Free roaming

EU free roaming benefits for travelers to be extended until 2032

To ensure that citizens can continue to enjoy the EU free roaming without additional charges when travelling in the area, the Commission proposed a new Roaming Regulation. At a time when non-essential travel is discouraged, this is an important action in preparing a brighter future.

The new regulation will prolong the current EU free roaming rules set to expire in 2022, for another 10 years. It will also ensure better roaming services for travelers. For example, customers will be entitled to have the same quality and speed of their mobile network connection abroad as at home, where equivalent networks are available. The new rules will also secure efficient access to emergency services, including improving awareness about alternative means for people with disabilities, as well as increase consumer awareness on possible fees from using value-added services while roaming.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, says:

“Wherever we are in Europe, we can check in with our loved ones, talk business and share stories while on the road without worrying about costly bills. The end of roaming charges is a prime example of how the EU keeps millions of citizens connected and improves their lives. The new rules will keep roaming at no extra charges and make it even better.”

Margrethe Vestager

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, about the EU free roaming:

“Millions of Europeans have been enjoying the benefits of roaming throughout the EU at no extra charges. It is an established and successful cornerstone of the single market. In Europe’s Digital Decade everyone must be able to have excellent connectivity everywhere they are in Europe, just like at home. Today we confirm the commitment towards our citizens. In parallel we work to support investment in adequate infrastructure.”

Thierry Breton

Roam Like at Home

An Eurobarometer survey says half of Europeans with a mobile phone traveled to another EU country in the last 2 years. Thanks to the current Roaming Regulation EU roaming charges ended on 15 June 2017. Since then, almost 170 million citizens enjoy roaming-free prices and benefits of staying connected while travelling in the single market. Use of data roaming increased 17 times in the summer of 2019, compared to the summer of 2016.

The rapid and massive increase in roaming traffic since June 2017 shows that the end of roaming charges has unleashed the untapped demand for mobile consumption by travelers in the 27 EU Member States. Also in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The current rules expire on 30 June 2022. The conditions on the mobile telecoms are still not conducive to sustainable ‘roam like at home’ in the EU. Therefore, it is important to extend the rules.  

Same quality of service at home and abroad

According to latest Eurobarometer data, when travelling abroad in the EU, 33% of people said that they experienced lower mobile internet speed than they usually have in their home country. 28% said that the network standard was lower than at home (e.g. 3G instead of 4G). The new rules proposed ensure that all benefit from the same quality of services as they do at home. If they have 4G speeds and increasingly 5G, they should not have lower speeds when roaming. When it comes to 5G services, consumers are able to use certain applications and services while roaming. Moreover, operators in the visited country should give access to all network technologies.

Effective access to emergency services abroad

Customers who are roaming can access emergency services. They can benefit from caller location transmission seamlessly and free of charge, including SMS or emergency applications. In addition, travelers should be informed about the means of reaching emergency services.

Prevent unexpectedly high costs and bills

While roaming, travelers should be able to confidently call numbers to access value-added services. This includes technical help desks, customer care of airlines or insurance companies. Or even free phone numbers, which may be accompanied by unexpected charges in roaming. The new roaming rules call for operators to provide sufficient information to consumers about the increased costs they might incur from using value-added services while roaming.

EU free roaming sustainability for operators

The new rules will ensure that roaming without charges and the enhanced benefits for consumers is sustainable for operators. The rules envisage further reductions in wholesale roaming prices – the prices operators charge each other for using their network when their customers travel abroad. Inter-operator price caps are set at a level that allows operators to recover the cost of providing roaming services. At the same time, it preserves incentives to invest in networks and avoid distortion of domestic competition in the markets of the visited countries.

Western Balkans copycat free roaming from July 2021

The Regional Roaming Agreement, formally the “Agreement on the price reduction of the roaming services in public mobile communications networks in the Western Balkans region”, regulates the imposition of roaming charges within the countries in the Western Balkans; Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The agreement covers both the charges mobile network operators can impose on their subscribers for using telephone and data services outside of the network’s member state and the wholesale rates networks can charge each other to allow their subscribers access to each other’s networks.

It came into effect from 1 July 2019, with reduced tariffs. From 1 July 2021, all tariffs should be removed under the concept “Roam like at Home”. On average, prices for outgoing calls dropped by 65% and prices for data transfer dropped by 78%.

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