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Europe mostly ends mobile roaming fees from today (techcrunch.com)
383 points by janober on June 15, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 340 comments

This idea was good. But in reality what happened in Latvia was very simple and expected move by telcos - all three of them raised prices for all subscriptions by about 3€-4€ monthly (which is ~30% increase). Yes, now you can feel better while traveling, however everyone now pays extra every single month. For some situation now is better, while others pay for it even if they do not need such freedom. Those who are in first category are happy, others not so much.

Edited: It's interesting to see how comment which states facts, can get upvoted and downvoted this much. Sometimes voting in HN does not make any sense (to me). I understand that upvote is "thanks for letting us know those facts". What are downvotes representing? That I should not write at all, that price increase for all 3 telcos is fine, that everyone should be happy? Rhetorical question.

That kind of thing used to happen in Israel too. Every time the government introduced a new regulation aiming to reduce mobile costs, the three companies would respond by simultaneously raising prices. And then the government used the nuclear option--They licensed two new mobile operators. And the prices plummeted.

More importantly, they forced the old operators to play nice: they can't try too hard to retain customers, they can't lower their prices too much, etc. Absolute control is a strong component of Israeli regulation (transports, broadband, cellular, gas...)

Why is that the nuclear option? I would expect more competition to be the go to solution.

That logic doesn't work with telecoms, or with other big infrastructure type companies - water, power, sewerage.

Is wireless as bad as those three?

My understanding is yes, it is, mainly because spectrum is a limited resource

However, it's not as bad. You can't practically build another set of power or water distribution grid, but you can assign new frequencies to new operators. There's a limit on how many you can have, but you can have way more than with those services where there is a physical pipe or line to each point of consumption.

Generally speaking, the problem with the "just stating facts" argument is that it's impossible to list all relevant facts and by picking which facts to list and which facts not to list, you are editorializing and making subjective judgements, which means it's far from being an objective thing.

Your comment also seems like a fallacy. How do you really know it's impossible to list all the relevant facts? I don't think you've addressed anything, just made some imaginary goal line that you can keep pushing back forever.

Latvia and Lithuania have literally the cheapest telco services in Europe. It's no surprise that we have to pay a bit more now. Yes, we lose this time, but for the rest of the Europe it's a huge win.

How much is it exactly? I thought you can't beat Free's prices in France with 2€/mo for 1h phone and unlimited text, and 20€/mo for everything unlimited : phone/text/4G.

Since they showed up all other telcos in France had to adjust and offer around the same, around 25€ max instead of the usual 60€ to 80€ they'd offer before Free.

Lithuania: Phone plans aren't that cheap, I assume because there are only three main operators and they don't really make much money. People here don't have money for the latest iPhone which you would pay €60+/mo for, so their main source of income is service plans. Typically contracts are sold without a phone, and I'd say people would spend on average, under €10/mo. That would get you unlimited calls and texts and a few GB of data. Prepaid plans are usually a bit cheaper, I currently (a special offer for a few months) pay €3.99/mo for unlimited calls and texts and 1.5GB data.

I also have a portable 4G hotspot with unlimited data (I've used around 50GB this month) for €4.90/mo, including rental of the device. It's limited at 6 Mbit but that's fine for my needs (you can pay more for up to 25 Mbit). However the main reason why it's so cheap is because it's from a smaller operator, so you only really get coverage in big cities and even then it can be patchy (like Three when they first launched in Europe).

Home internet is a different story though. I pay €9.90/mo for unlimited 100/100 FTTH, and I can get up to 1000/1000 for €19.90/mo - downloading a 6GB Steam game in under 10 minutes seems fast enough though. In 2015 home broadband coverage (>= 30 Mbit) was 99%, with 62% of subscribers on fibre [0].

[0] http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/document.cfm?doc_id=44449

Germany I'm paying 19 EUR/month with a phone included. No limits on phone calls within Germany (fixed and mobile), but I pay for each SMS sent and only get 2Gb of data.

Sorry for the derail, but who are you with in Germany for that deal? All the contracts I've seen start at at least €40.

Oops, just saw this question now. I've registered with https://www.otelo.de/ after seeing their publicity on TV two years ago and they still seem to have available these promotions.

They have several phone models to choose. You pay 1 EUR for most models from Samsung or Sony, a bit more for the deluxe editions (iphone and sorts). Now they even offer more because SMS are free and I still pay extra for each one, but doesn't matter because I simply use other messaging apps.

