android data roaming issue with mobile virtual network operators (htc desire, droid and others)

(this is the english translation of my earlier post android datenroaming problem mit bob, telering, …)

data roaming settings in android (htc desire) if you’ve tried to use your brand new android smartphone (e.g. the htc desire, motorola droid, …) with a SIM card of one of the really cheap mobile providers, you may have noticed that no data connection is established even if you’ve entered the correct credentials.
instead, (if anything) there is a notification popup that says:

You have lost data connectivity because you left your home network with data roaming turned off.

in the US, this problem occurs with a total of 48 individual mobile network providers.
in the UK, there’s a total of 19 MVNO, including virgin mobile, asda mobile and tesco mobile.

[ad#right] the reason for this is based on the usage of infrastructure: discount providers usually don’t set up their own radio cells (antenna towers), but instead rent the hardware of bigger providers.
it’s similar to network roaming in foreign countries, but usually doesn’t come with extra costs for the client.
the correct term for such providers is mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

in order to get data connectivity on your android phone, all you have to do is activate data roaming. when you place the little check mark next to “data roaming”, a popup notification will warn you against potentially high extra costs. this only applies to international data roaming, so as long as you have a data plan with your own provider, you can ignore this.
however, as soon as you’re getting close to the border, or when going abroad, you run the risk of actual international data roaming, and this is still ridiculously expensive.

real roaming alert for android there’s a very handy app for that scenario: real roaming alert by xendroid usually just runs quietly in the background and doesn’t use any notable resources – except when your phone logs into a foreign country’s network. in that case, depending on your settings, RRA can either warn you (with sound, vibration and/or status LED) or activate flight mode, thus preventing any unwanted data transfer before you can disable data roaming. real roaming alert for android, preferences (automatic deactivation/activation of data roaming is currently not possible because of safety restrictions in android – it is after all a potentially pricey check mark in your settings.)

important note: ideally, the app should always run in the background, so you’ll need an exception rule in the task manager or task killer of your choice.
i’ve successfully tested the app on multiple occasions – it does what it promises to do.

by the way, there has been word from google that a native solution is in the works:

I want you all to know that you have been heard. I can’t promise when a change will be made or when it would be available but I am looking into it.

5 thoughts on “android data roaming issue with mobile virtual network operators (htc desire, droid and others)

  1. Hi,

    I bought an HTC Desire in Qatar, and inserted my Australian simcard in the phone – I do not wish to roam (data OR network) however, I am unable to switch my network roaming off (my data roaming is off, but how do I switch my network roaming off?).

  2. i think the only way to avoid network roaming is to activate airplane mode.
    you can still enable wifi while in airplaine mode, if you like.

  3. Thank you. I was not aware that you can have wifi whilst on airplane mode. All good now! Much appreciated.

  4. I got a htc desire and put my old contract.sim into this phone, it wont let me on the internet without being on wifi, i have turned data roaming off and back on several times but it still doesnt seem to work!

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