back to article EU will force telcos to offer 90 days of 'roam like home' contracts

The European Union has published draft plans to force telcos across the EU to offer customers free roaming for at least 90 days a year. Last year the EU decided to abolish roaming fees from June 2017, after years of negotiations with European telcos. But today the plans contain a "fair usage" concession which mean users can …

  1. d3rrial

    B-but but b...

    ... but how are the telcos supposed to survive without the price gouging?!

    1. Dale 3

      Re: B-but but b...

      but how are the telcos supposed to survive without the price gouging?

      The EU is also allowing/encouraging all the networks to merge into each other so there's less competition between them and contract rates go up. In other words, the telcos will survive because cost-per-month goes up faster than cost-per-minute goes down.

      1. Martin Summers Silver badge

        Re: B-but but b...

        Encouraging them to merge? Tell that to o2 and Three!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "That is intended to prevent people abusing the arrangement by buying a contract in a country that offers cheaper rates and permanently using that deal"

    That's not abuse, that's using the services offered, within the law. If incumbents in, say, Belgium don't like that others offer lower rates, then they are free to cut their prices to match.

    Either the EU is a single market for services, and i can use a mobile phone from any provider in the EU, without price gouging (reasonable costs / termination fees, perhaps, but 10% plus, no way), or it's not a single market and telecoms stays in the same stupid world as TV rights etc. Either way, it's not "abuse" - the abuse is the politicians saying "single market" yet creating whole swathes of exemptions.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      To play devils advocate here...

      Your statement that the EU should be a single market for services only really works if taxes for services are the same throughout, and we unfortunately don't have that. Taxes on the mobile plans would skew the market to those places with the lowest taxes.

      Also, I can foresee that certain firms would abuse the common market to lower prices in order to gain lots of subscribers but then fail to transfer that cash into better networks and services. The lower revenue for the "good" Telco firms (yes I know that's something of an oxymoron), would discourage investment in better networks and infrastructure, so in the end we would all end up being stuck on 2G networks as no-one would spend the cash to upgrade, because they wouldn't see any increased profits.

      Admittedly at the moment, there are a lot of dodgy networks who don't seem to do anything to improve their current networks but there are still some good companies out there implementing better and faster services. Yes they generally cost more, but eventually that infrastructure begins to benefit everyone.

      1. Detective Emil

        Re: To play devils advocate here...

        … only really works if taxes for services are the same throughout.

        I think that loophole got fixed last year: vendors of downloads no longer sell out of Luxembourg, where VAT was 3%, because they must now charge the rate of the country where the customer is established. If this rule does not yet apply to telecomms, I'm sure the stroke of a pen could change that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Either the EU is a single market ... or it's not

      It's not. Never has been, never will be, no matter the wet dreams of Brussels politicos.

      1. nematoad Silver badge
        FAIL

        Pathetic!

        A/C you must either be unsure of your conclusions or a poor troll to come out with a statement like:

        "...no matter the wet dreams of Brussels politicos." and then hide under the blanket of anonymous cowardice.

        No, don't tell me. You voted Leave, right?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pathetic!

          No, don't tell me. You voted Leave, right?

          Nope.

      2. Yes Me Silver badge

        Single market?

        AC wrote "It's not". Of course not, no market is perfect and the EU market is therefore imperfect. I don't think many Europols really have wet dreams about that. It's just better than 27 completely separate markets. If only the Brexidiots could get that into their heads instead of droning on about loss of sovereignty* and Polish** immigrants.

        *Sovereignty is what we lost to a fellow named Roosevelt in 1940.

        **The Polish were the ones who showed us how to crack Enigma in 1939. Pretty ungrateful to turn their grandchildren into 21st Century victims of xenophobia.

        1. Kurt Meyer

          Re: Single market?

          @ Yes Me

          "The Polish were the ones who showed us how to crack Enigma in 1939. Pretty ungrateful to turn their grandchildren into 21st Century victims of xenophobia."

          Well said.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Single market?

          no market is perfect and the EU market is therefore imperfect. I don't think many Europols really have wet dreams about that. It's just better than 27 completely separate markets.

          27? There are hundreds, in all sorts of products and product areas, it isn't a nationalistic "one per country" as you seem think.

          The problem is that the Brussels gang cherry pick the easy bits, where they have some hope of persuading/bullying companies into doing what they want, or at least some suitably ambiguous sembalnce of it,while ignoring all the places where hamonization would actially be useful because they can't actually get any agreement. Despite that they still seem to think they are doing some really useful work.

          If only the Brexidiots could get that into their heads instead of droning on about loss of sovereignty* and Polish** immigrants.

