When in roam...top tips to keep eye on mobile charges - even though rules have changed
We all know the familiar dread of the 'welcome' text from your mobile phone provider when abroad, with dire warnings about maximum data limits. Well from today, it's all changed ... or has it? June 15 is 'Roam Like Home' day; the EU's enactment of legislation scrapping roaming charges - but in reality, you may find not much has changed. Here's what you need to know.
The EU has been reducing roaming charges over five years. But as Simon Moynihan of Bonkers.ie warns: "The new regulations do not mean that you can truly 'roam like home' when travelling in the EU.Customers will benefit from better terms and rates, and are less likely to get bill shock after the holidays, but I would still recommend contacting your mobile provider to find out exactly how much data you can use abroad before travelling."
You can roam at the same price as home, but not to the same extent. Many plans have only 1GB, and that will be eaten up abroad (see table).
Is it Unlimited?
No. Your normal data package already has 'fair use' limits built in. These are generous and most people never reach them. For instance, Virgin claims its average customer uses around 2.6GB per month; even unlimited plans have a fair use limit of 5GB to 30GB. If you go over that - at home or abroad - you will be charged extra.
Is the EU Fair Use limit the same?
Not always. Most providers still have roaming limits. For instance, Meteor's €10 pre-pay plan allows 7.5GB here, but just 2.1GB roaming. Its more expensive bill pay SIM-only plan offering 10GB here gives 7.4GB abroad. Bill-pay plans are far more restrictive than pre-pay plans.
So What is Free?
Depending on your plan, calls, texts and some data will be available at no extra charge. If you're on bill-pay of €30pm or higher you have less to worry about. If you've a ¤10 Pay As You Go deal, you have to watch the usage more closely. You will still get a 'welcome' message when you roam, and a warning text if your usage tips 80pc and again at 100pc.
What Will I be Charged for?
"If you exceed your pre-determined data roaming limit while abroad, you will still be subject to penalty fees, although they will be capped under the new EU law," says Bonkers.ie. "The maximum charge for exceeding your operator's roaming limit is €7.70/GB of data, decreasing to €2.50/GB by 2022." That's hefty, so watch it.
How much is a GigaByte?
You could listen to 160 songs on Spotify, or watch 300 minutes of YouTube videos, or an hour on Netflix (less if high definition), or spend 17 hours getting lost on Google Maps. Bear in mind, the GB limit is a monthly one, so if you're travelling regularly, you could well hit it. Some plans still only allow 2GB roaming, so it's not a free-for-all.
Tips While Roaming
* Check your roaming data allowance on your exact plan; they are not all the same.
* Using Wi-Fi is still the best way to save your data allowance, so switch off Roaming when you can.* Use WhatsApp for messaging - it uses far less data compared to texts or Facebook.
* Leaving notifications on is fine, but turn off auto-updating of apps - that eats data - and disable auto-playing of videos on Facebook.
* Don't give small kids unfettered access to your phone. An episode of Peppa Pig may keep them quiet, but it's going to rack up your data.
* Don't worry too much; if you've never reached your data limit at home, you're unlikely to abroad. Just be sensible but relaxed.