The Sony Xperia models are good, they're waterproof by default and resistant to shocks, albeit camera is crappy (compared to normal Samsung models)

I pay 12 Eur for unlimited calls/sms within Germany; 3 GB data; w/o phone; w/o contract term (it can be canceled any time); 100min and 100MB free in other EU countries.

They exist. Even prepaid options are getting cheaper. Take a look at discounter offers (Aldi, Lidl etc). Though don't expect great network coverage on the countryside...

It was costing less, now it is a bit more than you say. I think this law forced cheaper operators to make deals with all the other country operators, no one was going to decrease prices, so in the end we got the maxed out price.

I pay 15€ for unlimited everything in Denmark (but with reasonable caps imposed on European roaming)

> Latvia and Lithuania have literally the cheapest telco services in Europe.

Relative to the cost of living?

You win in the aggregate, because Latvian and Lithuanian exporters and importers now have less friction when traveling. Likely a rise in trade, leading to more company and tax revenue, leading to higher employment.

My telco cancelled roaming on data-only plans altogether in reaction. Such a huge win.

Virtual operators, who don't get any roaming income, still have to pay high roaming fees to other telcos and now can't even charge their expenses to customers are basically screwed and have to increase prices. Such a huge win.

So richer western countries win, you will pay more and it's ok?

Yeah, Lithuania and Latvia receive a lot of cash from the EU to upgrade their infrastructure. It's not all black or white, but this doesn't seem like a big issue when you see the support the country received.

That "support" (I.e. Donations) goes to politically well connected companies, burns some 20% on well-connected middlemen and has to be co-funded. Some first hand experience with how harmful and ineffective the donations are would do you good.

Same thing happening in Sweden as well. Many people in the comments here are saying that their bills haven't been raised, but at least here in Sweden the price are only raised for new contracts.

There is also (AFAIK) some limits on this. I.e, you cannot get a contract in a cheap neighbouring country and use it all the time roaming from you home country. To unify all EU telco markets and increase competition between carriers might be a long term goal of the legislator, but as far as I can tell, right now it's only really applicable for travel.

The standard monthly contract price, 150kr/month or whatever, is the big number that customers look at when signing a contract. It's where the companies compete, so they can't increase the prices beyond a reasonable amount.

There's no longer the hidden cost of being caught with a bill for 500kr after returning from a European holiday.

That's true, and I agree that the high bill is nice to avoid. But also, I think it's classic pro-regulation-people to be surprised by companies levying the fee on the end customers. I guess also, that for most consumers, they would rather have some other system (reasonable way to buy cheap roaming-data?) for those European holidays instead of paying 10-30 SEK extra per month, for ever. I would guess most people don't roam even once per year.

There wasn't a good, reasonable way to buy cheap roaming-data, at least not with my German contract. 150MB of roaming in the EU was 5€ with the purchase process (via SMS) being bugged and failing 50% of the time, sometimes charging my credit card instantly while delivering the "You can use your roaming data now" message days later when I was back home, customer support could not help because they "do not suggest that the data is available instantly". n=1, obviously.

I'm sure there are lots of people who roam a lot; people travel on business all the time, truck drivers cross borders all the time, anyone living along the border to Norway or Finland goes across a lot, anybody in Skåne is an hour or two away from Denmark, and let's not forget the thousands who take the ferries over to Finland and Åland.

And who is going to buy a roaming package when you're gone for at most 24 hours? A week in Greece or Mallorca and it makes sense with something like that.

However the situation is much better now. It was very common for us French people to discover a huge roaming bill after a trip in another European country. At least roaming cost are becoming predictable

Yep. Still remember when I got charged 8 EUR just for being close to the border with the Czech Republic but still within our side of the border.

They made a lot of money with this roaming business.

All GSM and later digital phones, starting with Nokia 2110 and its contemporaries, had an option to refuse roaming - just to avoid accidental phone bills like this.

(I think the 1st generation NMT network in Nordic countries also had the same, though I am not sure as I never owned one.)

Yes, because it appears the Latvians are now subsidising your roaming charges.

And the French are subsidising Latvian agriculture, universities, roads, and infrastructure. I don't think it's fair to evaluate this policy isolated from the rest of EU policies.

The French are subsidising French agriculture and so is everyone else in EU.


There are two million Latvians. Pre-Brexit EU has over 500 million citizens. Your math doesn't work unless each Latvian is paying 5000 euros / month.

It's possible that visitors to Lithuania were paying high termination fees to the local telco and subsidizing the native subscribers.

Assuming the telco profits remained static (which may or may not be true) presumably someone was paying these costs before and if it wasn't Lithuanians then who was it?

