Changes to European Union (EU) law today will abolish mobile roaming charges in EU countries.
The new rules mean that citizens travelling within the EU will be able to call, text and browse the internet on mobile devices at the same price they pay at home.
The change in law presents an opportunity for businesses and travellers to connect and network across all of Europe through there mobile phone – something that was possible but potentially expensive in the past.
We spoke to Paul Lavin, head of direct at Carphone Warehouse Business about what this means for UK SMEs.
What will the EU roaming data changes mean in real terms to businesses who may be operating in the EU?
Put simply, the new “roam like at home” rules allow you to use your company or personal phone while travelling in a EU country without paying any extra roaming charges.
These rules apply to calls – whether mobile or landlines – texts, and data. Basically, you’ll pay the exact same amount while abroad as if you were using your phone from your home country.
Being able to use your phone for businesses within the EU zone without fear of incurring hefty charges will be a great comfort for many UK organisations.
However, businesses must remember that roaming is only included as a part of its specific tariff bundle. For example, if they a have contract that offers 1000 minute and 500MB in data, then using anything beyond this will, once again incur a charge (the size of which will be specific to each provider).
Does this now open up opportunities for businesses to explore exporting into the EU?
In the short term, absolutely!
Communicating when moving through the EU has become infinitely simpler, meaning one less stress when it comes to business travel.
However, things will soon become more complicated: the UK’s decision to leave the European Union makes things a little uncertain. What happens to the rules? Once the two-year period is up, and the UK officially leaves the EU, it’s possible that the rule will no longer be enforced and there’s a chance that roaming costs in the EU could rise. Alternatively, the government could enforce the same rules with new, local legislation.
Sadly, there is no guarantee either, with businesses now forced to play the waiting game.
Will mobile phones be updated with this change automatically?
Existing contracts will automatically be updated to include the “roam like at home” rule – and it’ll be the default option for any new mobile contracts bought after this date.
However, you should keep in mind that calling an EU country from the UK isn’t included in the new regulations, and some charges will still apply. More details on the regulations for users and networks can be found on the European Commission’s website.
From a hardware perspective, it will be up to the user to make sure that roaming is enabled on their device, and that they haven’t been disabled from using roaming by the network.
Depending on your contract and mobile operator, some extra rules and limitations might apply to your data usage. Still, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself stuck without any 4G in the middle of writing an important email to a client!
Is there any bad news?
Unfortunately, there is some unwelcome news as well: the UK government has announced plans to add VAT to roaming charges for countries outside of the EU, adding an extra 20 per cent to the cost of calls, texts, and data usage.
There are ways around this charge, with many operators offering free roaming to countries like Australia, New Zealand and the USA under certain conditions. Businesses should always check their operator’s website for an up to date list of charges per country.
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