So, who knows about mobile roaming then?

This intra EU thing. Is it really, wholly and totally, same price anywhere?

Should I thus drop my Czech phone package and use only the Portuguese one? Or is there a catch somewhere?

26 thoughts on “So, who knows about mobile roaming then?”

  1. Calling between the package country and other countries (such as the one you are physically in) isn’t same-price, only that you’ll pay the same as you would if you were physically in the package vendor’s country. So phoning the house next door might cost a lot more (or possibly less) depending on vendor and country.

  2. From what I’ve heard, Tim, a lot will be dependent on your staying within whatever package you’ve got with your SP. For instance, if you’ve a 2Gb data allowance or a 1000 minutes calls,and you consumption exceeds that, you might not go onto the in-country rates but roaming rates. Which are far higher.

  3. Apologies for derailing a practical thread with a theoretical question, but isn’t the ultimate upshot of what Bob Grahame and BIS are saying, that at some point a “single telecoms market” is going to need same rates from any EU country to any other EU country, perhaps down the line even for the EU to get involved with the spectrum sales etc? Is this something anyone has been planning/proposing or is it too far-fetched for now?

    Without it I can’t see how someone in Timmy’s situation is ever going to be able to do without two phones.

  4. (Far as I can see, the current situation only changes which phone Timmy should be using – i.e. base it on picking the phone that matches who you are calling to, rather than which country you are calling from. But this is from my very imperfect understanding of the situation.)

  5. There are rules stopping this, something along the line that in any 60 days you must use the phone more in its home market than abroad.

  6. EU has been trying to get control of spectrum for years now – just google ‘EU spectrum sales’. Obviously national governments don’t want to give up the cash…

  7. Tangentially, does anyone know if this affects incoming call rates? We have customers, over from the UK, who’ll be more likely to stick with their UK mobiles than get a local SIM. The majority of their calls being back home. We could use a UK mobile number, to reduce their call costs. But does that still stuff us with the roaming out-of-country received call charges?

  8. Beware that you can still get whacked on outgoing foreign calls. For example if I’m in the UK on Vodafone, and I want to call a landline in Portugal, they’ll charge me £1.50 a minute. The EU regulations don’t change that.

    You could get yourself a UK Skype number, routed to the Skype app on your mobile or PC, for £4.30/month.

  9. There are German operators that have for a long time charged the same rate for calls from any EU to any EU country as they do from Germany to any EU country, and charge nothing for incoming calls in any EU country. That might work for BiS.

    This isn’t the 1970s, there’s absolutely no reason any more why calling Ludwigshafen from somewhere in the UK should cost any more than calling Lowestoft from somewhere in the UK.

  10. I think there are rules for ensuring people aren’t permanently roaming. Can’t have T-Mobile missing out on any revenue, can we?

    For my part, Orange France lets me make calls, use the internet, etc. in Europe the same as if I was in France. At least, from what I can tell.

  11. BiG,

    This isn’t the 1970s, why should Ludwigshafen from somewhere in the UK cost any more than calling Lowestoft from somewhere in the UK?

    Because the phone companies can get away with it. Only about half of Brits go abroad in any given year, usually only for a week at a time. Most of them won’t make any phone calls while they’re away. It’s only because everyone and their nan wanted to use Facebook on holiday that it became an issue.

  12. I think there are rules for ensuring people aren’t permanently roaming. Can’t have T-Mobile missing out on any revenue, can we?

    Yes, a neighbour here thought he would be able to use a cheap UK SIM (giffgaff?) but it doesn’t work that way as the small print requires a certain amount of time/calls or whatever from the UK.

    Because the phone companies can get away with it. Only about half of Brits go abroad in any given year, usually only for a week at a time. Most of them won’t make any phone calls while they’re away. It’s only because everyone and their nan wanted to use Facebook on holiday that it became an issue.

    Free WiFi is everywhere now – why does anybody need to roam…?

  13. Just checked all main UK operator websites and they agree on the following, which implies it’s the new legislation EU wide.

    You’ll be charged extra to call/text any other country while at home.

    While not at home, but in the EU, calls/texts to home and any other EU country (e.g. Greece from France) are included in your plan. You can also use data as part of your plan.

    Fair use is the catch, which varies between operators, at least here in UK. E.g. Three (quite generously) allows 12GB data (if you have it in your plan), then you pay extra. Can’t find much about phone call fair use, presumably data is the main concern for the operators.

