An internet connection is essential, especially in the current world where most businesses and interactions are held online. Various countries have mobile service providers that ensure citizens can easily access the internet. They also ensure people can talk and text as long as they are within the network coverage of said providers. But what happens when you move to another country and do not change providers?
Keep reading as we look into roaming and data roaming. We will discuss whether it is necessary to keep roaming on when you are connected to Wi-Fi.
What Is Roaming?
Cell service providers can only provide network coverage within specific locations since all countries/regions have their native providers. Therefore, whenever you are out of your provider’s coverage area, you will be unable to make calls, send text messages, or use the internet.
To ensure you stay connected, local service providers get into partnerships with foreign providers so that you have extended network coverage. The partnership allows you to roam from one network to the other.
Roaming is the ability of your phone to hop onto another provider’s network whenever you are in a new geographical area where your current provider does not provide coverage.
Roaming allows you to use your phone and sim card even though you are out of your primary provider’s coverage range. Thus, when roaming, you can still call, send text messages and browse the internet, but you will use a third-party service provider.
Since you will be using another provider’s network infrastructure while roaming, you may incur additional charges to remain connected.
Cell service providers usually allow their clients to opt in or out of roaming services.
Also, roaming is when devices in a wireless LAN network connect to an access point with the most connection. This is called Wi-Fi roaming.
Wi-Fi roaming ensures your devices are always connected to an access point that can provide the best connection in a setting with multiple access points.
Wi-Fi roaming is best observed in mesh networks or when using Wi-Fi extenders, and your devices connect to the nearest available access point with the most stable connection.
Wi-Fi Roaming Explained
Wi-Fi roaming efficiency is enhanced by ensuring the client devices reconnect to an alternative access point without re-authenticating themselves each time they link to a new AP.
The client device controls Wi-Fi roaming, but the access points need to be compatible with Wi-Fi roaming for the feature to work on your devices (client)
There are two categories of Wi-Fi roaming, namely;
- Internal roaming entails client devices hopping from one AP to the other while both APs are on the same WLAN network.
- External roaming involves the client devices shifting from an AP on your WLAN network to an AP on an external network, e.g., your neighbor’s AP.
Wi-Fi roaming is enhanced thanks to the following 802.11 IEEE amendments:
It is also known as Fast BSS Transition or Fast roaming. The standard ensures client devices do not need to authenticate themselves to the RADIUS server each time the client shifts from one AP to the other.
The first AP the client device is connected to will be the one ‘vouching’ for the client to all other Access Points in the network.
The 802.11v standard can help client devices preserve battery life while roaming using Network Assisted Power Saving. The standard also shares information about the Wi-Fi network with clients so that APs with a stronger connection can interact with the client, i.e., Network Assisted Roaming
The 802.11k standard provides the client with information about the status of surrounding APs and their channels, thus helping client devices understand their surroundings. That way, the client can quickly determine which AP to shift to when the current one is out of range.
Ways to Improve Wi-Fi Roaming on Your Home Wi-Fi Network
What Is Data Roaming?
Now that we are familiar with roaming, we can look into what data roaming is. By understanding data roaming, it can be easier to determine whether it should be on or off when your devices are connected to Wi-Fi.
Data roaming is when your primary network accesses the internet using a foreign network’s infrastructure. Essentially data roaming is roaming, but it refers to using the internet while roaming.
Data roaming occurs when you are out of the coverage area of your service provider, so your phone connects to an available service provider, ensuring you stay connected.
Both providers need to have an agreement that facilitates roaming ensuring subscribers stay connected when a subscriber is out of range of their carrier. If the carriers have no agreement to provide roaming services to each other’s clients, then roaming services will be unavailable.
What Is Domestic Data Roaming?
As we have already established, your carrier cannot provide cell service across the globe or country, i.e., your carrier’s coverage is always limited.
It would be safe to assume that at least carriers have the facilities to provide coverage across the country, but that is not always the case. Sometimes carriers can rely on the network infrastructure of fellow carriers in the country to ensure subscribers stay connected, called domestic data roaming.
Domestic/National data roaming is a service where your local carrier supplements their coverage by relying on other local carriers. That way, your local carrier can ensure you still access the internet using another carrier’s network. Often national data roaming does not incur additional charges, and you are charged at your normal rate.
Domestic Data Roaming Explained
What Is International Data Roaming?
International data roaming happens when you are in a foreign country where your current cell service provider’s network does not reach. Through data roaming, you can use the internet because your provider and the foreign provider agree to provide services to each other’s clients.
That way, you stay connected without having to purchase a new sim card, and people can still reach you on your usual number.
International data roaming rates are high, and most people are surprised when they see the phone bill. However, that is gradually changing as some providers offer the same rates you would use locally, thus reducing the strain you would traditionally face.
The European Union also has roaming regulations that protect subscribers in member states from the exorbitant roaming rates provider are used to imposing on subscribers.
What Is the Difference Between Data and Data Roaming?
