Footie fans could be hit by £5,000 mobile penalty


Soccer - World Cup 2014 - Friendly - England v Peru - Wembley Stadium

Mobile data bills could soar close to £500 a day for some football fans heading for Brazil if they're not careful. Fans flying for the 10-day group stage could have to shoulder roaming bills of almost £5,000 - that's more than eight times the cost of the best tickets to the final, according to new research from uSwitch.

How should you insulate yourself from unexpected bill kicks?

First, cap it

Make sure that you haven't opted out of any automatic billing cap. Most networks, with the exception of Giffgaff, have automatic caps of around £40 on international data usage.

But uSwitch warns they're easy to opt out of – they usually involves replying to a text message. "EE customers are best protected from bill shock as they will find data does not work at all overseas unless they buy an add-on," says uSwitch.

Self control

"Data caps that most networks will automatically opt customers into are very easy to opt out of by text," uSwitch telecoms expert Ernest Doku emphasises the point, "and it can be tempting to do so, particularly if footie fans get carried away by World Cup fever and want to send a picture message via Whatsapp or Skype friends and family from the stadium."

So the bottom line is not to opt out. Every megabyte costs an average of £5 - which could result in a massive post-Brazil trip bill, even from modest use of video streaming, emailing, browsing websites and using Skype.

England fans should keep data roaming switched off and make the most of free Wi-Fi in hotels and cafes, uSwitch advises.

Go local

"The other option is to buy a local SIM card, put it in your phone and top it up once you get to Brazil," Doku says. You could also give your network a call before you leave as they may be able to advise a bundle that'll keep a lid on costs.

Bear in mind that Brazil is a place with weak, chaotic telecoms infrastructure and rampant web crime (the local cyber-criminal community is extremely sophisticated). Delays to stadium construction has also meant delays for implanting telecoms infrastructure.

Brazilian telecoms companies are still dealing with the aftermath of poor infrastructure, few customers and a lack of investment when the industry was privatised in the 1990s. The bandwidth demands on the World Cup are therefore extreme.