3 to allow Next G mobile broadband roaming from mid April

Telco to radically reduce broadband roaming charges by introducing a new 3G Roaming Zone

3 Mobile will expand its roaming coverage and introduce new roaming pricing for users from mid April.

The telco will introduce a new 3G roaming zone that covers areas outside their current 3G coverage. When combined with 3's regular broadband zone, the roaming zone will allow 3 customers to roam on Telstra's Next G HSDPA network at a reduced cost.

3 customers will need a mobile phone or modem capable of operating on Telstra's 850MHz radio spectrum, with 3 introducing a new range of "Mega 3G" branded mobiles and modems. It is not yet known whether those mobiles that don't use this spectrum will fall back to GSM roaming or simply not work at all.

First leaked via a staff memo obtained by broadband news Web site Whirlpool, the memo revealed a decrease to 50c per MB when 3 customers use Telstra's GSM and Next G networks. 3 has since announced the planned changes on the 3 Mobile web site, and confirmed the 50c per MB pricing. 3 mobile broadband and mobile phone users are currently charged $1.65 per MB when not covered by 3's own 3G network.

Although 3 currently allows customers to roam on Telstra's GSM network, the plans to expand this to include Telstra's high speed Next G HSDPA network have been in place since the two telcos signed an agreement in August.

The decrease in roaming charges will also mean that users won't be surprised by large bills due to mobile roaming. 3 currently charges $15 for 1GB of mobile data when used within 3's network coverage, but when roaming this charge becomes $1650 for 1GB. Under the new pricing scheme, users will be charged $500 per GB.

A 3 spokesperson told PC World Australia she was not able to comment on whether the new roaming charges or expanded coverage will affect the joint venture between 3's parent company, Hutchison Telecommunications, and Vodafone Australia.

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