Roaming is the ability for a GSM mobile subscriber to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data, or access other services, when travelling outside the geographical coverage area of the home network, by means of using a visited network. In other words, you get to use your line outside of your country when travelling.
It used to be that subscribers had to go through hoops and loops to activate roaming on their lines when travelling. There were documents to be completed and fees to be made. However, in recent times, many networks have made roaming automatic on subscriber lines. In other words, you can just get up and go and when you arrive at your destination country, you will still be able to use your line for calls, SMS and internet as before. No setups. No running around. For example, as far back as 2009, my wife and I did automatic roaming on a trip to Ghana. Both our lines – Airtel and MTN respectively – were active and usable all through our journey.
However, travellers need to take note of a few things. Depending on the roaming arrangement in place by your network with the networks in your destination country, you may be billed not only for calls that you initiate, but also for calls that you receive. Usually, the cost for making and receiving voice calls or sending SMS while roaming abroad depends on the country you are visiting. Often, using mobile internet while roaming means huge data bills too. The key is to give your network’s customer care a call to find out what is applicable to you.
A friend travelled some time ago and roamed. She received a call from a contact in Nigeria and found out after ending the call that the available airtime on her line had dropped by almost 50%. She had been caught off guard. Roaming is much easier than it used to be. It also means that you don’t have to be unreachable when on a trip outside of your country, but you need to watch those bills. Roaming can still be a very expensive undertaking.