By Steve McCaskill
From April 30, mobile operators across the continent will only be able to charge an additional €0.05 (4p) per minute for calls, €0.02 (2p) per text and €0.05 (4p) per MB of data on top of domestic charges or allowances.
The move should save companies and business travellers money when using their mobile phones abroad, and strengthen the European Commission (EC)'s vision of a single digital market that will encourage economic growth and the development of cross border applications such as connected cars.
E.U. Roaming Charges
"We’\'re in the home stretch now before the end of roaming charges in 2017," said Andrus Ansip, vice president for the Digital Single Market. "This is not only about Europeans saving money, this is about bringing down barriers in the Digital Single Market."
The abolition of roaming within the European Union has been touted for some time, with caps on fees set incrementally lower each year. In October 2015, the European Parliament finally voted to outlaw roaming charges despite opposition from mobile operators whose income would be affected.
It is estimated that roaming revenues within the European Union could fall by 28 percent from 2017, but Juniper Research says income will recover in the medium term once people start to become more comfortable using their phone abroad.
A recent study by uSwitch found one quarter of Brits already think roaming has been abolished within the EU and 62 percent fear using their phone abroad because of bill shock concerns. A third don't use their phone at all. Many travellers turn off roaming when they arrive in a foreign country or use free WiFi and local SIMs, meaning operators earn no revenue at all.
Three has already abolished some charges in a number of countries as part of its 'Feel at Home' offer, while Carphone Warehouse's iD mobile victual network operator offers inclusive roaming in 29 countries, including the USA and Australia. Tesco has eliminated roaming costs in 31 countries, all in Europe, between now and September 3.
"Waiting until June 2017 for EU roaming to incur no additional cost is both frustrating and confusing for mobile users," said Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch. "But there is a silver lining–this should be the final price drop before roaming charges are abolished in the EU for good.
"These price drops are especially good news for any Brits planning a summer trip to the Continent–and football fans heading to France for the Euros, too –but until EU roaming charges are fully abolished consumers should still be aware of the pitfalls.
"Of course, the EC's caps don't protect anyone travelling outside the EU. This is where mobile networks need to focus their attentions next, as the fear of sky-high roaming bills further afield certainly isn't an irrational one. More than one in ten (11 percent ) customers who've been outside the EU in the past year have received a higher than normal bill–'averaging £103."