          If only the remainers could get it through their thick bigoted skulls that hardly anyone gives a flying fuck about Polish immigrants. The problem isn't immigration, it's power-hungry empire-building politicians with dreams about a united Europe, and to hell with the economic impossibility of getting 28 very different countries to agree on a common political and fiscal policy. Like it or not, people are tribal, the EU cannot and will not ever work. The more they try and force it to work, the more they stir up the nationalist extremists who play on those tribal instincts. That's where the imaginary immigrant isuses come from.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      The problem is, a country with a small population still has to provide the infrastructure, but they can't spread the costs over most customers. So a big country, with lots of users can have cheaper infrastructure costs per customer, thus offering cheaper contracts.

      The smaller country still needs to provide the infrastructure, but if their residents are buying contracts from a neighbouring country with a larger population and therefore cheaper contracts, then the telcos in the small country aren't generating enough revenue to maintain, let alone improve, the native infrastructure.

      The only way it would work is if it was one of the big telcos, like Vodafone, O2 etc. who are multinational and they provide the infrastructure in both countries. Otherwise the telcos in the smaller countries can't compete, they will go bankrupt and there will be no infrastructure for mobile comms...

      That the extreme and would probably never happen, but if everybody in expensive country started using contracts from cheaper country, then expensive country would have to increase their prices, because they still need to maintain the same infrastructure with fewer customers. Also, even with the cross-carrier compensation, as the prices in the expensive country increase, the cheaper country will notice that many of its customers are continually roaming in expensive country and they will have to increase their base rates to compensate...

      Free market with borrowed resources doesn't work well. Distinct products or distinct services will work fine (buy a physical product or service in cheap country), but if the bought / leased service requires somebody else's infrastructure, it won't work well/properly.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        For some reason Finland with large area to cover and small population has mobile operators offering fixed-line internet and TV replacement services over 4G. This has lead to a dismantling of fixed-line infrastructure which was costly to maintain over the large distances.

        When my local mobile mast was constructed, one month surveyors came look for a suitable place, after which they gave the then current owner 500 bucks. The next month a 80 meter tall beautiful steel girder mast appeared. Getting the permissions and the costs of building out infra is going to be much different in other countries.

        Of course, users would love buying a 100Mbit/s Finnish SIM for 30 quid a month and use it in UK, but UK networks don't have the capacity for that, and they aren't able to add capacity quickly enough, getting permissions to build anything or tear down houses to.make way for infrastructure, is much slower and much more expensive in UK.

        This it seems natural that you can't have the same price for mobile services across areas with vastly different costs..

    4. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      That's not abuse, that's using the services offered, within the law. If incumbents in, say, Belgium don't like that others offer lower rates, then they are free to cut their prices to match.

      I haven't read the regulation but aren't you misunderstanding it (or am I)? I don't see anything in the article saying that a telco cannot offer free roaming for more than 90 days, just that they cannot be forced to do so. If an operator in country X wishes to offer inclusive EU roaming all year, for a total price less than a Belgian deal, they can still do so.

      The change is to avoid all mobile prices in low income countries rising because people from high income countries would use their deals and then "roam" all year. Of course, it can be argued that that price levelling is exactly what the single market was supposed to achieve (it was supposed to lead to income levelling as well).

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But that is ignoring differing costs in different countries.

      For a physical product you can have one factory and aside from shipping costs there is no justification for different prices.

      A cell phone service requires infrastructure in the country. That will cost more or less to install and maintain in each country depending on land prices and labor prices.

      So yes they price gouge but there are reasonable grounds to charge different prices in different countries.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Norman Nescio

    'Improvement' gives poorer service

    Agree.

    I live in one state, but need to keep a valid phone number in another state: the easy way is to have a mobile phone on permanent roaming. It is for a vanishingly small number of important calls. I'm now being caught by providers specifically ruling out such arrangements in their Ts and Cs (e.g. 3 will cut you off). I'm not looking to 'abuse' free roaming - I'll even pay a reasonable amount for the calls and texts I make and receive: but I need the facility, so the EU saying "would cover virtually all communications needs of Union customers" is just a weasely-worded way of saying some people will lose out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'Improvement' gives poorer service

      Perhaps just get a SIP number in the country of your choice?

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: 'Improvement' gives poorer service

        Perhaps just get a SIP number in the country of your choice

        Will not work for 2FA and other apps which need SMS. I clock less than a minute or two on roaming voice on my Eastern European phone per year, however without it being on roaming ~10 months a year I cannot pay the utility bills and other expenses I incur there (utility bills, etc for my summer house).

        It is either a single market or not. So I do not quite see the justification for this 90 days malarkey.

      2. ZSn

        Re: 'Improvement' gives poorer service

        If you're in the UK you can get a free (to you) 0845 SIP number from SIPGATE, they also do free normal numbers in Germany (you still have to pay for outgoing, but incoming is free I think). However these are not mobile numbers. Apart from that, if the number you need is in other countries of the EU you may get 'freeish' SIP numbers from other providers.

