Free mobile roaming is on the way, but watch out for the small print
Published 01/07/2015 | 02:30
So Europe is to abolish mobile roaming charges from June 2017.
It's good news for consumers. But there remain a few issues that could temper our enthusiasm.
The biggest one is a 'fair use' exception to roaming limits. Will there be a limit to the amount of data, calls or texts you can use without roaming fees being added?
There might be. Some Irish deals give you lots of data (15GB), calls (10,000 minutes) and texts (50,000) on a post-pay plan. Does that mean you can use all of this when roaming? On any network you choose in the foreign EU country? If not, how little of it can you actually use? This is where the small print will kick in.
At first glance, it all appears to be clear and positive.
"If you pay for a monthly volume of minutes, SMS and data in your country, any voice call, SMS and data session you make while travelling abroad in the EU will be deducted from that volume as if you were at home, with no extra charges," says the European Commission.
But there's a catch.
"There is a fair use safeguard," the EU statement continues. "Once that limit is reached while being abroad, a small basic fee can be charged… The Commission has been mandated to define the details of the fair use limit."
So what will 'fair use' really be? 1GB? 10GB? Three weeks in any one roaming period?
This is crucial. Lots of people now rely on their mobile data for Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, Skype and tons of other data-heavy applications. It's their ordinary daily use now.
If the EU is to decide that, in fact, only 1GB of data is to free from roaming charges, the whole thing could be fairly useless.
Or rather, it will be great for Nokia-using pensioners, but irrelevant to a large chunk of ordinary smartphone users.
It's now up to the European Commission to tell us the limits.