Roaming with the Blackberry

by Volker Weber

Need a reason not to buy a Blackberry? Simple. You can't switch the damn thing off. I mean, yes, you can switch the radio off, but then you can't receive phone calls. When the radio is on, you are also receiving mails. Why would you want to not receive mails? The biggest reason is money. When you are travelling abroad and you have to roam in a different network, you will be fleeced. That's even true if you are staying within the same company, like Vodafone-UK and Vodafone-DE, or T-Mobile-US, T-Mobile-UK and T-Mobile-DE. If you are in that other network, you want the GPRS off and GSM on. So you can make and receive calls as well as SMS, but not be charged for GPRS traffic. Spain is especially bad with their data tariffs.

The RIM people aren't stupid. Of course they could make the device switch off GPRS traffic. The customers also want it. It's the carriers who don't want that. They want you to spend money. So the carriers force RIM to not include that capability. And it is one of those downsides you hardly ever read in reviews.

What can you do? Juggle SIM cards. Just put your Blackberry SIM into a dumb phone and you are fine. Phone calls work, email doesn't. When you are back in your own network, put the SIM back into the Blackberry.

[Thanks, Frank for pointing me to this feature gap]


Can you switch off the delivery of mails in the Blackberry Internet Service ?

Thomas Radigewski, 2005-10-04

I guess my comment would be that if someone was such an e-mail junkie to get a BB, that he would not have an issue paying the GPRS roaming charges.

I have used my BB in the U.S. and in several European countries. My daily cost averaged only about 1.50 to 2 euro, which was consistent across all countries. It seems that Rim has their data compression down pat, as well as only sending you a few lines at a time. I admit that I didn't do heavy duty mail reading and writing during these travels, but it wouldn't be much different for anyone else.

Mitch Wolfson, 2005-10-04

Thomas, I have not checked this yet, but I could easily stop my server from sending mail there. However, I would want to check on email as long as I have not left the country and then switch it back on when convenient. So I believe juggling SIM cards is a lot easier.

Mitch, that is certainly true for you. The typical charge for BB service is currently 15 Euro. 2 Euro a day would quickly outrun that charge. One could argue that travelling is way more expensive then this email service, of course.

However, it remains a fact that customer demand this capability, and that RIM is unable to deliver because of the carriers demanding to have this capability not included.

Volker Weber, 2005-10-04

Just one of the reasons I loath Blackberry. Even though it gets all the press, it's really a horribly limited solution. At least with BES 4 your 'mobile' solution isn't limited by having to cradle the device to change any of your settings!

I would suggest Commontime mSuite for your Treo, but that only works with a Domino back-end. It works brilliantly for us, my monthly traffic is around 5-10Mb of GPRS - much less than the ¢20/month you pay for a BB here in the UK. Plus it's easy to turn off the push email if you want!

Warren Elsmore, 2005-10-04


Of course you can switch off forwarding, but it's cumbersome and it won't help: the BB will connect to the server to see if there's something new, and this will cost you a lot.

Example: T-Mobile will charge you half a Euro daily if you use any GPRS at all while roaming. In addition, you have premium roaming charges in huge blocks, which means that even if you only used 2 kb, they will charge you for a full 50 kb block every hour.

The business tarrif seems to exempt the Blackberry APN from that practise, but there's no statement to be found for the private tarrifs.

If anybody can shed a light on how T-Mobile might handle charging for BB on private tarrifs, I'd be happy to hear from them.

Frank Koehntopp, 2005-10-04

@Frank: That means the BB push is actually a push & pull ?

Thomas Radigewski, 2005-10-04

No, it isn't. But the device has to maintain presence information at the Blackberry NOC.

Volker Weber, 2005-10-04

Did you consider T-Mobile Blackberry International Option? Even if you don't like T-Mobile...

Hermann Wiesner, 2005-10-04

Huh? If you want to stop email reception surely you can just change in mail-options-email settings the setting "Send email to handheld" to "No". You do need handheld software v4.0 for this though.

Another more drastic method is to edit or delete the service book.

Andy Mell, 2005-10-04

Andy, as Frank suggested you won't be receiving emails. But the BB handheld will still connect to the NOC over GRPS. Which in itself may inflict a traffic charge.

Volker Weber, 2005-10-04

Isn't there any hack to enable this 'hidden feature'? Mostly every manufacturer of low-end DVD players creates a way to switch off the regional code. RIM should accidentially build in this function ;-)

Arnd Layer, 2005-10-04

Content providers have no way of punishing DVD player makers. But carriers do ... Does anybody care to know why Palm is doing a Windows Treo?

Volker Weber, 2005-10-04

Arnd: I don't know of one, but that would indeed be a smart move by RIM. IMHO, the Blackberry device itself has much more virtues than just push email.

Given that the firmware is flashable, maybe someone should start an open firmware project... ;)

Frank Koehntopp, 2005-10-05

The latest firmware release from Telstra Australia for the 8700 allows to turn off the BlackBerry data connection. You will find the option to turn off BlackBerry data connection under Options->Network->Data Services. You can set the value for Data Services to On, Off or Off when roaming. To be able to install the software release on BlackBerry 8700 that is not from Telstra, you will need to delete the file vendor.xml from your Windows pc. The file is usually located in C:\Program Files\Common Files\Research In Motion\AppLoader. General upgrade instructions for the firmware can be found here.

If you have a BlackBerry 7290 or 7100, than you can download the latest firmware from T-Mobile USA. This release includes the same function for turning of data service.

The release from Telstra only contains an english language pack, for the release from T-Mobile USA I am not sure.

Abdelkader Boui, 2006-05-30

Is that firmware branded in any way? Can you flash back easily? Does it contain german language? (My 8700 is arriving on monday...)

Frank Koehntopp, 2006-08-05

No, the firmware is not branded in anyway. Branding on BlackBerry devices is not done with the user-installable firmware - if you exclude the option with the carrier specific themes - the branding is hardcoded in the device. So if you have a T-Mobile BB and install the firmware from Vodafone it will stay T-Mobile branded. You can only change the look and feel of the BB by using one of the various themes - some of them are specific to certain carriers, but can be exchanged between the same BB model, e.g. 8700g could use the Vodafone-theme from an 8700v.

Abdelkader Boui, 2006-10-12

If you are updating the os and the phone has been unlocked, how does that effect using the phone? I use cingular with an unlocked phone.

Greg Johnston, 2006-11-29

Thanks for the info. You can actually do this on all BB's now, OPTIONS \ MOBILE NETWORK, then switch Data off. Phone functions as normal.

Rob Richardson, 2008-01-09

I'm new with the BB. I've got a BB Curve. I want to switch off my email (BIS), because I'm going on my honeymoon but want to take my BB with me and use it as only a phone.
I can't find OPTIONS/MOBILE NETWORK and therefor I can't switch Data off.
Can you help me?

Melany Mol, 2008-04-22

The 8830 World has the additional option of "Turn off while roaming", for data. So I can receive email while in my local zone and not while international.

Peter Robbinson, 2009-02-19

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