OREANDA-NEWS. Questions and answers on fair use policy and other preparatory measures

1. Roaming in the EU

How does roaming work in the EU?

When you travel to a foreign country and phone, text or browse with your mobile phone using your home country's SIM card, you are roaming. Your mobile phone company and the company in the country where you are travelling, work together to keep you connected, so you can make and receive mobile phone calls, write text messages, surf the web and download content.

Your operator in your home country pays the operator in the foreign country because you use their networks. The price paid is called the wholesale roaming price. Wholesale prices have an impact on consumers' final bills. This is why the Commission has worked to limit them in the EU, in parallel to its work to directly limit the prices paid by the consumer (the retail roaming prices).

Europeans have different travel habits across the EU, and there are also very different domestic prices, and different network costs in visited countries. This is why finding an agreement on the end of roaming charges in the EU for European travellers was not an easy task.

In the north and east of Europe, where domestic prices are low, operators do not want to pay the operators in countries where their customers travel more than they can recover with their domestic revenues. On the other hand, operators in countries that host a lot of tourists, like Spain, Greece and France, have an interest to be paid higher prices to be compensated for the important use of their networks. It is therefore important to strike the right balance when preparing the end of roaming charges (which will enter into effect as of 15 June 2017) (see below EU action against roaming charges).   

What are the different prices for roaming and for mobile services in general across the EU?

The Commission is working towards a Digital Single Market – and has recently put forward an ambitious overhaul of EU telecomsrules to help achieve this objective. However, for the time being, the reality is that telecoms markets are still very different across the EU. Consumer prices reflect different national consumption patterns, regulatory and market characteristics, including significant differences in underlying costs of running networks. For example, consumers in Latvia spend on average €3.7 a month and Irish consumers an average of €23.8 per month for using their mobile phones (based on the calculation of 'Average Retail Revenue per User' - the average revenue that a mobile operator receives from a consumer in one month for using his/her mobile phone - voice, SMS, data).

2. EU action against roaming charges

Since 2007, the European Commission has successfully worked to reduce the consumer price of roaming, which has fallen by 92%. This has changed the habits of many Europeans who previously used to switch their mobile phones off while travelling.  In 2013, the European Commission proposed legislation to end roaming charges for people periodically travelling in the EU. In October 2015, after long negotiations, the European Parliament and the Council agreed that this should be in place as of 15 June 2017.

As of 15 June 2017, you will be able to 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 package 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 most Europeans experience them in their daily life.