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Heading To Brazil For World Cup? - Buy A Local Sim Card and Top Up

3rd June 2014

Photograph of Heading To Brazil For World Cup? - Buy A Local Sim Card and Top Up

Mobile data bills could hit £465 per day in Brazil if footie fans opt out of automatic data limits imposed by networks, instead of using free local Wi-Fi[3].

Fans jetting off for the 10-day group stage could be hit with a staggering roaming bill of almost £5,000[4], more than eight times the cost of the best tickets to the final[5]
Brits visiting Brazil can expect to spend an average £5 on every 1MB of mobile internet data - enough to view just 10 web pages, or stream a one minute video.
Football fans risk running up bill of over a £20 per day, just for calls, voicemail retrieval and texts.
England fans heading to the World Cup in Brazil next month could be stung with eye-watering mobile phone bills of £4,859 if they opt out of automatic mobile data limits imposed by most networks[4], according to new research from independent price comparison and switching service, uSwitch.com.

Mobile phone networks have been forced to cap roaming charges for usage within EU countries but no such caps apply for other overseas destinations. As a result, footie fans heading from the UK to Brazil this summer will be vulnerable to high charges of up to £2 per minute to make a call home, and up to £8 for just 1MB of data[1].

Even a conservative amount of calls, voicemail retrieval and texts could leave fans seriously out of pocket after a 10-day trip to Brazil. Based on the average roaming costs across eight networks and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), making one five-minute phone call to the UK per day, receive one five-minute phone call, listening to a two-minute voicemail message and sending 10 text messages would cost an average £21.22 per day - an eye-watering £212.20 over a 10-day trip[2].

But, with data-hungry smartphones more popular than ever, it's the cost of megabytes that could be really crippling, with 1MB of mobile internet data in Brazil costing an average of £5 across the networks[1]. A smartphone user who opts out of an automatic data limit imposed by their network, and who doesn't make use of free local Wi-Fi or switch off their phone's data roaming, could easily amass a data bill of £465 per day[3], based on a modest amount of video streaming, emailing, browsing websites and using Skype to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Altogether, that means fans face a total daily phone bill of £486 for calls, texts and data.

Therefore, those fans visiting Brazil for the 10 days between 14th and 24th June - when England play their group stage - could have to fork out an extra £4,859 on top of their usual monthly phone bills when they get home[4]. That's more than eight times the cost of a ticket to the final in the best seats which will set fans back €990 (£588)[5].

Fortunately, most networks and MVNOs - with the exception of Giffgaff - now place automatic caps of around £40 on international data usage[1]. But these are easy to opt out of - it usually involves replying to a text message. EE customers are best protected from bill shock as they will find data does not work at all overseas unless they buy an add-on[1].

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch.com, says: "Footie fans visiting Brazil risk scoring an own goal if they don't keep their eye on the ball when it comes to mobile roaming costs. The same applies to all Brits jetting off to non-EU countries this summer, where there is relatively little protection.

"Data caps that most networks will automatically opt customers into are very easy to opt out of by text - and it can be tempting to do so, particularly if footie fans get carried away by World Cup fever and want to send a picture message via Whatsapp or Skype friends and family from the stadium.

"However tempted you are, don't opt out. Every megabyte costs an average of £5, which could result in a huge post-holiday bill. Instead, England fans should keep data roaming switched off and make the most of free Wi-Fi in hotels and cafes. The other option is to buy a local SIM card, put it in your phone and top it up once you get to Brazil. Finally, give your network a call before you leave as they may be able to advise a bundle that'll keep a lid on costs."

1. Average costs for mobile use in Brazil across 8 networks & MVNOs, worked out as per the pay monthly roaming charges below. Information taken from networks' websites:

2. Average daily spend of £21.22 is based on making one five-minute phone call to the UK per day, receiving one five-minute phone call, listening to a two-minute voicemail message, and sending 10 text messages. Calculation is: 1.56*5 + 1.30*5 + 1.56*2 + 0.38*10 = £21.22

3. Data usage figure based on the following usage per week:

Send/receive 20 text only emails, send/receive 10 emails with images/attachments, view 50 websites, 1 hour streaming music, download 5 music tracks, download 1 app, 30 minutes video calls like Skype, 50 photos posted or tweeted.

Estimated monthly data usage according to Vodafone calculator = 2.8 GB (for 3G customers). Divide by 30 days to get daily usage = 93.3MB x £4.98 (average cost of data per MB across all 8 providers) = £464.63

4. £464.63 daily data bill + £21.22 daily calls and texts bill * 10 days in Brazil = £4858.50

5. As per the FIFA website, top price tickets for the World Cup Final cost $990 USD (£588)

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