New iPhone Data Roaming Woes

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iScottL

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I just came back from Bermuda and got an almost $3000 data roaming charge. Data roaming was set to OFF. At&t says it is my fault and has only offered to cut the bill in half. Has anyone else had this problem with the software off switch?
 

Dean C

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My god. That's unbelievable! How sure are you that data roaming was off? How long were you there for? Also, surely you'd have to have used your phone for something to incur any charges? I.e. made a call, sent some texts.
 

dtoombs

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Haven't been to this forum in years ... but just found this thread, sorry to resurrect the link.

Long story short - there is a carrier in Bermuda that uses the "310" MCC (Mobile Country Code) in GSM, which is actually the code for the United States. So your iPhone thought it was at home, and the Data Roaming switch was therefore useless.

I had the same happen to me a month ago. My iPhone even read "AT&T" while I was on the island - having drinks at the Swizzle Inn (I even have a picture of my iPhone sitting on the bar there with the AT&T carrier logo in the display). But I realized I was probably getting hit with data roaming charges - so I killed every data feature I could (forcibly killed the email client, etc.)

This is a BIG loophole with AT&T and the iPhone specifically. The Data Roaming switch is supposed to protect you against situations like this, but it does not. They excused my $100 or so in charges - but I think you should raise a stink with them to get the rest of the bill excused.

You can read the rest of my story here -- http://dougtoombs.com/2008/07/23/bermuda-the-iphone-and-att-beware-the-data-roaming/ -- including links to the wikipedia articles documenting which carrier in Bermuda is using the 310 MCC which makes the iPhone think it is in the US.
 

iScottL

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AT&T relents

Thanks dtoombs. I suspected as much. My phone read "AT&T" while in Bermuda. Despite having reached Steve Jobs by email (he said it must have been my own fault!) and hours on the phone, AT&T wasn't budging. I finally got an Apple rep to push their tech folks for a possible explanation (other than I was lying)--they recommended that I reset the phone in case any preferences were corrupted. When I forwarded that email to AT&T, they zeroed out my $3,000 bill because Apple had admitted it might be an iphone issue. So who is responsible for the MCC code issue? Sounds like AT&T...
 

stufff

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How about taking out the SIM card and using only the iPod/notes/WiFi functions?
That way, you can take your iPhone whereever you go without having to worry about data usage.. :rolleyes:

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Can anyone confirm that I can indeed take out the SIM card and go anywhere without having to worry about data usage charges????
 

daihard

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stufff said:
How about taking out the SIM card and using only the iPod/notes/WiFi functions?
That way, you can take your iPhone whereever you go without having to worry about data usage.. :rolleyes:

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Can anyone confirm that I can indeed take out the SIM card and go anywhere without having to worry about data usage charges????
Can you simply turn on the Airplane Mode? That should disable all the phone features.
 

baggss

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daihard said:
Can you simply turn on the Airplane Mode? That should disable all the phone features.
Sure, but then why bother even taking it with you?
 

tonepod

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baggss said:
Sure, but then why bother even taking it with you?
Ummm, maybe so that he can also use it as a portable music player and he doesn't already own another music player? After all, the iPhone is more than just a mobile phone... :rolleyes:
 

baggss

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tonepod said:
Ummm, maybe so that he can also use it as a portable music player and he doesn't already own another music player? After all, the iPhone is more than just a mobile phone... :rolleyes:

Ya, I guess your right abut that. Seems to defeat the purpose though, having all those wonderful things in one package. Heck, it would be cheaper to go buy a Shuffle for $50 and use that then take a chance of getting a $3000 phone bill for data roaming.
 

daihard

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baggss said:
Ya, I guess your right abut that. Seems to defeat the purpose though, having all those wonderful things in one package. Heck, it would be cheaper to go buy a Shuffle for $50 and use that then take a chance of getting a $3000 phone bill for data roaming.
It might defeat the purpose if you spend a lot of time abroad, but I don't think most people will use their iPhones that way. Like tonepod says, the iPhone is more than just a cellphone. As an iPod touch owner as well, I always think of my iPhone as an iPod touch with a camera and 3G network. I personally think it's quite reasonable to not use the phone part of the iPhone during your one to two week vacation. :)
 

baggss

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To each his own I guess. I'm not the kind that would turn my phone off during a vacation (at least not my personal phone, definitely my work phone) but I would think long and hard about if I went out of the US. Then again, I'm not the type that would use the iPhone as my primary iPod either. I travel a lot and it won't be replacing my Gen 5 or Classic in their roles.
 

dtoombs

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stufff said:
How about taking out the SIM card and using only the iPod/notes/WiFi functions?
That way, you can take your iPhone whereever you go without having to worry about data usage.. :rolleyes:
Yeah, that would pretty much be the only solution.

The only problem with that - is that I wanted to be able to use the text messaging on the phone, to keep up with a dozen different people on the island that were there for our wedding. So that wasn't really an option for me.
 

dtoombs

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iScottL said:
Thanks dtoombs. I suspected as much. My phone read "AT&T" while in Bermuda. Despite having reached Steve Jobs by email (he said it must have been my own fault!) and hours on the phone, AT&T wasn't budging. I finally got an Apple rep to push their tech folks for a possible explanation (other than I was lying)--they recommended that I reset the phone in case any preferences were corrupted. When I forwarded that email to AT&T, they zeroed out my $3,000 bill because Apple had admitted it might be an iphone issue. So who is responsible for the MCC code issue? Sounds like AT&T...
Glad to hear they got your bill excused, iScottL. But it sounds like the problem still very much exists - and it has probably bitten some other people.

