Constant Pinging Racks up $102.85 in Roaming Charges for G1 User

Here’s an interesting story that arrived in our inbox today. One of our readers, James, decided to take a trip to the UK for almost two weeks and took his G1 with him. He knew about roaming charges and what to do to prevent them, but it seemed that wasn’t enough. Rather than having us retell the ordeal, we’ll let his email speak for itself.

Before I left I asked about International calling & text to be added, which they did. Calls were 99¢ a min and texts were 35¢ each. I was also told that data roaming would be charged at $10 per MB. Before I left the store the store reps told me not to use the internet features and I would be ok. So I took it one step further and before I left I did the following:

  • Turned off data roaming
  • Turned off data sync
  • Turned off 3G

Now, my data roaming bill just landed and its $102.85. I am seeing approx. $0.15 charges (0.0097MB on average) for the whole trip every 3 to 7 minutes – almost as if the phone is pinging.

I called the t-mobile customer service line, and after lengthy conversations with a CSR and his supervisor I am told there is nothing they can do. The CSR told me that the way the G1 works it will always access the internet, whether it is for texts or calls, even if the data roaming features are off. I asked him why have the ability to turn data roaming on or off if it makes no difference – he just replied that the phone should have been left in the USA to avoid these charges.

As far as I can see, if this is truly the way the G1 works, then why didn’t the tmobile store inform me? Now I have to pay because of the lack of tmobile training their staff on the “features” of their phone.
I wanted to inform you so that maybe you can let others know through your website, as this is a hidden charge that should be put out in the open.

Ouch! Anyone else running into similar situations? This is the first time we’ve encountered this, but we’re curious to see what the official response is. Does the G1 talk to the towers even when we turn everything off that we can?

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  1. and what’s new here? tha same were with iphone. A lot of operators takes money just for conecting to them. I think only way it’s edit apn. to disable internet usage.

  2. Thanks for the warning. So far this is not happening to my g1. I check the US T-Mobile account daily. I used the g1 in Germany for a week with a US T-Mobile SIM card. The first time activation und some initial tests were causing roaming charges (total $2.50) but after that no additional roaming charges have been generated. I still use the US T-Mobile SIM card in the G1 on weekends when I need my regular German Vodafone SIM card for a mobile hotspot (in order to connect other devices to the internet) and no roaming charges have been generated.

    Maybe it depends on which network you are using for roaming? I use the German Vodafone network also for roaming. Or maybe it depends on whether there is not any WLAN avaiable for an extended period of time? Could others describe how they roamed?

  3. To me thats sounds pretty bad and if it was a t-mobile rep that told you how to avoid extra charges t-mobile should refund since this isn’t your fault, but rather theirs.

    Anyway, this sounds like a job for one of the devs to fix as there must be someway to stop the android platform to constantly check for text messages etc

  4. I would have just put it in Airplane mode to be safe, turn it on when I need to check messages or make a call. I find this is the best way when traveling because I have had this problem before with T mobile when traveling to Canada. Even if you turned off 3G, Data and sync, your phone is still pinging EDGE on Roaming. Data still pings because its piggybacking on Radio freq. No matter if you make a call or not.

  5. I bought a G1 off ebay then unlocked for AT&T since i’m still in contract. At the moment AT&T refuses to sell me a data plan and their pay-as-you-go plan is too much for me. However I found that even tho I would only use wifi, it would still use “ghost” data on the EDGE network.

    The way i finally got around this was simply changing the APN to an invalid value. IE “wap.cingular” becomes “wap.cingula”. I have no clue how this effects the network but i’m no longer getting charged an arm and a leg for ghost data and i can still use everything just fine.

    Maybe a temp solution until a dev can create an option to really turn it off?

  6. If this story is correct, then this is commercial suicide for T-Mobile. One of their few competitive advantages over Verizon and Sprint is that they use a GSM network so their phones can be used in other countries. And surely international roaming call charges are a profit center for them. As long as they are forced to tell their customers to leave their phone at home when traveling internationally, they are throwing away income and customers. It’s in their interests to release a patch for the software that fixes this as soon as possible.

    However two things confuse me. One is that nobody else has reported this before now, including oli484 above who says he used his US T-Mobile sim card for a week in Germany and didn’t get these charges. Why not? What is the difference? Is it something about the UK network vs the German one?

    The other is that the math doesn’t add up. $0.15 every 3-7 minutes = $1.80/hour = $43.20/day. So the reported $102.85 is less than three days at this rate, but the trip was 2 weeks long. Did James (the original emailer, not me) notice the charges while he was away, and turn his phone off?

    I suspect that this may be either a phone configuration error which is avoidable, or a billing error by T-Mobile.

