At the end of last year I finally replaced my seven year old phone with a shiny new HTC Desire Z. I really enjoy having mobile Internet access. And writing text messages is no longer fiddly thanks to the keyboard of the Desire Z.
Unfortunately I suffered a setback when Silke, Vader and I visited Germany last week. My phone stopped working: no calls, no text messages, only emergency calls. I searched through all the settings but couldn’t find the cause and finally had to give up.
When I was able to use the Internet via WiFi the next day I found the cause of the problem: my mobile phone provider T-Mobile disables international roaming for their customers by default. They claim that they do that to protect their customers from high phone bills. I’m sorry but I find that a rather unconvincing argument:
- Whenever I switched on a mobile phone in a foreign country in the past I immediately received one or more text messages telling me how overpriced phone calls, text messages and especially mobile Internet usage are. If T-Mobile really doesn’t believe that their customers are able to understand such an obvious warning it would be somewhat insulting.
- If T-Mobile were really that worried about their customers’ bills they could just reduce the horrendous roaming charges. Their roaming partner in e.g. Germany is the Deutsche Telekom, the owner of T-Mobile UK. I’m quite sure the two of them could agree on more customer friendly conditions if they only wanted to.
It was quite a hassle to get this fixed. I used a friends phone line to call T-Mobile support in the UK who enabled international roaming for me. After I power cycled my phone on their request it finally registered with a mobile network in Germany. I was relieved until I found out that I still couldn’t make calls to the UK or send text messages. I once again looked over all the phone settings but didn’t manage to find a solution. I sent T-Mobile an e-mail, they called me back (which I probably have to pay for with my next phone bill) but it still wouldn’t work.
When I was back in the UK I finally found the problem by comparing the settings of Chris‘s and my phone: mine had call barring enabled for international calls. I tried to disable it but it asked for a barring password which I didn’t know. I tried to enter the SIM PIN but I only got a Network/SIM error. I called T-Mobile again with gritted teeth. At first their support blamed the problem on my hand set and claimed that I could find the barring password in my phone’s manual. When I told them about the error message they finally changed something on their end which after another power cycle of my phone got rid of the call barring. I hope this was really the end of it because I won’t know before I travel abroad the next time.
Overall T-Mobile’s disproportionate customer protection caused me a lot of trouble that I really could have done without.