I guess you're not serious, are you?

Not that serious.

But the grandparent post was someone from Latvia saying 'this is terrible our prices have gone up' which was followed by someone from France saying 'no this is great our prices have gone down'.

Someone's paying for it, and I doubt it's the Telcos who are losing out.

Oh, telcos absolutely lose, because there were a few companies present in most EU countries and somehow most of them charged for roaming anyway only because they could - it cost them nothing extra.

Parcels are next, so I hear.

Do you think Latvians don't go to other EU countries and don't use roaming? Those who do now pay less, so it's Latvians paying for Latvians.

Not trying to play HN policeman but:


Please resist commenting about being downvoted. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

This doesn't really make sense - what was stopping them from raising prices before, if people are really willing to pay 3-4 EUR more?

It's good timing because it will have the customers "blaming Europe" for the cost increase rather than the Telcos.

As I stated also above - this raise is not only observed in Latvia, Lithuania, but across eastern countries in EU as well. You ask about the reason - how about "let's try to compensate the loses", or "let's try as a preventive action", etc. Now - I believe they are not going to keep this long down the road. You said "if people are willing to pay", but that should really be the question - are they? We'll see. I personally will downgrade my plan, as a reaction to theirs. What is important and strange, that even with less national data, there is a lot more in roaming.

In fact I suspect the raise in prices has nothing to do with this.

Inflation in LT and LV is between 3% and 4% now, and salaries are also growing at about 5%.

This is probably not true in this case, but in markets with lots of competition, raising the costs raises prices because companies are already providing services close to cost.

Even in less competitive markets, raising the cost of providing a service will shift the supply curve, which can result in increased prices.

"Edited: It's interesting to see how comment which states facts, can get upvoted and downvoted this much."

I downvoted you because you talked about your downvotes.

Write your comment and live with the results - don't interrupt the discussion to complain about your score.

I can only upvote this. Exactly the same in Bulgaria. Now telcos don't include the mobile internet as they did previously. If you're to to retain the same amount of data, you have to pay more more expensive plan. The paradox here is there're plans with say 400MB national megabytes, but 1200MB in roaming! Due to the weird formula implied for calculating the limit of data in roaming - related only to the cost of monthly bill you have.

The idea was not to lower prices, but to align mobile pricing to basic EU freedoms:

* Free movement of persons

* Freedom to establish and provide services

Those who are in first category are happy, others not so much.

The difficulty here is gauging how happy or unhappy people are. People who don't travel so much may feel unhappy at subsidizing those who do, but it's like insurance. If you have to travel unexpectedly, suddenly that inconvenience seems well worth it compared to the unpleasant experience of receiving a large bill for traveling. This is even more true if your travel is involuntary (visiting a sick relative instead of taking a holiday, for example).

There was similar short-term dissatisfaction in the US as landline carriers moved towards offering free long-distance calling within the USA some years ago. Some people objected that they shouldn't have to pay more for phone service since they rarely made calls outside their own town town/county. But the market as a whole preferred the simplicity of a one-size fits all plan, and arguably some of the savings in reduced billing complexity found their way back to consumers, as landline pricing gradually fell to an even lower equilibrium in the following years. This was before mobile telephony really took off. I don't have links offhand, but I do remember being pleased by my low monthly telephony bills.

It's a good idea to consider the second-order effects as well as the first-order effects.

I think it's a small price to pay to have the freedom as a country to talk to anyone in Europe cheaply. The effects won't be felt right away, but just as cheaper flights across Europe have made Europeans much more interconnected, so will cheap roaming fees (even though for the sub-30 generation, WhatsApp calls and such are already the norm).

But the regulation only applies to roaming so it doesn't really affect calls made from your home country to another EU country, which can still be much more than a typical local call.

Roaming is for when you travel (i.e. bring your mobile phone to another country), not when you call someone in another country

If roaming is free, can't you just use another countries cellphone provider? And if so, it's likely the cheapest country needed to raise rates should people from more expensive areas do so.

No. There are various limits. One of which is you have a limited amount of time you can roam for per year before you have to start paying. It's not too bad though. The real shit loophole is that they don't give you your full data allowance when roaming. It's needlessly complicated of course. Very rough idea: if you get 10gb for €10 a month you can roam for free for 2gb of that.

BTW, the free roaming data will increase in the next years (see second question in https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/faq/frequently...).

Indeed, but still at prices which are well above current prices for my domestic rate. By 2022 one would imaging domestic rates will be still lower making that maximum rate much worse than it looks now. A true end to roaming would mean I can use everything I pay for exactly the same over the whole EU. Long way to go yet before we have a true single market.

