EU roaming rules: A data plan here is a data plan everywhere

9 Feb 2017

Image: Alliance

At the start of February, the EU put together the final piece of the roaming jigsaw, but what will it mean for consumers?

On 15 June 2017, roaming fees in the EU will be no more. In what has taken years of negotiating and stage after stage of gradual phasing out, soon customers with a phone plan in Milan will be charged the same when in Munster.

The EU has recently agreed on what it calls the “last step” in this process, that being the fees providers charge each other to satisfy consumer demands.

Money talks

Voice charges will be 3.2 cent per minute, an SMS will cost one cent and data fees will gradually drop from €7.70 per GB down to €2.50 by 2022.

But what does this all mean to the customer? For example, if you have 200 minutes per month on your bill plan and you travel abroad, will they be honoured? Or will you instead be charged a flat fee across the EU?

We spoke to the leading mobile network providers in Ireland to find out exactly what these changes will be.

With Three, things are simple: “From June 2017, bill pay customers will be able to use their text, call and data allowance as per their plans when roaming in the EU.”

Good value

Vodafone noted the cheap prices that Irish customers pay for contracts in relation to the rest of the EU, before explaining that it must now “implement our roam-like-at-home offers to give the best value to our broad and diverse customer base”.

“Roaming offers are now taken up by more than half of all Vodafone customers in European markets, including in Ireland. Competition will continue to drive good value for customers,” said a spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Eir made its voice and SMS allowances eligible for EU-wide roaming last year, across both Eir Mobile and Meteor.

“Customers who use their roaming facility in the EEA zone can avail of exactly the same call and text costs as at home,” said a spokesperson.

Roam like home

“In addition to ‘roam like home’, should a customer go out of bundle for voice calls and SMS, they will have domestic charges as they would at home.”

The spokesperson noted that the company’s “very generous” data allowances qualify for the EU’s ‘fair use’ policy with regard to roaming.

“We are currently reviewing these plans with a view to ensuring that we can continue to offer great value domestically, whilst also ensuring that most customer data needs are covered while roaming.”

In short, it’s looking good for the consumer.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic