As I was reading this post about Pat Phelan who was complaining about the usurious roaming charges in Europe, I realized that for a lot of the complaining I do about how crappy the mobile carriers are here in the US with handsets, one area where we have it pretty damned good is roaming charges. While there are some exceptions, most current post-paid plans on the major carriers include both nationwide roaming and long distance as part of the standard bucket of minutes.
And while the nationwide carriers generally have their own networks built out in most locations, there are some areas where they rely on other carriers for coverage. Despite being in another carrier’s network, voice, data, and SMS are generally counted the same as if you were on your home network. Even “mobile to mobile” calls, which generally don’t count against your minute bucket, are treated that way. There are some exceptions, depending on your carrier, rate plan, etc, but most current post-paid plans operate in this way in most areas.
Pre-paid rate plans are a different story. Most of them don’t permit roaming onto other carrier’s networks at all, or if they do, they charge quite heftily for it. Again, it’s a carrier/rate plan specific thing.
Of course, we get raped on roaming in Europe just like Europeans do: around a dollar a minute. $0.50 for an outbound SMS, and something like $15/mb for data. If you’re on a CDMA network, you can forget roaming to Europe at all.