A few months ago, I signed up for a new mobile phone contract. It was on a cash-back scheme, so even after adding a few quid for a monthly GPRS bundle, I would be saving considerably on my previous contract.

Yet just over half way through the annual commitment I find myself wanting to jump ship, even though I'd have to pay for the unused months - as the song says, "Praying for the end of time."

It's partly because the GPRS service is not that good - on any given day, the first attempt to connect always seems to fail, and on multiple occasions the whole service has died for more than 24 hours.

But it's mostly because it's so expensive. The normal rate is £1 per MB, or a stonking £8/MB if you're roaming.

Of course, I know there's far better priced flat-rate tariffs such as 3's X-series, but they came out after I got this account. So it wasn't until I got to Germany for CeBIT that I discovered how liberating cheap mobile data can be.

That's because when I'm in Germany I use a German SIM. At an event like CeBIT there's often PR and marketing people wanting to call me, and I don't really want to pay £1 a minute so they can do so on my UK mobile.

And my German operator - a VNO called Simyo, which uses the Eplus network - just slashed its GPRS tariff to 24 cents per MB. That's 16p, or about fifty times cheaper than my UK network is for German use.

OK, so Simyo was having teething problems with a new billing system, but once they were ironed out (and my money refunded!!) it was an amazingly liberating experience. Downloading email to my Palm over Bluetooth in a cottage in the woods cost mere pence.

More importantly for my travelling companion, it meant no more tedious waits on cold streets while I hunted for useable wireless hotspots. Being a member of the Fon network and getting legal access to Wi-Fi all over the place is great - but not if it's cold out, and the owner's placed the AP badly so you have to move around looking for a decent signal!

So now I am looking forward to dumping my UK contract as soon as I can port my number over without it costing me too much. Is it time you did the same? After all, the networks are our suppliers and - supposedly at least - the customer is always right...

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