Remember how you used to anxiously look at your smartphone after landing, trying to catch a signal? This ‘experience’ is an inseparable part of flying to other countries. Tourists stare at their devices, desperately looking for a way to stay connected to the world. In the background, there is a very complex process going on in the meantime.
The local mobile network is contacting the traveler’s home network, but only if the latter agrees to accept the connection fee. Then, the traveler goes into the roaming area, using their phone in foreign countries.
Roaming has been the reason we get these stupidly expensive bills after we return home from holidays, shockingly asking ourselves ‘How could I spend so much money talking?’ But after June 15th, people in the European Union won’t have to deal with this anymore.
EU putting a stop to roaming charges expected to save British travellers an average of nearly £200 a year https://t.co/bwCAOpZpws— EC in UK (@EUlondonrep) June 14, 2017
The decision to end the roaming fees has been on the EU’s agenda for quite a while. The battle started back in 2006 as a market unification goal as well as consumer protection. The EU Commissioner for Information and media at the time, Viviane Reding, said the following while announcing the future change: ‘It is only when using your mobile phone abroad that you realize there are still borders in Europe’.
This was a ground-shaking announcement. In 2007, data used to be quite costly, at around 6 euro per MB on average. Calls were 50 euro cents a minute, and sending an SMS would shave around 30 euro cents off your balance.
Why was the difficult system there in the first place? The complication arises from the fact that shape and properties of mobile networks depend on geography and population. For example, British networks were created to handle heavy traffic in densely populated areas. Because of that, some of them require bigger fees than others for access. To fix the difference, networks charge more to let foreigners connect to their signals. The size of the fee is calculated based on the relationship between the networks.
But now, the EU has introduced the new ‘Roam like at home’ regulation, so travelers won’t have to overpay for basic services like phone calls or the wireless Internet. This means, EU citizen will pay in accordance with their home plan, even if they are in a foreign country.
After the new regulations, the networks still have to pay a fee when their customers gain access to foreign signals, but these costs aren’t going to be passed on as roaming charges anymore.
This will benefit greatly some mobile network operators too. Companies in Mediterranean countries will make money for the data, used by people to access their favorite services. Since travelers no longer have to worry about these costs, they will surely be hogging more traffic. Considering that these countries get more visitors from Northern states than vice versa, local networks will get more money from foreign networks than what they have to pay for their own tourists in other countries.
Major operators like Vodafone will likely be fine too. They can always balance their traffic through different departments in the EU countries. It is possible, non-roamers will end up basically paying for the more expensive needs of roamers if the networks decide to act in response to the lost revenue.