BT offers alternative to hidden roaming charges for business travellers abroad
World’s first international Wi-Fi voucher avoids hidden costs
BT Openzone has paved the way for business travellers to avoid hidden voice and data roaming charges by launching the world’s first international Wi-Fi travel vouchers today – offering travellers cheaper and more predictable communications costs when abroad.
The announcement comes as BT strikes a new deal with high-speed internet provider, iBahn, adding an extra 1,200 hotels to the existing 9,600 hotels worldwide where BT Openzone customers can access Wi-Fi. The iBahn network goes live in November. The combined effect of both announcements means that travellers will be able to communicate around the world cheaply and conveniently with greater coverage than ever before.
The vouchers, the first of their kind, allow travellers to access data and make voice calls via thousands of hotspots globally. By using Wi-Fi, the vouchers allow travellers at participating hotspots to download data and make voice calls quicker and cheaper than via international roaming with GPRS, 3G and GSM 1. By paying a fixed voucher price, travellers can predict their communications spend when abroad and avoid hidden roaming charges. Travellers also benefit from paying the same price for Wi-Fi access no matter which participating country they visit.
The travel vouchers give travellers 500 minutes for £28 in the US and for £40 in Europe. This averages out at 5.6p a minute and 8p a minute respectively, which represents an even bigger saving for travellers than the 34p per minute price cap for mobile voice roaming imposed by the European Commission earlier this year. 2
Data downloads, which are not covered by the recent EC ruling, can often cost over £10 per megabyte when abroad. By using this voucher, this cost can be slashed to around 12p in the Americas and 16p in Europe. 3
Chris Bruce, General Manager of BT Openzone, said: “More than ever before the building blocks are in place to provide widespread coverage and cheaper calls for those who want to call home or access the internet when abroad using Wi-Fi. The international travel voucher makes business travel simple, convenient and hassle-free and our agreement with iBahn gives travellers even more opportunity to take advantage of it.”
“For too long, travellers have had no choice but to be forced onto high roaming charges when making calls outside the UK. Even customers who pick up their phone whilst abroad face huge hidden charges for receiving incoming calls. Thanks to the new voucher, travellers have a choice and can make cheap calls with a convenient voucher in a whole host of locations – on the internet there is no such thing as a charge for an incoming call.”
Two versions of the voucher are available. A European version – BT Openzone 500 Europe - covers France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark. For the Americas, BT Openzone Americas 500 covers the USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina. These vouchers may also be used throughout the UK and Ireland. BT Openzone 500 Europe costs £40 and allows travellers 500 minutes of Wi-Fi within 14 days of first log-in. BT Openzone Americas 500 costs £28 and allows travellers 500 minutes of Wi-Fi within 7 days of first log-in. Because it is a voucher, there are no monthly subscription charges to pay.
Travellers can access Wi-Fi from hotel locations across the world, including the Hilton, Intercontinental, Marriott and Best Western hotel chains. The majority of Europe’s major airports are covered and there are thousands more hotspots open to voucher customers across Europe and the Americas.
All this means that a traveller, could for instance, buy a voucher in Heathrow, log in at the BA airport lounge, fly to Berlin and work in a Wi-Fi enabled cafe in the city before catching a train to Belgium and surfing the web in the station - all for the purchase of one travel voucher. Travellers who do not use up all their minutes whilst travelling will be able to use the voucher back in the UK or another trip within the expiry period.
With growing numbers of Wi-Fi enabled mobile phones and laptops now available, travellers are increasingly able to choose the most cost effective network when out on the move. Devices like the BT Fusion phone enable users to switch seamlessly to the most appropriate network be that GSM or Wi-Fi. And with more people making cheap or free calls over the Internet, voucher customers are well placed to take advantage of this with BT’s free to download product, Softphone.