Mobile data, or cellular data as it is often referred to, is how your phone can access the internet wirelessly using a cellular connection.
Mobile data is delivered to your phone thanks to data plans offered by your service provider, and all you have to do is subscribe to a plan that best suits you. The plans are measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB).
- Can’t Connect to Wi-Fi Terms and Conditions Page? (Troubleshooting Tips)
- How Do I Know If I Am Connected to Wi-Fi? (Checking Wi-Fi Connection Status)
- My Phone Can’t Connect to Wi-Fi that Requires Sign In (Troubleshooting Guide)
You would need an active mobile data subscription to access the internet using your cellular connection when your device is roaming.
What Is the Distinction Between Mobile Data and Wi-Fi?
Although both mobile data and Wi-Fi perform the same function of connecting people to the internet, the two have slight differences.
The main difference is how the internet connection is routed from the provider to your device. When using Wi-Fi, the internet connection gets to your home via a fiber optic, coax cable, or a DSL line.
The cable feeds the connection to the router/AP, and these devices broadcast the connection wirelessly for nearby devices to join.
In contrast, mobile data allows internet access using 3G, 4G, or 5G connections from your mobile carrier’s cellular towers. Also, a Wi-Fi broadcast has a smaller radius (a few meters) than a cellular network, which can service a whole country.
Wi-Fi Vs. Cellular
Should Data Roaming Be ON or OFF?
Data roaming should always be off to ensure you do not accidentally exceed your data spending budget.
There are special circumstances that can force you to leave data roaming activated. For instance, if you are roaming and there is no reliable Wi-Fi network around, and you wish to access the internet.
If you have a roaming data subscription that is about to expire, then it is only sensible to utilize it as soon as possible.
Additionally, there is no need to have data roaming active if you are always within your provider’s coverage zone.
How to Enable/Disable Roaming on an iPhone
Should Data Roaming Be ON When Connected to Wi-Fi?
It depends on what your intentions and priorities are. If you want to ensure an uninterrupted internet connection, leave both data roaming and Wi-Fi enabled.
However, depending on how your mobile service provider handles roaming charges, this might cost you significantly. Therefore, be attentive to any data usage notifications from your provider so that you can monitor how much you spend.
In summary, there is no need to have data roaming on if you have a reliable and secure Wi-Fi signal.
How to Enable/Disable Data Roaming on an Android Phone (Samsung Phones)
How to Avoid Data Roaming Charges
Since roaming charges are the biggest reason why people are not fond of roaming, there are measures you can take to ensure you stay within your limits when roaming. They include:
- Use Wi-Fi instead of data roaming when it is possible
- You can purchase a local carrier’s sim card to use the local rates, which most likely are not as high as roaming rates.
- Purchase a roaming package from your provider. Most providers have roaming packages that provide cheaper rates when you are abroad.
- Avoid streaming videos while roaming and stick to services that consume very little data, such as browsing and sending emails without attachments.
- You can also deactivate data roaming and only activate it when necessary. Navigate Settings > General > Cellular > Data Roaming and shift the toggle switch off to disable roaming on iPhone. For Android, navigate Settings > Wireless & Networks > Mobile networks.
Data roaming is a convenient way of ensuring internet access wherever you are. Consider it an extra step by your provider to ensure their clients are always content with the services offered. However, always be keen when roaming across networks so that you do not incur huge bills that will be hard to offset. One way of ensuring you do not get the overpriced roaming bill is to rely on available Wi-Fi networks as they are cheaper, and you can browse without worrying about data caps.
On the other hand, Wi-Fi roaming should always be enabled to guarantee seamless connectivity throughout your home or place of work.
Hey, I’m Jeremy Clifford. I hold a bachelor’s degree in information systems, and I’m a certified network specialist. I worked for several internet providers in LA, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Seattle over the past 21 years.
I worked as a customer service operator, field technician, network engineer, and network specialist. During my career in networking, I’ve come across numerous modems, gateways, routers, and other networking hardware. I’ve installed network equipment, fixed it, designed and administrated networks, etc.
Networking is my passion, and I’m eager to share everything I know with you. On this website, you can read my modem and router reviews, as well as various how-to guides designed to help you solve your network problems. I want to liberate you from the fear that most users feel when they have to deal with modem and router settings.
My favorite free-time activities are gaming, movie-watching, and cooking. I also enjoy fishing, although I’m not good at it. What I’m good at is annoying David when we are fishing together. Apparently, you’re not supposed to talk or laugh while fishing – it scares the fishes.
- What Is Roaming?
- Wi-Fi Roaming
- What Is Data Roaming?
- What Is Domestic Data Roaming?
- What Is International Data Roaming?
- What Is the Difference Between Data and Data Roaming?
- What Is the Distinction Between Mobile Data and Wi-Fi?
- Should Data Roaming Be ON or OFF?
- Should Data Roaming Be ON When Connected to Wi-Fi?
- How to Avoid Data Roaming Charges