The European Parliament sealed the new rules on ending roaming charges in June 2017 and the first EU-wide net neutrality rules.
The roaming charges will cease to exist in the EU as of 15 June 2017. Consumers will pay the same price for calls, texts and mobile data wherever they are travelling in the EU. Calling a friend when you are at home or in another EU country won’t make a difference on your bill.
Already from April 2016, roaming will become even cheaper: operators will only be able to charge a small additional amount to domestic prices up to €0.05 per minute of call made, €0.02 per SMS sent, and €0.05 per MB of data (excl. VAT).
How does roaming work in the EU?
When you travel to a foreign country and phone, text or surf online with your mobile phone or device using your home country’s SIM card, you are roaming. Your operator in your home country pays the operator in the foreign country for the use of their networks. The price paid between operators is called the wholesale roaming price. It represents a cost to the home country operator and therefore impact on consumers’ final bills. This is why the Commission has worked to limit wholesale roaming prices in the EU, in parallel to its work to directly limit the retail prices paid by the consumer.
While many counties have 3 or 4 Mobile Network Operators with different names many are somehow part of a larger holding or some sort of group. Roaming has been a huge money tree for these companies while it was clear for everyone that the extra costs are almost nothing.
With only the Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom we got 80% of the world covered. In Europe there are two other smaller but multi county operators.
What are the different domestic prices for mobile services across the EU?
Europeans have different travel habits across the EU, and there are also different network costs in visited countries. A recent European Commission study (2016) also shows that consumer retail offers vary between Member States. For example, in 2016 the cheapest monthly deals offering 1GB of data, 600 minutes of calls and 225 SMS ranged from €60 in Hungary to €8 in Estonia (excl. VAT and any smartphone subsidy).
EU action against roaming charges
Since 2007, the European Commission has successfully worked to reduce the consumer price of roaming. This has changed the habits of many Europeans who previously used to switch their mobile phones off while travelling. In 2013, the European Commission proposed legislation to end roaming charges for people periodically travelling in the EU. In October 2015, the European Parliament and the Council agreed that this should be in place as of 15 June 2017
As of 15 June 2017, you will be able to use your mobile device when travelling in the EU, paying the same prices as at home, i.e. to roam like at home, subject to operators’ fair use policies. For instance, if you pay for a monthly package of minutes, SMS and data in your country, any voice call, SMS and data session you make while travelling abroad in the EU will be deducted from that volume as if you were at home, with no extra charges.
What have been the different decreases in roaming prices?
- Since 2007, the EU has achieved retail price reductions across calls of 92%
- Since 2009, the EU has achieved retail price reductions across SMS of 92%
- Data roaming is now up to 96% cheaper compared to 2012 when the first EU retail price cap became applicable on data roaming.
- Between 2008 and 2015, the volume of data roaming has been multiplied by more than 100.
Regulated Roaming tariffs 2007 – 2016
|(€ excl. VAT)|
|Voicecall made||Voicecall received||SMS||Data||Data|
|2016||domestic price + up to 0,05||0,0114||domestic price + up to 0,02||0,05||domestic price + up to 0,05|
The rules enshrine the principle of net neutrality into EU law: no blocking or throttling of online content, applications and services. It means that there will be truly common EU-wide internet rules, contributing to a single market and reversing current fragmentation.
Every European must be able to have access to the open internet and all content and service providers must be able to provide their services via a high-quality open internet. From the entry into force of the rules, blocking and throttling the internet will be illegal in the EU and users will be free to use their favourite apps no matter the offer they subscribe. Many mobile providers are blocking Skype, Facetime or similar apps or sometime they ask extra money for allowing these services: this will be illegal.
All traffic will be treated equally. This means, for example, that there can be no paid prioritisation of traffic in the internet access service. At the same time, equal treatment allows reasonable day-to-day traffic management according to justified technical requirements, and which must be independent of the origin or destination of the traffic and of any commercial considerations. Common rules on net neutrality mean that internet access providers cannot pick winners or losers on the internet, or decide which content and services are available.