That being said, there are ‘data-free’ services available with major telecom operators that do not account to their monthly usage. For instance, the ‘My Football Live’ app by Telstra does not use data from your monthly SIM plan. For the most part though, turning off your mobile data off helps you remember to use WiFi and lets you use your data thoughtfully.

Data Roaming:

‘Data Roaming’ enables a smartphone to connect to the internet when users are not in their home network. It generally applies to travelling overseas, but there are some areas of Australia where data roaming can apply. Smartphone users can choose to turn the ‘data roaming’ feature on when travelling overseas or outside of their network’s area of coverage. Since all telcos levy additional charges on their customers to access the internet outside their home network, turning this feature off could save you from paying significant amounts of money.

When you are travelling outside your home network, you will have to turn both the ‘Mobile Data’ as well as the ‘Mobile Data Roaming’ to access the internet. Think of it as a double pad lock that ensures that you are not charged without your consent. The “mobile data” and “data roaming” options give you more control over where, when and how you use mobile data.

When you are travelling overseas, however, it is still a good idea to keep the ‘data roaming’ feature turned off. In fact, it might be a good idea to leave your SIM card at home. This is because you might be charged by telcos even if you do not access the internet intentionally. Your smartphone device is likely to have a lot of apps that perform a background refresh regularly. These apps might start refreshing the moment you land overseas and end up costing you a fortune. There have been reports of telecom companies making sure they provide international terminals with cellular coverage in order to hook you the moment you get off the plane. Since this is a valuable area for them, they deliberately try to get customers to use data roaming. You might want to consider some other options, such as using international calling cards for your overseas visits.

Mobile data is an important area to understand well, especially when travelling away from your usual areas. It should be easy to turn data on and off, and it’s worth learning about – it could save you from serious bill shock caused by exceeding the amount of data included with your plan.

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Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.