10 more years of free mobile roaming in the EU

25 Mar 2022

Image: © WineDonuts/Stock.adobe.com

While people across the EU will rejoice at the continuation of ‘roam like at home’, questions remain over the cost of intra-EU calls.

People across the EU will continue to enjoy free mobile roaming in all member states up to 2032.

The European Parliament officially renewed the ‘roam like at home’ scheme for another 10 years in a landslide vote on Thursday (24 March). It follows an agreement reached between the European Parliament and European Council in December.

Future Human

This scheme ensures users get their mobile services at the same price, quality and speed wherever they may be in the EU, at no additional cost.

“‘Roam like at home’ is an unprecedented European success story,” said lead MEP Angelika Winzig. “It shows how we all directly benefit from the EU single market.”

The regulation that first abolished mobile roaming surcharges in 2017 was due to expire this summer.

The extended roaming law will come into force once formally endorsed by the European Council.

What ‘roam like at home’ means

The legislation obliges telecoms operators to ensure quality is consistent when customers are in another EU country, provided the same network conditions are available in countries visited by their users. This includes rules that prohibit practices that would reduce the quality of roaming services, such as switching from a 4G to a 3G connection.

The price operators can charge others for using their network will be capped at €2 per gigabyte from 2022. This will be progressively reduced to reach a cap of €1 per gigabyte by 2027.

Should customers’ use extend beyond their contract limits while roaming, charges from their operator cannot exceed these wholesale roaming caps.

“Deliberately slowing down data speed will not be allowed any more,” said Winzig. “At the same time, by significantly cutting the wholesale caps, we create more fairness and competition on the telecommunications market.”

The rules also ensure that travellers in the EU can access emergency services by call or text for free, including the transmission of caller location data.

The question of the price of calls from one EU country to another, however, remains. MEPs have pushed for an end to surcharges on these intra-EU calls due to confusion among customers around the cost difference. Intra-EU calls are currently capped at 19c per minute and the European Commission has committed to assessing whether further reductions are necessary.

Meanwhile, since Brexit, UK telecom operators Three, Vodafone and EE have all started reintroducing EU roaming charges for their customers.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com