Vodafone has finally brought 3G mobile technology in line with the flat-fee price model that has made normal mobile phones and broadband Internet such a success.
Europe's largest mobile operator is now offering a flat-rate roaming fee for using data services on its international networks.
The new Monthly Travel Tariff, targeted at business travellers, costs 75 euros per month. For that, you can send and receive up to 100MB of data while roaming on participating Vodafone 3G networks in Europe, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. Users exceeding the 100MB limit are charged at a standard roaming fee.
The new tariff follows a May launch of Vodafone Passport, a tariff that cuts the price of voice calls made while roaming.
In addition to drumming up business, both schemes respond to demands from the European Union to reduce roaming fees, which the Brussels authority has declared excessive.
Gartner welcomed the new 3G roaming fee, which it believes will substantially reduce costs for users. Currently, business travellers can incur data charges of up to 15 euros per MB, depending on where they are.
The new plan, Gartner wrote in the report, shows how operators "are starting to realise that high charges, coupled with unpredictable bills, are limiting the use of data services". The flat-rate approach, the consultancy added, will allow companies to predict data charges for their traveling employees.
Partly because of cost unpredictability, Vodafone has sold only 300,000 3G data cards since launching the service at the start of last year, according to Gartner.
Vodafone customers who regularly send or receive more than 10MB of data per month while roaming should select the Monthly Travel Tariff, Gartner said.
Gartner also recommended users on other networks to investigate Vodafone's new 3G roaming fee for data services to see if their service provider can match it.