    More concerning to me for international roaming is the compatibility of the 3G radio with other networks. We know that the G1’s 3G radio is not compatible with AT&T’s network. Does this apply anywhere else? I have read conflicting reports as to whether the G1’s 1700/2100 UMTS (3G) can talk to 3G networks outside North America.

  7. I think he needs to contact the Better Business Bureau and inform them of how T-Mobile handled this situation and then contact HTC and Google and inform them of the bug. I believe that it is a bug since he tried to turn off all data access from the phone and it continued to access data.

  8. I would’ve just left Airplane mode on once I got off the plane.

    One of my friends was on AT&T when he went overseas, so he got his phone unlocked, and then just bought a prepaid SIM once he got there. Does anyone know if this would work with the G1/T-Mo?

  9. Airplane mode wouldn’t have been helpful in this case as it is obvious that he still wanted to be able to make/receive calls & texts.

    When it comes to international roaming, T-Mobile has a long history of not reversing those charges no matter what.

    I would, though, have expected to hear more complains about this. Curious to see where this goes.

  10. I had a similar issue in Germany with a German T-Mobile prepaid SIM.

    I bought a SIM with a 10 Euro credit and asked for data capability, which was something like 1 Euro/10 minutes of data use. I turned off sync and auto-sync but ran out of value within a couple hours. I then put 20 Euro on and disabled 3G, checked my balance every few hours for a day, saw the balance steadily decrease even during periods when I didn’t use it, and just decided put it into airplane mode when I didn’t want to use it.

    Seems like the G1 is using data outside of the sync, browser and maps. I wish there was just a “disable data” so it could operate as just a regular phone and be left available for incoming calls/SMS.

    Someone before asked about 3G, the G1 does work on European 3G networks, AT&T’s 3G is the exception, not T-Mobile’s. You can search Google for 3G frequencies and I believe Wikipedia had some information on this as well.

  11. >I had a similar issue in Germany with a German T-Mobile prepaid SIM.
    Sure this happens because you were not roaming!!! This is a different situation. The g1 is constantly polling for gmail etc. When you are roaming, the g1 asks you in the beginning whether it shall switch off data roaming. In your case you can only put the g1 into the airline mode in order to prevent any data traffic. But that would disable most of the g1 functionality…

    But I cannot confirm that the g1 has data traffic when you are roaming (see my earlier post). There must be some precondition causing this data traffic. Maybe it makes a difference if you are using a European T-Mobile operator. I have read that a locked US g1 is working with a SIM card of any European T-Mobile operator. But for using SIM cards of other operators you need to unlock the phone. So there is a special treatment for T-Mobile and non-T-Mobile operators.

  12. All you have to do is request an unlock code to unlock your service this way you can pic up a prepaid sim from any overseas phone company and use that. Im sure that would of cost what ever you wanted to spend for international minutes. You cannot trust any phones out of the country on a sim locked phone unluss it is world band. Well thats what i was told

  13. G1 users, there is an easy solution.

    My understanding of the problem is that even with Data Roaming disabled, sometimes your G1 thinks it is on its home network when it is actually roaming. Let’s assume you are a T-Mobile USA user. The problem occurs when your are on, say, the UK T-Mobile network. The G1 thinks it is your home network (because they are both T-Mo) and thus disabling Data Roaming has no effect.

    There does seem to be a solution: Disable all data connections on your G1:

    1. Use Anycut to create a shortcut to “Testing”
    2. Click on Testing.
    3. Click on Phone Information
    4. Hit Menu button
    5. Click on More
    6. Click on Disable data connection

    This turns off all data access. Note that GPRS service switches to “disconnected”.
    Now you should have a phone that does voice calls, but no data access.

  14. Lrrr You are the man. T-Mobile doesn’t even have a better solution other than “You should leave your phone at home or switch your sim card back to your old phone when travelling.” I am travelling soon so this helps a bunch. Great Post Thank you!!

  15. I work for T-Mobile as a manager in a retail location and I assure you that nobody within T-Mobile meant to trick you out of money with your device polling while roaming. This is the first information of its kind to surface and even where I work that has many tourists and international roamers we didn’t hear of any billing issues like this before. Just like the cap on data usage T-Mobile doesn’t want to lose face with its customers in general and will fix this if it is a known issue. This means unfortunately there would need to be more cases brought to their attention in order to get it solved and that as of now it seems like a one off situation. I can see how this device, which obviously requires internet to activate, would poll gmail so that it can verify your login as it does when it checks mail, enters the market, and so on. I I would encourage any who has this problem to write to customer relations to get a resolution if they have a bill after turning data roaming off but until then please use the advice from other posts and use AnyCut just to make sure.

    I don’t think it was a training issue for our stores as much as I think it is an issue with someone in development not having enough forward thinking to connect the dots with how this would bill internationally and then passing it on to our training team to disseminate.