    Also, as has been said, your phone needs to be in your home country regularly (probably mostly), so you can’t buy e.g. a German sim while living in the UK and always call the EU for “free.” In this scenario, your UK friends would also have to pay extra to call you.

    To answer the original question, if you have to regularly call both C.R. from Portugal and vice versa then you’ll have to pay extra in one direction, if you only have one sim.

    BinC – not much free wifi while driving around, for example.

  14. BinC – not much free wifi while driving around, for example.

    No agreed… But I would have thought for the average tourist free WiFi would enable them to keep in touch with a little planning…

    Indeed living here in Cyprus (which is far from the most advanced country – there was no broadband at all when I arrived) I never use mobile data…

  15. BiC,

    > free WiFi … with a little planning

    Nobody wants to plan these days. It’s at the heart of a lot of modern complaints. You can get cheap train fares, cheap electricity, cheap holidays, etc. with a little planning. But people look at their neighbours, see them getting lower prices, don’t see any of the planning, and declare a great injustice.

  16. Forgot to say, receiving calls from anywhere while roaming in the EU is also free, just as it is at home.

    BiS – your customers can call a Spanish number on their UK phones using their plan minutes.

    BiC – not sure on the compatibility of “average tourist” and “a little planning!” But anyway, it’s a good, useful change. For once!

  17. But anyway, it’s a good, useful change. For once!

    Not really. It may be good for the minority of mobile users that want to use their phones abroad, for those few weeks of the year. However, they and everyone else are now paying more for their standard non-roaming rates.

    (I know for a fact Vodafone and EE have both put up their rates in the last couple of months – I have the texts from them informing me!)

  18. Price fixing by government is never a good change.

    Just about every economist that has looked at this has said that it’s a bad idea. if you want to know why it was still implemented, let me give you the following clues:
    a) very easy way for politician’s to say that they have solved small people’s problems by intervening against evil corporates that just want to make money
    b) if you want to think about the group of people that are the most impacted by this then try to imagine a category that needs to spend time in multiple countries frequently, get an allowance from their employer within which they themselves need to sort out the cost and practicalities of their mobile phones (which also means that any money not spent they keep themselves) and that are economically illiterate.

  19. BiW – I wondered if anyone would object to that statement!

    I don’t dispute your received texts. Respectfully, I do dispute your “they and everyone else.” Anyone with an ongoing contract will still be paying the same, apart from agreed RPI increases. And, e.g. Three’s PAYG rates are unchanged. And there’s a good market for shopping around, in the UK at least. And who knows if it’s a minority of mobile users who will benefit? I certainly don’t.

  20. My mobile broadband from Three is 10GB/month and I only use about 6GB of that. Last year I managed to use roaming in Italy for four months, but it looks like that might be stretching ‘fair use’ under the new rules.

    This is a recent email I had from Three:

    *From 15 June, the way you use your phone abroad is changing. *
    We’re making some important changes to Feel At Home, and how you use your Pay
    Monthly plan abroad. These changes mean you’ll be able to use your plan in even
    more destinations, at no extra cost and include how you can use Feel at Home in
    European destinations following a change in the law that covers the rules on
    roaming in the EU. You might see this referred to in some places as “Roam Like
    at Home”.
    *The difference between Roam Like At Home and Feel At Home.*
    We know this might be a bit confusing, but the basic difference is this:
    *Roam Like At Home* is what the regulatory rules covering roaming in the EU is
    known as, that requires network providers to charge the same for data, calls and
    texts across all EU and EEA destinations as they do at home. In the case of some
    networks, this means cutting their charges considerably.
    *Feel At Home * is a service we’ve had in place for quite some time already,
    that allows Three customers to use your allowances to call and text the UK and
    use your data, and it won’t cost you a penny more. With the introduction of the
    Roam Like At Home regulations, we’re expanding our list of Feel At Home
    destinations to 60 worldwide, to provide even more value for our customers.
    *How is Feel At Home changing?*
    From 15 June, Feel At Home will be made up of “Feel At Home in Europe” and
    “Feel At Home Around the World”. The good news is that as part of your plan, you
    get to enjoy both of these, allowing you to roam at no extra cost in 60
    *The new destinations.*
    We’re adding loads of new destinations, just in time for holiday season:
    Brazil, Singapore, Aland Islands, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique,
    Réunion, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, San Marino.
    You can see all of our Feel At Home destinations from 15 June below:
    *Feel At Home in Europe.*
    Aland Islands, Austria, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary
    Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France,
    French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary,
    Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania,
    Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Réunion,
    Romania, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,
    Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Vatican City
    *Feel At Home Around the World.*
    Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Macau, New Zealand, Puerto
    Rico, Singapore, Sri Lanka, US Virgin Islands, USA
    *Feel At Home in Europe.*
    You’ll also have more freedom to use your phone how you want to, across all of
    our Feel At Home in Europe destinations. Not only will you be able to call and
    text back to the UK at no extra cost, but you’ll also be able to call and text
    other EU/EEA destinations when travelling within any Feel at Home in Europe
    destination, at no extra cost.
    You’ll also have a Fair Use Policy of 12GB of data (which should be more than
    enough for your holiday Instagramming needs). Any use over this amount, but
    within your data allowance, will be charged at the following rates:
    *EU destinations* *Non-EU EEA destinations (Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland)*

