Mobile roaming charges explained: how each network changes and how it affects you

Perhaps it was inevitable, but one of the side effects of Brexit is that European roaming charges are now returning to people in the UK for at least three networks, with others reducing fair use limits .

This means that when traveling to European countries you may need to pay to use your phone’s data allowance or start paying for data once you hit a certain cap, which was not there before. or was previously higher.

The exact terms vary from network to network, but you’ll find everything you need to know below.

What are roaming charges?

Roaming charges refer to an additional cost that you pay on top of your standard phone contract minutes, text messages, and data allowance when using your phone abroad. Vacationers racking up thousands of pounds in bills once made headlines.

Since 2017, the EU’s Roam Like at Home initiative has banned mobile networks from charging for roaming in Member States. This also applied to Britons abroad and EU citizens in the UK.

Brexit has now been a game-changer and UK citizens are no longer covered by default with ‘Roam Like at Home’.

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at Which? said: “As the UK continues to negotiate trade deals, it should seize the opportunity to lower the cost of roaming for consumers traveling around the world.

“The UK and the EU should also urgently reach a roaming charge deal to prevent businesses from reducing the roaming benefits customers are used to and to prevent the excessive charges people have returned to. were used to. “

Roaming on EE

EE

(Image credit: EE)

Roaming across Europe (other than Ireland) on EE is now much more expensive as the company introduced a charge of £ 2 per day to access your usual allowance of minutes, SMS and data while on the road. roaming in 47 European destinations.

This is a big change from the free roaming that was offered previously. This only affects new and upgrading customers who have purchased an EE plan after July 7, 2021.

One way to avoid these fees is to use a 30-day Roam Abroad pass, which you can select as a benefit on the Smart and Full Works plans. These are premium plans and the perks you get don’t cost more, but choosing that would likely mean you won’t be able to take advantage of any of the other optional perks.

If you’re not on one of those pricey packages, you can also pay £ 10 for a 30-day Roam Abroad pass. So if you plan to travel for more than five days in any given month, this might be a cheaper option.

There is apparently no cap here, which means you can probably use up to unlimited data (if you have an unlimited data plan) for that £ 2 per day, or with the Roam Abroad pass. .

Yet, this is particularly disappointing given that in 2020 EE asserted that no changes were coming, stating: “Our customers appreciate inclusive roaming in Europe and beyond, and we have not intend to change this depending on the outcome of Brexit. Thus, our customers going on vacation and traveling within the EU will continue to benefit from included roaming.

Kester Mann, director of CCS Insight and mobile industry analyst, told TechToSee, “Roaming is a poisonous term for consumers after travelers have been hit with sky-high prices for years. But it’s also a far cry from the bad old days. the daily costs are a fraction of the cost of a public holiday in the EU. “

These roaming charges apply in Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Canary Islands, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guyana, Guyana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal (including Madeira), Reunion Islands, Romania, San Marino, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including the Canary Islands), Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.

Roaming on Vodafone

Vodafone 5G

(Image credit: Vodafone)

Vodafone will soon charge customers £ 2 per day to access their own quotas in the European Union. If you buy an eight-day or a 15-day roaming pass, this cost will be reduced to the equivalent of £ 1 per day.

This applies to new customers and upgrading customers who signed up after August 21, 2021. So if you have already signed up before that date, you will not yet be affected by these changes.

Vodafone charges will be introduced from January 26, 2022. If you opt for a Vodafone Xtra package, you will not have to pay these charges either. This will already be covered by the cost of your monthly fees.

Three-way roaming

Three United Kingdom

(Image credit: Three UK)

Three announced on September 9, 2021 that it would be reintroducing roaming charges and also removing its Go Roam benefits, which also impacts those who travel to the United States, Australia and more.

Customers will need to pay £ 2 per day to access their own benefits in EU countries, while the cost is £ 5 per day in the US and other previous Go Roam destinations. Both the Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man are exempt from these changes.

The changes will come into effect on May 23, 2022. If you have taken out a new contract – or renewed your contract – before October 1, 2021, you will not be affected by these changes and you will be free to use your benefits. roaming throughout your contract.

A spokesperson for Three said: “The new charge ensures that customers are clear about what they will pay when they use their phones in another country and only those who travel will pay for the service.”

The destinations affected by the changes of the European Union on Three are the Aland Islands, Austria, the Azores, the Balearic Islands, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark , Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta , Martinique, Mayotte, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Réunion, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.

Other destinations – which cost £ 5 per day – are Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Israel, Sri Lanka, United States, Brazil, El Salvador, Peru, Chile, Guatemala, Uruguay, Colombia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Australia and New Zealand.

Roaming on O2

O2

(Image credit: O2)

As of August 2, 2021, O2 has started to apply a 25 GB cap on European roaming allocations, which means if you have a data allocation of more than 25 GB, you will only be able to use up to at 25 GB per month for roaming in Europe at no additional cost. .

Obviously, if your national data allowance is less than 25 GB, you can use your entire allowance. If you go over your roaming allowance you will be charged £ 3.50 per gigabyte.

It should be noted that customers with unlimited data plans already have this restriction, and according to O2, less than 1% of the company’s monthly paying customers are about to use 25 GB of data while roaming anytime. way.

So this is unlikely to affect a lot of people, but it does mean that if you are a heavy data user in Europe things could get quite expensive – although O2 will text you when you are approaching your limit and again. when you reach it, so there shouldn’t be any surprises.

These changes apply to roaming in the “Europe zone” of O2, ie Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Republic Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein , Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Réunion, Romania, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.

There is currently no limit to the number of minutes or SMS you can use while roaming these locations (within your UK allowance) and this will likely remain the case after these changes as O2 does did not say otherwise.

Roaming on other networks

Many smaller UK networks have yet to reveal their plans, but we’ve asked everyone for an update. Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile have responded to us, and you can read the statements for each network below.

EE also confirmed to TechToSee that BT Mobile and other MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that use EE’s infrastructure, such as Plusnet Mobile, have not announced any changes to their roaming terms. .

Other UK mobile networks, such as VOXI, have yet to comment on how the roaming situation is developing, but we expect that to be the case in most cases.

Notably, EE is operated by BT, which also owns Plusnet Mobile, so don’t be surprised if BT Mobile and Plusnet Mobile see similar changes to EE.

Likewise, VOXI and Talkmobile are owned by Vodafone, and Smarty Mobile is owned by Three.

How else can you avoid roaming charges abroad?

The good news is that these days you can travel without having to rely on your phone’s signal alone. Wi-Fi hotspots are fast, reliable, and everywhere. And they are easy to find thanks to Wi-Fi card.

Just make sure to turn roaming off in your settings. Not making calls or using the internet is not enough, as your phone might still be using data in the background.

If you need a mobile connection it’s … you know, mobile and not tied to a particular place, you can buy local SIM cards in some countries. But your phone will need to be unlocked and you could still pay extra to call the UK.

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