Roam Like at Home
We have seen significant drops in how much we get charged for calls and texts when roaming in the EU over the last 10 years. The reason why we as consumers used to get massive bills when we got back from our business trip to Paris, or our family holibobs in Benidorm, was because the mobile networks for the country you visited weren't massively restricted on how much they charged your home mobile network for borrowing their airwaves. So your text to granny saying you'd landed safely, sent via the Spanish network, who may have charged your UK network £3 for that text, and then this was added to by your UK network (as all businesses need to make a bit of a profit), may well have ended up costing you £5. Shocking!
The EU top dogs decided that this wasn't terribly fair and so started work on introducing caps and restrictions on mobile networks on how much they can charge each other, and therefore reduce the final costs to us, the consumers. So slowly, over the last decade we have started to see lower charges when we get home, and now, as of the 15th June, there should be nothing scary on our bills when they arrive after our EU jaunts. All our calls and texts should come out of whatever our UK tariff includes.
So what will it cost?
From the 15th June 2017, under the new agreement, the wholesale charge (so what one mobile network can charge another) will be capped as follows
• calls will be 0.032 euros (3p) per minute, down from 0.05 euros (4p) per minute
• text messages will be 0.01 euros (1p) per message, down from 0.02 euros (2p) per message
• Data will be 7.7 euros (£6.70) per 1GB down from the current cap of 50 euros (£43) per 1GB
That last data cost reduction is a massively substantial difference! This is great news for us consumers, as our home networks can pass on the savings by letting us roam like at home...... however, there is a bit of a catch on the data side of things regarding those of us on "unlimited" or "very cheap" data tariffs at home, which I will come to in just a moment. The prices for data will drop again on 1 January every year until January 2022 when it will be just 2.5 euros (£2) per 1GB. All wholesale charges will be reviewed every two years by the EU regulators and new caps proposed if necessary, with the first report being due at the end of 2019.
You said something about data?
Ah yes, now, back to that data thing. In the UK, UK mobile networks can offer tariffs with "unlimited" or "very cheap" data bundles on their own network, because they own the network and it doesn't cost them anything to do this. It's a massively attractive offer these days to consumers, with all the amazing speedy phones we have that we can watch telly on, video call our family, surf the internet until we know everything there is to know, listen to our favourite tunes on various music sites (no product placement here!), internet shop on our phone, pay for things in real life shops with our phones, do everything on our phones using that "unlimited" and/or "very cheap" data that our UK provider has built into our tariff for us. BUT..... when we head back to Paris for a follow up business meeting, or go back to Benidorm to try and recreate that amazing holiday we had last time we went (which is often disappointing), with our amazing data bundle tariff, the UK network is charged £6.70 per GB for our data usage. And although that is substantially less than in the past, it can still add up to a fairly significant amount if we're using our handset like we do at home..... which is a lot!
Mobile providers pointed this out to the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and so there has been a safeguard (fair use) limit on data use while roaming created for mobile providers to apply to their customers' tariffs at their discretion. If your UK mobile bundle includes "unlimited" or "very cheap" data, your mobile provider must provide you with a large volume of roam like at home data depending on the price of your mobile bundle, and they should clearly inform you of this roam like at home data allowance. If you use over this allowance it appears that you will be charged, as a maximum, the wholesale price (7.7 euros (£6.70) per 1GB), so your provider is simply just passing along the cost of what they are charged.
Our Cellular Solutions business customers on O2 and Vodafone shouldn't see any EU roaming data charges as both these networks have stated that all EU data usage from the 15th June will be as per your UK tariff allowance, with no restrictions.
What if I don't have the awesome benefits of being one of your lucky business customers, but I'm reading your amazing article anyway?
If you are not currently a business customer with us (sorry about that, if you want to be then click here), or are reading this as a personal phone user you can see if you may be affected with a few checks.
If you're on an "unlimited" data tariff then check with your network provider if the 'fair use' policy applies to your deal.
If you're not sure if your "very cheap" deal is cheap enough to be affected then we can work that out now - BEREC define "very cheap" as costing less than the new wholesale rate for data. Divide your monthly line rental, excluding VAT, by your monthly data allowance (your minutes/text allowance is irrelevant). For example, a tariff that costs you £20 ex vat and gives 10GB of data would work out as £2 per 1GB, which is very much below the wholesale rate of £6.70 per 1GB. If your calculation works out as anything less than around £6.80 per 1GB you could be subject to the data roaming restrictions and should speak to your network provider.
Yep, I'm going to be restricted......
If you are subject to a restriction like this come the 15th, and you want to check the calculation, here is how: you should divide your monthly line rental, again ex VAT, by the data wholesale rate then multiply by two. So, using the same example, £20 divided by £6.70 multiplied by 2 works out at a limit of around 5.97GB of free roaming data, just over half the 10GB allowance you'd have at home.
I've got a place over in the EU that I live at half the year, is this an issue?
Lucky you! And yes, other limits to the new EU roaming rates revolve around how long you spend "roaming". The general rule is that as long as you spend more time at home than abroad, or you use your mobile phone more at home than abroad, you can roam at domestic prices when travelling anywhere in the EU. This is considered a "fair use" of roaming services. If you spend a majority of your time abroad and use your mobile phone more abroad than at home over four consecutive months, your network provider may start applying a small charge to your roaming consumption. The charges would be capped at the new EU wholesale prices for calls, texts and data though.
Where can I "Roam like at home"?
Roam like at home is applicable to all 28 countries of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.
In the countries of the European Economic Area: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway roam like at home will be introduced shortly after 15 June.
Where can I get more information from?
The European Commission website has a page of FAQs which includes details of the small print of the roaming changes which you can find here.
When you cross an EU border after 15 June 2017, you will continue to receive an SMS informing you that you are roaming. That SMS will remind you of any fair use policy on roaming applied by your network provider.