After years of being hit with hefty post-holiday phone bills, travelers in the EU can now ‘roam like at home’, thanks to the European Commission’s ruling, which came into force last Thursday. Those looking forward to upcoming summer holidays in Europe will be able to make calls, send texts and browse the internet, all at their local rate.
A new ruling for new mobile era
The number of customers using roaming services has increased dramatically in recent years. This is thanks to the growing accessibility of 4G services, as well as the increase in the availability of easy to deploy tools which allow providers to deliver roaming services to their customers. The number of connected devices is also growing, alongside users’ expectation that service quality and experience should be universal and not subject to additional fees, wherever they are in the world.
Previously, travellers would have to restrict their mobile use, buy foreign SIM cards, sign up for a specific package offered by their operator, or face ‘bill shock’ on their return home. The new ruling does away with these inconveniences and is a natural evolution which reflects the changing preferences and expectations of today’s mobile users.
Mobile goes global
Recent research by BICS illustrates the dramatic growth in the number of roaming customers, which will likely increase as more operators capitalise on the opportunity offered by over 1.4 billion subscribers travelling the globe.
The number of roaming customers using BICS’ Instant Roaming has increased by over a third since 2015, with users of the service now provided with access to more than 235 destinations across the globe. The levels of roaming data have also seen a significant increase, with an increase of 265% year-on-year.
BICS also offers OC (Open Connectivity) Roaming, a GSMA compliant solution which removes the complexity of establishing multiple bilateral agreements. Instead, the solution offers an environment where operators can manage and streamline agreements, expedite the testing process and access roaming data usage instantly, in order to improve end-user services. Mobile users may be going global, but they still expect their services to remain consistent.
The EU ruling is fantastic news for holidaymakers and business travellers, however, there are a number of factors which need to be recognised to avoid the holiday phone bills of old.
Firstly, people travelling to countries in Europe but not in the EU must remember that the ruling will not apply. Switzerland, Andorra, Turkey, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man for instance, are not in the EU and therefore roaming may still incur a fee.
The ruling is intended for mobile users who spend only short periods travelling in Europe, and are predominantly based in one country. Operators can monitor mobile usage over a four-month period and, if a user is spending more time abroad than at home, a charge can be applied.
Most boats sailing on lakes, rivers and around coastal areas are connected to a terrestrial mobile network, meaning they are covered by the ruling and can roam like at home. However, travellers who are on board aeroplanes and boats which are instead connected via satellite or another type of radio network, will not be covered by the ruling.
At present, all 28 EU member states have imposed the new rules. However, a number of operators – particularly smaller companies in the Baltic countries – have applied for exemption, fearing an impact on revenues.
In the meantime though, most mobile and device users travelling in and around the EU have nothing to worry about. They can enjoy being able to affordably stay in touch with friends and family, as well as instantly post all those jealously-inducing holiday photos on social media.
An article by Mikael Schachne, VP Mobility Solutions at BICS