When in roam: Free EU roaming to be extended to 2032

10 Dec 2021

Image: © DanRentea/Stock.adobe.com

MEPs pushed for a 10-year extension to the EU’s ‘roam like at home’ scheme in an informal agreement.

A 2015 mandate to abolish mobile network roaming fees within the EU may soon be extended for another 10 years after MEPs reached an informal agreement yesterday (9 December).

Free roaming has existed in the EU since June 2017 after years of negotiating and phasing out of fees, but the scheme is due to expire in June 2022. If passed by the Parliament and Council, the new plan will extend free roaming to 2032.

The ‘roam like at home’ scheme will see users of retail mobile networks pay the same amount for calling and data services in all other EU member states as they do in their home country.

According to the plan, telecom networks will be obliged to offer the same network quality abroad as they do in a customer’s home country, provided the same conditions are available in the country visited. This means switching a user’s connection from 4G to 3G when roaming will be prohibited.

Access to emergency services for travellers in the EU will also come at no additional cost under proposed legislation, and operators will be obliged to provide customers with information about the EU emergency number 112.

“We were able to reach an agreement that is progressive and leads to even better quality and service for European citizens,” said Austrian MEP Angelika Winzig, who is the deal’s chief negotiator.

“We are creating a fairer roaming market, especially focusing on smaller operators by significantly cutting the wholesale caps.”

Wholesale roaming charges, the price telecom companies pay each other when their customers use other networks while roaming in the EU, will be capped at €2 per GB from 2022, according to the plan. This will be progressively brought down to €1 per GB in 2027.

The price of intra-EU calls, where someone in the EU calls another person living in a different country in the EU, will potentially be reduced. Currently capped at 19 cents per minute, the European Commission will be able to assess if further reduction is necessary.

Winzig said that the new regulation will significantly improve the roaming situation for consumers while also provide enough flexibility to react to new developments in the telecom sector.

“This way we make sure that the EU constantly has its finger on the pulse. Tonight’s agreement is one step closer to a true digital single market and I am happy that we could add a new chapter to this European success story.”

The informal agreement, subject to endorsement from the Parliament and Council, will have its text voted on by the industry, research and energy committee in a meeting soon.

There were questions about how UK citizens would be impacted by roaming charges after Brexit. In recent months, UK telecom operators Three, Vodafone and EE have all started reintroducing EU roaming charges for their customers.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic