The death of roaming fees in Europe: Bring it on!

The Telegraph is today reporting that roaming fees (for voice, text and data) will be abolished by the end of next year if not earlier.

About flipping time.

Almost half of people traveling abroad deliberately switch their phone off to avoid unexpected and often ridiculous roaming charges. In recent years, if you’ve spent enough time researching and talking to your mobile operator, it’s been possible to dramatically reduce your roaming fees to a more manageable level. But it hasn’t been routine — you typically have had to opt in, or make sure you’ve got the exact price plan to qualify.

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly the UK operators respond. If this is going to become law now, there might be a good short term opportunity to launch a massive branding campaign this summer telling consumers that roaming in Europe is now completely free until September. Something like that. It might be worth eating the short term revenue loss for a bit of brand equity, especially if the playing field is shortly about to be levelled completely.

EU officials expect 2% of operator revenues to be wiped out as a result of this move.

My view? Good.

Roaming has been ridiculous and punitive for far too long. Indeed, my blood boils when I recall some of the downright bollocks reasons I’ve heard from various operator executives over the years when trying to explain the high cost of roaming. One chap tried to tell myself and Ben Smith (MIR contributor and Editor of Wireless Worker) that they had to charge in the region of £4 per megabyte because they got all the usage data in Excel spreadsheets from their partners, which was costly to process. Yeah, rubbish.

If you’re working in the roaming department of a major operator, now might be the time to look at your CV and go for that stretch role that you recently turned down.

I’m excited to see how this move will influence market dynamics. Bring on the competition, eh? 😉

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

4 replies on “The death of roaming fees in Europe: Bring it on!”

Yes, its about time. I have mentioned it again and again in my blog too. In the long run, operators will realise that this move is good for them too.

Next step is having reasonable pricing for worldwide roaming.

Does that mean I could sign up with a network in Hungary, for example, for use in the UK.

This could be HUGE.

I’m not sure yet but I agree that would rock. I suspect the concept at the moment it will be just dealing with international roaming.

The fundamental problem here is that the method of settlement currently used to reconcile international roaming traffic between different mobile operators is antiquated and inefficient. This means that often charges for traffic arrive at the operator of the roaming user days and even weeks AFTER the calls/data have been used.

There is a mechanism for near realtime authorisation and settlement for international traffic – which is used for pre-paid customers (which uses the CAMEL protocol) – so in order to implement these EU proposals, carriers may have to sart using CAMEL for post-paid accounts as well.

Unfortunately, as the Mobile Network Operators currently generate considerable amounts of revenue from roaming traffic, they have little motivation to make any changes to the existing system.

It should also be noted that whilst roaming prices have been driven down within the EU, in many cases they have actually RISEN outside of EU – so if you are planing to use a roaming device outside of EU, be prepared for a large slice of bill shock!

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