EU to provide better roaming services for travellers

Thanks to the Roaming Regulation roaming charges ended on 15 June 2017. Europeans travelling within the EU only pay domestic prices for calls, SMS and data. The current regulation is in place until 30 June 2022.

Europe’s citizens should enjoy roaming without additional charges when travelling in the EU, following the European Commission’s proposal Wednesday for a new Roaming Regulation.

While non-essential travel is currently discouraged, the new regulation will prolong current rules – due to expire in 2022 – for another 10 years. It will also ensure better roaming services for travellers.

For example, consumers 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.

“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,” said EC vice-presisdent Margrethe Vestager: “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.”

A new Eurobarometer survey shows that half of Europeans who own a mobile phone travelled to another EU country in the last two years. EU roaming charges ended on 15 June 2017 since when 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 before the abolition of roaming surcharges (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 travellers in the 27 EU Member States, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The current rules expire on 30 June 2022, and the conditions on the mobile telecoms market are still not conducive to sustainable ‘roam like at home’ for all businesses and customers while travelling in the EU. Therefore, it is important to extend the rules.

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 and 28% that the network standard was lower than at home (e.g. 3G instead of 4G). The new rules proposed today aim to ensure that citizens and businesses benefit from the same quality of services as they do at home. This means that if they have 4G speeds and increasingly 5G as part of their subscription, they should not have lower network speeds when roaming, wherever these networks are available. When it comes to 5G services, consumers will need to know that they are able to use certain applications and services while roaming. Moreover, operators in the visited country should give access to all network technologies and generations upon a reasonable wholesale roaming access request.

The proposed regulation aims to secure that customers who are roaming can access emergency services and benefit from caller location transmission seamlessly and free of charge, including through means other than voice calls, such as SMS or emergency applications. In addition, travellers should be informed about the means of reaching emergency services, including those designed for disabled people, in the EU country they are visiting.

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.

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