First-World Problems

Mitigating Exhorbitant US Data Roaming Rates on Virgin Mobile Canada

Seriously, Virgin?

$20 for 2 MB of Data Roaming in the USA?

Shit, I eat 2MB for breakfast. Since I got this damn phone, I’ve used… let’s see… 2.6 GB. Gigabytes, Virgin. And on my PAX weekend trip, I’ll be limited to two Megabytes?

This mega-blows.

I want to keep up with Twitter while I’m at PAX (keep track of announced events, the Intel Prize Patrol, spontaneous cool shit going on), checka-checka-checka mah emails, use Google Maps to navigate during the Triwizard Drinking Tour, and maybe browse a website or two for delicious, cool, refreshing information.

So what is a boy to do?

I got some options:

Catch a Canadian Cell Tower

Seattle is vaguely close to Canada. Some have suggested that I might be able to catch a Canadian tower signal there. I’m skeptical, but I’ll definitely check.

Score Some Free Wi-Fi

This is probably my best option, actually, but not one I can rely on. Free wi-fi is surprisingly rare, especially probably if I’m going to be inside the convention center itself (where I plan on spending much of the weekend). I can probably go and swing by a Starbucks and buy a latte and some bits when I want to download mah emails without paying fifty bux, but for most of the weekend, I’ll just have to pray that I pop semi-regularly between unsecured wireless networks.

Blow $20 On What Is Essentially A 1990’s-style Floppy Diskette Worth Of Data

And here is where I am most likely to end up. Virgin, I will be hating you a little bit with every penny of these twenty dollars, and hating you a LOT with the 5c/KB overage you will no doubt be charging me, but what am I going to do, not use my phone all weekend?

Now that said, I just noticed something on Virgin’s long distance information page. Lemme make a phone call.

doot doot doo…

Getting really tired of Black Eyed Peas…

On hold twenty minutes now…

Success! A real person. Gimme a sec.

Okay, apparently that $20/2MB is only for poor schlebs on non-smartphones. For those of us who are the “anointed ones” on smartphones, we pay a flat $6/MB. Better, but still in WTF territory.

Thankfully, I have a nifty little switch on my phone, under Settings->General->Network called “Data Roaming”. It’s set to Off by default and that way it shall stay until I manually decide I need to update my twitters, whereupon it will change to On for about twelve seconds before returning to its natural state.

But Whatever, This Is Depressing

Virgin, your US roaming offerings (data and otherwise) are pitiful and expensive. I’m going to use them as little as humanly possible, and I’m going to complain to anyone nearby who will listen about it. It’s not like it’s a vastly different system down there, hell, I’ll probably even connect to a Virgin Mobile US tower from time to time. The only reason I can see as to why you’d price your services like this is sheer greed.

It’s like this: A great many of Virgin Mobile’s customers are low-income pre-paid customers. This is where they targeted themselves with their many, many ads. So they have to be very competitive in this space, otherwise they’ll lose people to Koodo and Wind and the like.

But higher-income, post-paid customers like myself aren’t part of Virgin’s target market. We’re gravy to them. And we’re “generally” not price-sensitive. Christ, my favourite part of Virgin Mobile is the rock-solid customer service droids when I call in (though lately they’ve been a little less than awesome – more on that in a future post), not the price. Still, I’m paying early-90’s internet rates here. It’s like 20 years never happened, and it has to stop. If Virgin can do 6 GB for $30 in Canada, they should be able to do better than 1MB for $6 in the States. WAY better.

Oh, and one more thing: Virgin, your waiting music sounds like I am listening to an AM station while passing under a bridge. Seriously, get on that.

  • Jenny Spaghetti

    Sorry to hear that. I’m on Rogers so for $10 extra, I can expand my 1GB data pool to the US as well. Hell, I’m even planning on springing to upgrade my mobile internet stick so I can use my laptop on the drive down.

  • Dan Hulton

    Dan HultonDan Hulton


    Yeah, Virgin are not exactly world-class in this regard. Going to have to seriously examine my options when my contract is up.