        1. Norman Nescio

          Re: 'Improvement' gives poorer service

          The use of SIP numbers is a very good idea (and equivalent use of 07xxx 'follow me' numbers) - except that some of the organisations that require a UK phone number specifically exclude the relevant number ranges as being suitable for their purposes. And, as another poster has pointed out, they are not suitable for receiving 2FA SMS messages.

          I know these are edge cases, and few people need the 'long term, low volume' roaming capability, but for those of us who do need it, losing it is going to be a pain.

          However, thank-you for the constructive suggestions of other choices. I appreciate the thought.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 'Improvement' gives poorer service

      I had an arrangement like that for years in the US. When I got a mobile phone in 2000, I was commuting to Canada each week for consulting work so I needed a plan that covered it. AT&T provided the only good option (a $20/month add on that made Canada part of the US as far as my plan was concerned) but they didn't offer service where I lived. So I used a friend's address in another state to sign up, and was always roaming.

      I "roamed" at home for years and AT&T never said anything, then I read they were going to start cracking down on people who were roaming off their network more than 50% of the time. But the year before they'd bought a regional carrier where I lived so I was no longer roaming.

  5. TRT Silver badge

    After all,

    when in roam...

  6. Hans 1
    Thumb Up

    AMEN

    I, personally, already have 35 days/year free roaming ... and you do not know how good it is until you have it ... seriously ... it is better than local ... you wanna know why ?

    You can change providers, unlike the locals!

  7. djstardust

    Had this conversation

    With my son last night.

    Vodafone is rubbish where I live and is mostly 2g with no data throughput, but with my 4gb Euro roaming data per month I can go to any far flung piece of the countryside outside the UK and lock on to any available network which gives far better performance.

    He asked if I could, for example, buy a contract in France then use it to permanently "roam" in the UK but I guess this article answers that!

  8. alain williams Silver badge

    Brexit means Brexit ...

    Leaving does not mean that we then ditch all EU regulations. Some we will (re)adopt as part of UK law. So, it is quite possible that this roaming regulation will be adopted by the UK government.

    However: with an eye on post Parliament directorships and consultancies I expect that MPs will not be keen on those that hit profits of big business, so they might be dropped.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Brexit means Brexit ...

      Leaving does not mean that we then ditch all EU regulations. Some we will (re)adopt as part of UK law. So, it is quite possible that this roaming regulation will be adopted by the UK government.

      This might be a bit pedantic but to the best of my knowledge readoption would not be necessary; the regulations exist on the statute book now so all the UK would need to do post Brexit is... nothing. Simply leave them in place.

      As a "leaver" I would hope that the UK drops as few of the extant EU regulations as possible; this would show good faith with our ex - partners. I suspect a bonfire of EU regulations (OK they might have to be renamed) would work against long term UK interests.

      However...with an eye on post Parliament directorships and consultancies I expect that MPs will not be keen on those that hit profits of big business, so they might be dropped.

      Sadly I fear you might be right. As has been mentioned on a specific Brexit - related thread the interests of the UK electorate (i.e. the wider population) tend not to be high on the list of priorities..

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    buying a contract in a country that offers cheaper rates and permanently using that deal.

    so unfair! Like buying a car in a country that offers cheaper rates and permanently using that deal. So unfair, I say!

    fortunately, being British, such deals wont' apply. We're happy to pay triple roaming charges and cheaper-abroad fees. We're independint and stuff, we can pay whatever we're told to!

  10. jonfr

    Border areas in Europe

    This is going to make living in border areas interesting (mobile phones often connect to the nearby country mobile network on their own). Once the UK is out of the EU the roam price is going to go up. Its going to be like in Switzerland or any other 3rd country in Europe (whatever the price is in the UK for such service).

    1. John Crisp

      Re: Border areas in Europe

      "This is going to make living in border areas interesting (mobile phones often connect to the nearby country mobile network on their own)."

      I believe the telcos have long had some flexibility for such people (I am happy to stand corrected if wrong)

  11. John Crisp

    Balls

    Knobbled by the get rich quick businesses and their lobbyists again I guess.

    I live in the EU and spend most of my time here but I have, and need, a UK number.

    My usage of calls is minimal, and data non existent due to the extortionate rates, but need to keep it in case of emergencies.

    I'd hoped I'd get more sensible call rates and the ability to use some of my data allowance, and finally not have to worry about roaming charges. Seems I was wishing on a star and it will have to stay as it is.

    So balls to the bastards.

  12. xyz Silver badge

    Bugger...I've been found out

    Been using my three "feel at home" contract in Spain for about 20 months now and bloody useful it is too. Hey ho, now I'll have to use my Spanish pay as you go pos. Odd thing is that the eu stated that it's illegal for UK car insurers to use the same conditions with car insurance contracts and that they must provide 365 day eu cover as part of the contract.

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