Hold the phone!

Compiled Story and photo Story and photos by Maj. Jim Trachier
435th Communications Squadron

The hidden cost of phone calls in Germany

No one person is responsible for the staggering $80,000 phone bill for Ramstein each month, but hold the phone; many are contributing to it.

At stateside bases, communications squadrons purchase service from a telecommunications company to handle non-DSN off-base calls. Since local non-toll calls are covered under a flat fee, they incur no additional cost to the government. Likewise, in the states, calls to local cell phones do not cost the caller.

However, European telecommunications companies operate under rules different from their American counterparts.

“Each principality has its own toll, called a tariff, for phone calls made from on base,” said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Senick, 435th Communications Squadron telecommunications branch superintendent. “As a result, every call made using the 99 prefix costs the Air Force money.”

European cell phone rules are different as well. In America, the cell phone owner bears the cost of calls made to or from a cell phone. In Europe, the calling party foots the bill − and calls to cell phones are much more costly than those made to land lines.

According to Chris Salter, 435th CS Plans and Programs Flight commander, cellular charges range from €0.13 per minute for T-Mobile to €0.19 per minute for Vodafone, E-Plus and O2.

“Calls to cell phones routinely account for 60 to 65 percent of Ramstein’s monthly phone bill,” said Mr. Salter. “And with the dollar hovering near an all-time low against the Euro, the monthly cost to the government is an average of $80,000.”
Also, it is 50 percent cheaper to call a government cell phone from another government cell phone than from a land-line phone.

Lt. Col. Amy Dayton, 435th CS commander, acknowledges the necessity of checking in with family members during duty hours.

“We understand that many times, off-base calls simply can’t be avoided,” she said.
However, Colonel Dayton reminds Ramstein phone users to keep calls as short as possible. “Excellence in all we do” includes protecting taxpayer dollars through resource excellence.

Callers should use the chart above to help determine the cheapest way to make a call. When dialing 99, time is money − and every second counts.