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Better roaming rates as StarHub and Conexus ink deal with Vodafone?

September 20th, 2011 | by Alfred Siew

Flat-rate fees for surfing the Web on the phone in Europe could be something on the cards for StarHub users after the telco and its regional telecom partners signed a deal with one of the world’s biggest cellphone operators, Vodafone, today.

The Conexus Mobile Alliance, a grouping of Asian telecom operators that StarHub is part of, said it would work with Vodafone to provide more streamlined services to multi-national corporations and offer “harmonised roaming rates across multiple countries” for a combined 600 million subscribers in Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific.

Though the agreement falls short of declaring a standard fee across the dozens of countries, Techgoondu understands that it is something that the telcos are working towards, when the agreement comes into effect from January 1, 2012. Prices are expected to be released then.

Currently, Singapore’s StarHub users pay a maximum of S$15 a day when they log on overseas to one of its Conexus telco partners’ networks to surf the Web on their phones. These partners are FarEasTone (Taiwan), Hutchison Telecom (Hong Kong), NTT DoCoMo (Japan), Smart (the Philippines) and TrueMove (Thailand).

If these telcos eventually agree a common roaming rate with Vodafone, frequent travellers would hope that the same flat rates could be extended to Europe, where Vodafone has a footprint in a number of countries, like Britain and Germany, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Africa, where it owns a majority of shares in several telcos.

That would mean no more bill shocks, which can come up to hundreds or thousands of dollars when users unwittingly download mail or surf the Web on their smartphones with pay-as-you-use roaming services.

In terms of the countries covered, such a deal would also put the telcos in the alliance ahead of rival regional networks that SingTel and M1 are part of. The Bridge Alliance and Asia Mobility Initiative currently offer flat-rate fees only with partner networks in Asia.

Vodafone still has a long-standing partnership with M1 – a deal signed several years ago when current StarHub CEO Neil Montefiore was at the helm at M1. However, the M1 deal does not offer any flat-rate roaming fees when M1 users log on to most of Vodafone’s vast global network, other than in places like Hong Kong.

That agreement would not be renewed when it expires at the end of this year, said Paul-Gerhard Itjeshorst, acting CEO of Vodafone partner markets today. He added that Vodafone had partnered Conexus because it had a “large footprint.”

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