New rules extend “roam-like-at-home” concept until 2032; travelers in the EU and the EEA countries can call, text and surf abroad without extra charges. The rules are also beneficial for businesses and citizens to enjoy a better roaming experience and quality of mobile service both abroad and at home. New rules also improve access to the EU’s emergency communications and guarantee clear information about services that may be subject to extra charges.
When traveling, the Europeans can call, text and use internet without extra costs: it is quite beneficial for citizens, companies and the EU single market. Prolonging these rules will keep inter-operator prices competitive, and allow consumers to continue enjoying free-of-charge roaming services for the next ten years.
The EU roaming regulation has been in force since 2017; it allowed citizens to enjoy free roaming to call, to send texts and use mobile data in the EU-wide territory without additional charges.
Recent review of the rules has shown that there was room for improvement: thus, Eurobarometer in February 2021 showed that 33% of respondents who traveled abroad had lower mobile internet speed than they usually had at home, and 28% had a lower network standard abroad (i.e. a 3G network instead of 4G).
Furthermore, a study conducted by the Joint Research Centre found that 25% of customers had, at least once, experienced worse quality of service in roaming compared to at home, even when network conditions could have provided better quality.
Sources: a) web-link to Eurobarometer: https://europa.eu/eurobarometer/surveys/detail/2232; b) JRC’s study on mobile broadband involving 40 mobile networks in 13 EU countries in: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/roaming-performance-study
The previous roaming regulation expired at the end of June 2020; in order to allow all mobile phone and Internet users to continue being connected at no extra charge when traveling across EU-27, the Commission had proposed in February 2021 a new improved Roaming regulation, which entered into force on 1 July 2022.
New rules’ advantages
= Better mobile internet speed while traveling
Consumers now will have the right to the same quality of mobile internet abroad, as the one they have at home. Operators providing mobile services should ensure that consumers have access to use 4G network (or a more advanced 5G network) if they are available at the customer’s destination. Besides, consumers should be able to find information about network availability in their mobile service contracts and on the operators’ websites.
= Preventing unexpected hidden charges
When consumers travel by planes or on boats, mobile phones may automatically connect to the on-board network, provided by satellites. Using mobile connection services provided by non-terrestrial networks may be subject to very high surcharges. The new roaming rules oblige operators to protect their consumers and notify them if their phones switch to a non-terrestrial networks. Additionally, operators should automatically interrupt mobile services if the mobile services over non-terrestrial networks reach charges of €50 or another predefined limit. Operators may also offer additional services, such as the possibility to opt out from roaming on planes and boats.
= More information for better choices
Consumers should be able to make informed decisions about using services that may subject them to additional costs. When traveling abroad, calling customer service, insurance and airline helpdesks, or SMS texting to participate in contests or events, may be more expensive than it costs at home. Operators have to make sure to provide consumers with information about the types of phone numbers that may carry additional costs when consumers dial or access them from abroad. Operators should inform consumers via automatic SMS messages sent when crossing the border to another EU country, as well as in the service contracts.
= 112: emergency communication while traveling
The new roaming rules are ensuring that citizens are aware of the single EU emergency number 112, which they can use anywhere in the EU to reach emergency services. By June 2023, operators should send automatic messages to their customers who travel abroad to inform them about the available alternative means of reaching emergency services, such as through real time text or apps. Those citizens who are not able to make voice calls may use these alternative means.
= Lower inter-operator prices, better conditions for consumers
The new Roaming regulation sets lower wholesale charges, the cost to operators for using networks abroad to provide services to their customers when they are abroad. The wholesale caps are set at levels that ensure that operators can sustain and recover the cost of providing roaming services to consumers at domestic prices:
a) For data services, the new regulation sets the following wholesale caps: 2 €/GB in 2022, 1.8 €/GB in 2023, 1.55 €/GB in 2024, 1.3 €/GB in 2025, 1.1 €/GB in 2026 and 1 EUR/GB from 2027 onwards.
b) For voice: 0.022 €/min in 2022-2024 and 0.019 €/min from 2025 onwards.
c) For SMS: 0.004 €/SMS in 2022-2024 and 0.003 €/SMS from 2025 onwards.
Lower wholesale charges benefit consumers, as they should ensure that all operators are able to offer competitive roaming subscriptions in line with the ‘Roam like at home’ principle.
General reference: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_22_4198