The amount of roaming you get depends on your carrier and contract. We get up to 20 GB of roaming or your contract data cap, whichever is lowest. E.g. me and my wife can roam for 20 GB because our contract is for 24 GB, but if we had a 12 or 6 GB plan we could only get 12 or 6 respectively.

Right. That's why I said needlessly complicated :) Takes so much effort to work everything out. They rely on this to make profits from mistakes.

That is much harder now; they now have to warn you when you reach your limit. See question 17 on https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/faq/frequently...: "Therefore, as long as your operator has not contacted you while abroad, you can roam like at home without any worries."

So, they still can charge lots to those who, getting warned, don't immediately stop using their phone.

It is complicated because this is a political compromise. Everybody knows where the EU wants to end up (the frequent use of 'may' in that answer is a nice indicator), but that means shifting income of operators around (in general, operators in popular holiday countries lose a substantial source of income), so it can't happen in a Big Bang operation.

No, the rule says that you can use abroad what you've been using "at home" on a regular basis.

No, as far as I can see all dataplans (in Denmark) differentiate between "at home" and in EU allowance, e.g. I can use 8GB out of 40gb monthly in EU

Anyway, for a typical one week vacation this is a good step forward.

It's not free, it's just included in your existing contract.

You're paying for 300 minutes at home? When you're abroad and phoning to a EU number, you're using those 300 minutes. Before, you either had to get a special package, or pay roaming charges.

Telecom services are pretty cheap in Latvia if we compare to other countries in EU. However we cant forget, that Latvia is also one of poorest EU countries. While for some that 3€-4€ increase is nothing, others do feel it and are not happy.

>Those who are in first category are happy, others not so much.

Here's a thought: the people in society with the lowest income have to pay for this just like everyone else, yet they are the ones least likely to benefit from it.

It is unfortunately a pattern that you'll find widespread in what the EU does. It benefits the the people with already higher income in the member countries way more than those with a low income. Sometimes it even makes the bottom of society subsidize those with higher incomes than they have - as is the case here.

This is not what happened in the Netherlands. I just renewed my contract, and it is a lot cheaper now. I pay 12,50 euro per month for 200 min/sms and 5 gb of data, whereas the same plan used to be around 16,50. They are advertising this plan everywhere.

11 eur/month for everything unlimited here in Latvia. You just have to negotiate the price.

No change in France from one the main operator (Orange) (yet...)

Really? I had a SMS from SFR yesterday on this.

> What are downvotes representing?

in your case, you're the top comment thread on a front page article. it probably represents "I would like to see a different thread at the top", and you shouldn't take it personally, it might even be because they don't like the discussion happening as reply below your posts.

either that, or idiots. they hide in numbers.

Same thing happened in Denmark. Several operators advertised a rise in prices with the exact reasoning: To pay for the loss of roaming charges. They actually advertised that the price rise was to pay for their lost income, as if to somehow try to gather sympathy from the average customer.

Fortunately, some telcos didn't. My wife made the switch from Telmore to Oister due to being annoyed with Telmore's price hike. It was the proverbial straw I guess ..

Comparing, in Lithuania, nothing much has changed in regards to local prices but for EU, they actually still provide separate additional packages. The best one for internet seems to be 3eur/1GB.

That's right, however check the terms of each package, you probably will find that those are under "alternative terms" which are allowed in the new regulation, and if you accept, they take precedence.

We (Czechs) have relatively expensive plans that are slowly getting cheaper over time. And this roamimg-cancelling didn't affect that trend at all ...

The european antitrust should punish this behaviour!

Local antitrust agency recently told that they will look into this "synchronized pricing rise". However I really doubt that they will do anything about it.

Vodafone and O2 got fined with 20M last October for price fixing and that's not the first such fine either.

don't think they can. Telcos are not going to say "we raise the price because roaming" so, even if we all know, they will walk away.

I'm sure their lawyers made sure they could do it... sadly.

Our operator in Italy doubled the prices.

"It's interesting to see how comment which states facts, can get upvoted and downvoted this much"

That's what happens when you let programmers try running a social site like this, especially when they have no real idea of social grace.

A lot of people complaining here. I am based in Luxembourg currently, and went to London last week. The peace of mind of landing in a foreign city and being able to use your phone as if at home truly is incredible. I could really feel the barriers to traveling fading. (Ironic that it was London, I know). BTW, my Luxembourghish telco actually aligned with the EU directive ahead of time (June 1st).