I hate to pimp you out like this ... but if you actually did get your message through to Steve Jobs - can you try to push some of this info through (it's all in my blog entry - links to the up-to-date MCC/MNC codes on Wikipedia, etc.) to him as a follow-up? I know it's after-the-fact, but if you and I can collectively do something to help someone out ... perhaps karma will smile upon us one day when we need it ourselves.

While I don't expect Steve is going to research it himself, if you can let him know that we've determined the reason why ... and it was most definitely not your fault, and it could happen to any US iPhone owner that visits Bermuda ... maybe he'll get someone in his iPhone team looking into it further. Perhaps we can help someone else avoid a $3,000 bill.

I have someone that visited my blog entry that is a Digicel customer in Bermuda, and has asked them for more information as well. 3 minds are better than 1!
 
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mutavdzic

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Don't put your iPhones in Airplane mode, there is a very simple solution to this problem!

In Settings, tap the Carrier button to enter Network Selection. Then simply deselect "Automatic" and you will be able to choose the carrier yourself. When you are in Bermuda, always choose the other carrier - M3 Wireless (their country code is 350).

That way you can use your iPhones as phones, you will be billed standard roaming charges for calls and texts, and you will be able to turn off data roaming.
 

dtoombs

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mutavdzic said:
Don't put your iPhones in Airplane mode, there is a very simple solution to this problem!

In Settings, tap the Carrier button to enter Network Selection. Then simply deselect "Automatic" and you will be able to choose the carrier yourself. When you are in Bermuda, always choose the other carrier - M3 Wireless (their country code is 350).

That way you can use your iPhones as phones, you will be billed standard roaming charges for calls and texts, and you will be able to turn off data roaming.
That's definitely a workable idea. The only problem I can see with it -- is that I don't believe the iPhone gives you the "Carrier" button ... unless it actually has found its way over onto M3 anyway.

I spent most of my time over on the western portion of the island, so the phone seemed to always be stuck on AT&T. If the phone thinks its on your home carrier, I do not believe the "Carrier" button appears (it's not available on my phone right now, sitting here at my home in the US).

However, when I headed over towards the eastern side of the island one evening (near the lighthouse) my phone did roam over onto M3. At that point, I checked my settings and I did have the "Carrier" button visible then ... it was the first time I'd ever seen it on the phone. I was able to forcibly switch it back to AT&T (after which, I think the button disappeared until I lost the AT&T signal again later and it fell back onto M3 again).

So if I'm not mistaken, the logic behind the Carrier button actually makes this safety precaution hard to perform in Bermuda. Much like the fact that I can't edit the APN settings when the iPhone thinks its on its home carrier, this "dumbing down" of the interface actually would prevent your otherwise workable solution.
 

mutavdzic

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dtoombs said:
That's definitely a workable idea. The only problem I can see with it -- is that I don't believe the iPhone gives you the "Carrier" button ... unless it actually has found its way over onto M3 anyway...
Really?! I have the Carrier button all the time. I am on my home network now, and it's still there. My iPhone is jailbroken, do you think that is the reason? I had no idea that jailbreaking had this effect.

Anyway, even if this doesn't work for you, you could simply deactivate the automatic email retrieval and refrain from using other data services. Simply, do not open Google Maps, Safari, Weather... Oh, and deactivate the "push" stuff on MobileMe if you have that already.
 
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Whether or not the "Carrier" button is shown is entirely dependent on your carrier config files. If you have a jailbroken iPhone, you could force it to appear by editing the PLIST file for AT&T and toggling the option in there that normally hides the "Carrier" option (you can do the same for the APN options as well).

I'm on a non-jailbroken iPhone on Rogers, and I do get the "Carrier" option in my settings (but not the APN settings), presumably as the stock Rogers carrier.plist file doesn't deliberatley suppress it.

Unfortunately, I believe AT&T's does, and of course if your iPhone thinks it's on the AT&T network, it's going to use that configuration file (it uses the MCC to select the correct config file to use). Certain other utilities that you plug in to a jailbroken iPhone may modify this as well, of course.
 

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mutavdzic said:
Really?! I have the Carrier button all the time. I am on my home network now, and it's still there. My iPhone is jailbroken, do you think that is the reason? I had no idea that jailbreaking had this effect.
Right -- what jhollington said above is true. This option does not normally appear for legit customers. Most jailbroken iPhone owners I've met have no idea that this is standard behavior.

Same with the network (APN) settings. What I have done with smartphones in the past - just as an extra precaution - is put in a totally bogus APN name, like bogus.apnname.com, as a precaution so that hopefully I can't use any data. With the iPhone, I can't change these settings either in its default (AT&T) config.

mutavdzic said:
Anyway, even if this doesn't work for you, you could simply deactivate the automatic email retrieval and refrain from using other data services. Simply, do not open Google Maps, Safari, Weather... Oh, and deactivate the "push" stuff on MobileMe if you have that already.
Right - if you read my story on this (http://dougtoombs.com/2008/07/23/bermuda-the-iphone-and-att-beware-the-data-roaming/) that's what I did ... force-terminated the email client, set retrieval to manual, didn't bring up stocks or weather. But there were a couple instances where I had to open up the email app to grab a confirmation number or something else for our wedding planning. And what happens as soon as you open the mail client? It tries to download all your accounts.

Looking at it now, I should have put the phone in Airplane Mode when I needed to do this. Was just a bit busy at the time :) so it didn't occur to me...
 

Pico2223

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Trip to Canada

I was in Canada for 15 days and ATT called me yesterday telling me while I was there I drew up a bill of $12,000. How is this possible?
 
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