This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)
Only a few years ago, you still had to pay a fortune if you wanted to call mom and dad from abroad. Thanks to the European Commission, these fees got lowered little by little. Now, see what happened: as of mid June 2017, travellers do not pay any extra charges when using mobile data, text sending or calling services abroad. At the beginning of April, representatives of the member states and the parliament in Strasbourg eliminated the last hurdle and ratified the crucial regulation. Already back then, Andrus Ansip who is the responsible vice-president of the European Commission predicted “This was the final piece of the puzzle!”. Finally, the still existing roaming boarders get abolished. Though for whom do these new privileges count?
From Malta to Finland: the by the European commission initiated regulations apply for all EU member states. Neighbouring countries such as Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein will soon follow so that no extra charges can arise in almost any European state. Though still, there are some exceptions. In Switzerland or Turkey for example, the EU roaming regulations do not apply and travellers still have to pay. So here is a little recommendation: when you find yourself near the border area of Switzerland, put your phone on “manual network selection” to prevent that it automatically logs into the more expensive one. Last but not least, here are the news for all fans of the UK: As long as the Brexit is not fully carried out, you will still be able to use your mobile in London, Edinburgh or Manchester the same way as at home.
As lovely as the abolition of the extra charges within the EU may sound: The European mobile network operators have come up with something. It is called “fair use limit” that comes with Juncker´s new user-friendly regulation and is supposed to prevent misuse. A closer look reveals, though, that this limit is not defined precisely. “Over a period of four months, the operators may, for example, observe if the customer uses services more nationally or abroad.” claims Michael Reifenberg, working for Germany´s Federal Network Agency in Bonn. For those using their SIM cards mainly abroad this most probably means a cost-plus. Vodafone, Orange etc. do have to announce this in beforehand, however, there are no exact numbers on the amount yet either.
Why, though, did the commission accept this fair use limit as part of their regulation? The elimination of the roaming charges within Europe has consequences on the market: a falling turnover and losses in profit – that is at least what the sector association of the mobile network operators states. Hence, exceptions are permitted. In the event of high damages on the part of the operators, they are allowed to call their customers for a lot more money, (probably) over a period of 12 months. Furthermore, it is very important to highlight that Europe´s new phone rules do not include free calls from your home country to states abroad. For these you still need to pay the costs defined by your operator.
Now, that over the past years the roaming charges decreased and will soon finally get completely abolished, the European Commission has already announced its new big mission: providing more people a better access to the internet – anywhere, any time and for free! Equipped with a budget of so far 120 million euros, they want to create wifi hotspots in as many municipalities as possible – be it in hospitals, libraries or public parking lots. And more good news to come: The European Parliament and Commission as well as representatives of the member states have already approved these plans. Now it is all about negotiating with the emissaries. Final updates are expected towards the end of this year. First no roaming charges anymore and now even free wifi in many public spaces? Concluding, we can for the first time state: Things are actually progressing in European telecommunication! Let´s just hope that this new mission advances quicker than the one concerning roaming charges…