    0.73p/MB 0.6p/MB

    Any out-of-bundle rates will be charged at our standard 321 rates, so that’s 3p
    per minute for calls, 2p per text, and 1p per MB of browsing.
    To ensure all our customers can benefit from Feel At Home in Europe with roaming
    at no extra cost, we reserve the right to apply a surcharge in case of abusive use.
    In order to help us to detect possible abuse of Feel At Home in Europe, we may
    monitor your usage and presence. We’ll look at the balance of your roaming and
    domestic (UK) activity over 120 days: if you spend a majority of your time
    abroad and consume more abroad than at home over the 120 days, we have the right
    to add a small surcharge to your usage. This surcharge will be capped at a
    maximum of 0.73p/MB; 3p/min; and 0.9p/ SMS. Don’t worry – we’ll send you an
    alert 2 weeks before the surcharge is applied, giving you an opportunity to
    modify your roaming behaviour to avoid this surcharge.

  21. I’m writing this from a lounge in Dubai. I’ve just had a text from voda telling me I’ve used 3mb. £3 a mb. After I use my 25mb “roaming allowance” at the reduced rate of £3 a Mb, I’ll be charged 15 for 5mb.

    I’ve never accepted free WiFi so swiftly

  22. Bloke in Wiltshire


    “Price fixing by government is never a good change.”

    In this case, the EU hardly did anything, though. The market was already doing free roaming. The EU just jumped in front of it and took some credit. There’s probably some things they didn’t want, but not much.

    That said, something I never understand is people cheering something as trivial in cost as phone roaming. “Look at what the EU has done for us”. Even if it was entirely down to the EU, it’s what? A quid or two on holiday? The fuss of finding a hotspot, which are basically everywhere in cities now? Last year, I paid £3 for each day to Vodafone that I wanted internet. So, even if I’d used it every day, that would have been £42. Which is fuck all in anyone’s books.

  23. BiG: “This isn’t the 1970s, why should Ludwigshafen from somewhere in the UK cost any more than calling Lowestoft from somewhere in the UK?”

    Andrew M: “Because the phone companies can get away with it…”

    It’s wrong to think that the cost of these things to the carrier are the same.

    The protocols used in mobile phone networks were not well thought out for this when they were designed. Your phone must always been controlled by a mobile-switching centre in your home network in home country. So, a portion of the data must be sent back there. Let’s say you have an British phone and you’re in France. You’re phoning a person with a German phone in Italy. Some of the data must travel between France and Italy. Other parts of the data must travel from France->Britain->Germany->Italy. It is difficult to get the networks to support this properly.

    It doesn’t cost as much as the carrier charged in the past, but it really is an expense.

    It is difficult to fix the protocols now and there isn’t much incentive for it to be done.

  24. @djc Three were the c*nts who cut me off & swallowed £60 worth of PAYG credit for using a non 3G phone. I was in a part of France didn’t have 3G. More to the point, if G runs to minus numbers, they probably had that. A slight haze would kill the signal. The phone call to their helpline to try & sort it out used all of the £60. And that was the SIM & credit they sold me, specifically for roaming in France. It was them put the SIM in the phone.

  25. @Robert Thorpe,

    My heart truly bleeds for the multibillion telcos who have to send a few bytes along a wire, and who will all go bankrupt thanks to the EUSSR now. It’s clearly so much more expensive when that data crosses an international border than when it doesn’t. As we know for the surcharges we all pay for looking at American websites.

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