Europe finally agrees to abolish roaming charges – but not until 2017


Europe is an odd place to live. In some respects, it acts like one big country (you can drive across it without ever seeing a border or showing a passport), while in other ways it is very definitely individual countries – like paying roaming charges outside your own country for calls, text messages and data.

We’ve been promised an end to roaming charges for what feels like forever, and the good news is that after years of discussion and debate, the European Union finally agreed to a date. The bad news is that the date isn’t until June 15th 2017.

It means that from 15 June 2017 you can use your mobile device when travelling in the EU paying the same prices as at home (domestic prices). For instance, if you pay for a monthly volume 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. This means the end of roaming charges as Europeans experience them today in their daily life.

The EU has gradually imposed caps on roaming charges, and the current ones of €0.19/minute for calls and €0.06 per text message aren’t too bad, but €0.20/MB for data is the killer, making it easy to rack up a hefty bill with perfectly normal use of a smartphone in other European countries.

The EU has also agreed to net neutrality rules, though watered down with exceptions for ‘innovative’ services that require higher than usual bandwidth – like Netflix. The EU says that these services can be prioritized so long as this doesn’t harm other services, but as everyone would otherwise get the fastest speed for everything, this provision doesn’t appear to have any real meaning.

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  1. PhilBoogie - 8 years ago

    As far as I’m concerned it’s already gone. I used to pay € 0,55 for receiving a SMS. Or a VM. Prices certainly have dropped, and now so for Internet as well. What used to be extortion, Nelie Smit Kroes did a heck of a job in order to get us where we are today: I pay € 5,= for 100MB when abroad. Auto renew when reaching the limit. Easy peasy. It’s dead cheap now.

    “So June 15th 2017 can come late enough” as I really don’t care anymore. Plus without these virtual borders Europe remains a strange place lol.

    • Neil Quinn (@neilq5) - 8 years ago

      €5 for 100MB of data isn’t really a fantastic deal. I agree with you that it’s miles better than it used to be. 50c per MB I was charged at one point when abroad. But I’ll more than welcome being able to bring my GB data allowance abroad and use when I need it

      • It’s € 7 / 100 MB for me. I remember it being € 1 / 1 MB. It should be € 5 / 500 MB at least. However I’m happy with the change that’s coming. I always said I should be able to use messaging, calls and mobile internet as if I was in my home country when anywhere else in EU.

  2. - 8 years ago

    Does this apply to US wireless subscribers travelling in Europe?

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Sadly not; it’s an agreement between EU member countries.

    • alanaudio - 8 years ago

      If you’re an American visiting Europe or anywhere else in the world, the chances are that your best bet is to buy a local SIM card when you reach your destination. It’s especially true if you’re using a cellular iPad as there is no phone number associated with an iPad – all you need is data, which is what that SIM provides. Changing the SIM on an iPhone is a bit more fiddly because you acquire a new local number, so you can’t receive incoming calls, however it’s easy enough to switch SIMs to check your voice mail and make calls that need to be made with your normal number.

      It can be a bit tricky in some countries. Nano SIM cards from some service providers are sometimes only available by mail order, but staff in specialist telecom service shops will usually punch a standard card down to size for you. Other countries ( such as Germany ) make it very difficult to buy a SIM unless you have a local address to register it to.

      Having said that, it’s well worth the trouble as European cellular charges seem to be lower than American charges and of course you’re not paying any roaming charges at all.

      Before setting out, do your research and work out which service provider in your destination country is offering the best deal, best coverage, contract duration and suitable SIM card for your requirements. If you wait until you’re there you will burn through a lot of data and pay roaming charges while you do that research.

  3. monty72 - 8 years ago

    Three allow you to use your UK calls/text/data allowance in a lot Europe already, they have done for since 2013. Think I can also use it in USA, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Israel.

    • Povilas Griškevičius - 8 years ago

      When I’m traveling to Sweden I’m always greeted with a message saying that my plan rates apply. Which is great. 3 DK.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        Yes, my iPad plan is with 3, and it was great to be able to use my UK data recently in the USA.

    • Neil Quinn (@neilq5) - 8 years ago

      I got moved too 3 Ireland when they merged with O2 Ireland. I wonder if that applies for me as well

      • shanec07 - 8 years ago

        it dosnt only 3uk have those benefits

  4. Neil Quinn (@neilq5) - 8 years ago

    Lets hope you can still enjoy the benefits Ben depending on the possible referendum. I have my UK SIM Card but I use my Irish one regularly too so I’ll be safe either way

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      Indeed. I’m pretty sure the vote will go the right way …

      • monty72 - 8 years ago

        I think/hope you meant left way …

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        Well, that’s one of the reasons I’m optimistic: there’s no left/right split on this, all three major parties favour remaining in.

      • monty72 - 8 years ago

        Are you kidding, 4 million people voted UKIP

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        I don’t count UKIP as a major party …

  5. cafesitter (@cafesitter) - 8 years ago

    I racked up €500+ bill in London stranded under Icelanding volcano ashes on my way to the US searching for flights desperately I think it was £3/MB back then and it was only 5 years ago back in 2010. Still pay €10/100MB today and I easily spend it every day even with wifi in a hotel so for me 15 June 17 cant come soon enough. On the other hand I think it will be interesting to see what halpens in Telekom spectrum – what will stop 3UK market themselves in France for example…

  6. Ilko Sarafski - 8 years ago

    Best news for today! Only 2 more years guys! :) I am pretty sure that the new rules would apply for countries like Switzerland and eventually UK if they quit the EU. They are all part of the EU economic zone, which means that the rules should apply for them too. P.S. Such move is desperately needed in poor countries (like mine). Here the average salary is €300-400 in bigger cities while in smaller – €200-250. If you are Norwegian 5 euros are nothing. For us, that means your bread for the week. Such stuff, you know! :) But finally, the EU made a nice move! P.S.2. For me the only vote for UK is to say within the EU borders!


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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