    • Well Ashley,

      I had a smiliar experience recently when I traveled to Canada and came back with a big surprise in the mail. I got charged $158 for internet access which I swore I didn't use. However, after reading this article MAYBE the charges were due to the constant pingings (which I wasn't aware of and still can't confirm)? When I called T-Mobile customer service and ask them to explained the internet charges to me they were not helpful at all . Seriously, I only used google for about 2 minutes in Canada and got charged for $158. Perhaps this is legal but definitely not an ethical business practice for T-moble. Customers should have at least been warned or told of the outrageous charges, this should be categorized as theft.

  16. Airplane mode is not a solution, obviously. It prevents you from making or receiving calls. I’m taking my phone abroad because I need a phone, not a doorstop. (I’m sure airplane mode works, otherwise the airlines would probably kick up a stink.) And turning off the data connection using Any Cut is no good either. It prevents you from using the data connection. I paid a lot of money for a phone with a data connection.

    This is ridiculous. My previous phone was a Treo on T-Mobile. I could take it to the UK and use either my US sim or a local UK sim, and the phone and data features JUST WORKED and didn’t bill beyond the amount I expected. There’s no reason why the G1 should be able to do the same. Except some idiot programmer made the roaming feature use the name of the network to decide if you are roaming or not, or something like that.

    T-Mobile simply have to fix this, or watch all their high-spending overseas business traveler customers vanish to other networks, and see their flagship top-of-the-line smartphone reduced to the laughing-stock of the industry.

    Of course if I want to use my Treo now, my G1’s data plan isn’t compatible with it (as I was shocked to be told by the T-Mobile operator when I added the G1 data plan), so my Treo has no data connection if I shift my SIM card back to it. And I’m not prepared to add a second data plan to my monthly bill just for the times I travel to the UK, and have to take my Treo and leave my G1 at home if I want a functioning smartphone. Thanks T-Mobile.

    Perhaps ashley can pass this issue on to T-Mobile’s senior management so they can light a fire under their technical staff to fix this issue. It’s the most incredible embarrassment and deserves immediate attention. As a fall-back, T-Mobile could agree not to bill G1 owners for these spurious roaming charges: they must be easy to identify on the bill. Additionally there’s no reason why they couldn’t agree, until the problem is fixed, to offer a free data plan compatible with other phones for those of us who are forced to use a non-3G phone when we travel because of their mistake. It’s not like we can use the SIM card in two phones at the same time, and we’re already paying for the G1 data plan.

  17. Hi there,

    it happened to me too. I was for 8 days in Germany and barely used my G1. However, t-mobile is charging me over $90. I also called t-mobile in advance about roaming costs but nobody told me about the potential additional costs. I haven’t called t-mobile and complained yet but I certainly will do.

  18. yes, i too think this is absurd. i travel the world and have always swapped out sim cards as required. in the US i use a prepaid tmobile card. i am very disappointed with google on this. they used to be ‘enablers’ and this has proved they can do evil. these system should not even have been released this way and if they do not come up with a quick update to change this, they will soon be considered just as microsoft

  19. As a long time t mobile user, I strongly suggest you simply call t mobile until you get a rep who can handle dealing with what is a complex and unusual issue properly. I usually have to call no less than 3 times and have been told many times things can’t be done, even when I know it is Tmobile policy to do them (e.g. issues I had regarding purchasing out of contract phones, which they signed my sister up for a contract with even though we paid more, reporting my phone as lost/stolen, calling back within 3 hours when it had been recovered only to find they never turned it off, but then also never updated the system that I had called back so they cut my service 30 days later and demanded I sign a contact to “reinstate it”)

    The long and short of it is, you have to call and talk to several reps because most of their reps just can’t handle anything not by the book, and many are just illinformed or incompetent. I once got the best tmob guy on the phone ever and asked for his direct line after I explained how hard it was to get a good answer. he laughed but couldn’t do anything about it.

    I had something similar happen when I went to Canada on a diff phone. The service guy quoted me a rate that did not include some additional fees. They ended up splitting it half way with me, which brought it close to the originally quoted price. I have had them take off charges completely, too.

    T mobile is just generally all around incompetent, but I still find them preferable to deal with than Verizon, which never gives an inch and charges you up the wazoo for everything.

  20. I have the Android Dev Phone 1 running on AT&T “Pick Your Plan,” and noticed that every time I picked up my phone I was getting notified that “The last transaction cost $0.07” or something like that. In a single day, it would add up to almost a dollar. This was when no calls had been made, WiFi was active, and with all the data options (syncing, etc) disabled.

    There’s an app called APNdroid that’ll switch off your APN (I’m not affiliated with this app or its devs). Since I’ve installed I haven’t seen any more of these phantom data charges.

  21. hi, just the same, wish i read this before having left for my trip to Vancouver, I racked up $170 and called customer service too, and they told me the same thing, they cannot do anything about it. Well, if my contract was up for renewal, I would have canceled it, but I added a line last November so to cancel will cost $400. TMOBILE has not done justice to long time customers so I am telling my whole community not to renew their contracts, so far I have gotten a dozen who will be supporting me and will be canceling once their renewal is up. This is the only way I can feel justified since it seems they are not willing to give or offer any adjustment in the bill. True that their are features to turn off data roaming but it still charged fees since email is automatic with GMAIL since they are closely linked..So, for those that were charged, I suggest to tell your friends to cancel renewal once its up. This is just my feedback. Thanks all.

  22. So Glad I found this page. I was beginning to think I was crazy. I just got my G1 and went to Germany right after receiving the phone. I made only a few very short calls and shortly after returning to the US…my service was interrupted for excessive charges. After researching it down and going through several cust. serv. reps….I found that the problem had to do with the Euro charges and the billing department decided to overbill me $171.00 and just a comedy of errors. I’ve been with T-Mobile since 2001 and am not appreciating the response I’m getting from people who really should know how to help. I mean from the Kiosk to the Executive Office…..there needs to be some serious accountability going down……just sayin’…..I was wondering why my bill was so much…now I know and also I know I’m not alone. I agree with thekk and I guess it could be worse……

  23. Totally confirmed!! Bought my G1 in the USA, right before a month long trip overseas. I was hammered to a pulp with the ping charges 0.0097mb x $0.15 x 4 weeks. If anyone has been successful getting a refund or credit back from T-Mobile, please let us know there’s ray of hope out there!!

  24. If this is an ongoing issue for you, check out WiSyncPlus. If you don’t have a data plan at all, check out WiSync. If you do have data but its real expensive, check out WiSync + APNdroid. WiSyncPlus, by far, seems like the best solution for anyone concerned about this issue as it has so many options to assist in usability, not to mention a scheduler.

  25. This is my recent issue w/ tmobile.

    Dear T-Mobile,

    My husband purchased the new G1 phone for my birthday this year. He spoke with a customer service representative at our local branch that told him of all the wonderful new features I would have and how it was much better than the “old” Wing I was presently using. My husband purchased this phone, surprised me on my birthday and I was so excited! A couple days later, I went on a three day trip to Mexico with my friends and sent a few text messages home. Imagine our surprise when we got our bill for the month, a whopping $720; $500 of which billed just for the 3 days in Mexico. My Husband immediately called customer care and was told there was nothing to be done. When he asked to speak to a supervisor, they refused to speak with him. We quickly returned to the T-Mobile store, surely this had to be a mistake. The representative there then explained the “true” difference from our previous phone, Data Service Roaming Charges. I’m sure you can imagine our surprise when he explained that it was just a matter of turning off the roaming feature on our wonderful new phone. That we were now being charged by the megabyte every time the phone searches for signal, which wasn’t the case with our “old” phone. Our next question was/is, WHY were we not told this before? They advised us to call customer care again and speak with the blackberry department, it was an obvious mistake and surely something could be done for us. I called and spoke with a representative that agreed with me, we should have been informed of the differences with this new phone. Again, we were told nothing could be done to remedy this situation.
    We have been loyal customers of T-Mobile for a number of years now. As Flight Attendants with American Airlines, we frequently brag about your great customer service and your fair business practices, to passengers and co-workers alike. We left AT&T and never looked back, not even when your other customers left for the iphone. You have never let us down, always there to answer our questions, ever the friendly voice on the other end of the phone. That is until now… I sit here writing this letter not knowing whether or not it will even be read. I’m writing because I want you to know how truly disappointed we are.
    I can’t help feeling as if we’ve been taken advantage of as we are now trapped for another two years. We were not asking for the entire bill to be erased but, a payment plan might have been offered. We are two loyal customers who have always paid our bill on time. If we treated our customers the way you have treated us, our customers would not be with us for very long. I will never again recommend T-Mobile service to anyone and I am sad to say that I look forward to the end of our contact. I realize now that T-mobile is just like any other large corporation in America but, what happened to rewarding good customers for their consistent loyalty?


  26. Spend $2.50 and purchase WiSyncPlus. It would have saved you $497.50 if you used no data services. And had you used data services it would have allowed you to keep much tighter strings on your purse and wallet. Savings plus the huge increase in standby battery life makes WiSyncPlus an application for everyone.

    Seriously, if you’re worried about this issue or find you need more standby battery life, go get WiSyncPlus. It really is that simple.

  27. I love how some of you simpletons offer “put the phone in airplane mode” as a solution. Then what is the point in having a phone then? How about dropping the phone in a bucket of water? Why don’t you try that and tell me if it works.

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