Agreed. I now use Google Fi (free roaming in 150 countries) but that didn't use to exist.

When I was doing an internship in Switzerland about 9 years ago I often travelled to nearby countries on weekends and internet access was always a problem. Free Wi-Fi was largely nonexistent back then, and roaming charges were upwards of USD15 per megabyte (yes, mega). Simply trying to use Google Maps to get to a hostel might cost more than the cost of staying at the hostel. And being on a prepaid plan, there was always the risk of accidentally clicking on an ad and burning up all of the quota that I purchased, leaving me stranded without internet access.

I relied mostly on printed paper maps that summer.

I always thought it made zero sense in a part of the world where crossing country borders could be an everyday occurrence especially if you live close to a border.

I also thought it made absolutely zero sense that the various Oranges and various T-Mobiles of different countries don't have free roaming plans with each other. Why didn't Orange UK, Orange France, Orange Switzerland, Orange Egypt, Orange Romania, etc. work together to give free calls and free internet access on each others' networks, routing everything over IP? They could have won over a bunch of business customers by doing that and killed some competitors.

> Why didn't Orange UK, Orange France, Orange Switzerland, Orange Egypt, Orange Romania, etc. work together to give free calls and free internet access on each others' networks

Because they made boatloads of profit from charging their customers for roaming.

Sure, but they could instead sweep all the customers away from their competition since the same parent company has a foot in multiple countries. They could have even undercut business from Skype by offering almost-free roaming.

Also, if roaming charges are prohibitively expensive, people just stop using roaming. If they are at least reasonable, they will profit significantly more because people will actually use it. At $15/MB I just shut my phone off. They're not making any money from me.

> At $15/MB I just shut my phone off. They're not making any money from me.

They didn't need you. Their real customers back at the time were businessmen with next-to-unlimited travel funds.

These days it has changed because especially young people demand being able to Instagram/Snapchat their travels from anywhere... but still data in Germany is horribly expensive.

As an American who likes to travel to Europe, this is a godsend. I can buy a pre-paid SIM before I leave America and then use it all over Europe. Getting a TIM (Italy, 35 Euro for one month) SIM was a real pain in the ass and I would love to have found somewhere else to make the process much easier and cheaper.

You could also just use Google's Project Fi. My biggest complaint about them is it takes about 10 minutes to get an LTE connection when switching continents (which is basically to say I have no complaints).

That assumes he has a compatible device.

Here in Switzerland we have some of the highest mobile prices ($30+) [1], yet our mobile providers will not remove the fee like the rest or Europe. Our politician try to enforce every single new EU-law, but when there's once something that would benefit the people, they come up with many excuses why this couldn't be applied and how Switzerland isn't part of the EU and doesn't have to follow through...

[1] https://www.swisscom.ch/en/residential/mobile/subscription-t...

Amazing, $30 is considered high for a mobile plan. In Canada it's the price of the lowest end plan from the lowest end provider. A plan from a big name provider will be at least $60 with capped data.

Is that USD or CAD?

$30 is also among the lower prices you have to pay for a plan in Switzerland. But it's kind of hard to define, since there many variables (data speed, data cap, phone call prices, coverage, etc).

Most people I know are running on $60 to $100 plans.

I'm looking forward to when my company is paying my mobile bill.

In Italy I pay $10 for 15gb per month with unlimited calls. Looking forward to go abroad :-)

My guess is that people calling you also have to pay high prices per minute, as is common in Europe. So, the price doesn't include incoming calls.

Not sure whether Canada world like US or like Europe.

Can't you hold a referendum like for everything else? ;)

That's because Swisscom is very good at lobbying, especially when that means they get to sit on their ass and collect free money for longer.

Moving more freely in EU why are people against that? Sure LT, LV, Poland, Romania etc probably got a slight raise. At the same time these countries are heavily subsidized by the rest of the countries already. What they also have is alot of people working abroad… so then they are allowed to surf with their cheap plans in not so cheap countries.

I can also note that this law has resulted in alot more unlimited plans. I myself have just gotten one which includes 30gb of roaming. Is it cheaper than before? Hell no. Do I have to care about how much I surf, when or where? Not anymore - and freedom is worth the extra €20.

As an American I was shocked at how cheap cell phone plans already are in Europe. You can get a great 4GB data SIM for like 10 euros, where it would easily be several times that in the US. My Verizon unlimited plan is $86/month per person, and even that is a special thing that's grandfathered in.

Unlimited 50 Mbit/s is 17,90€/mo and 100 Mbit/s is 24,90€/mo. Of course with unlimited full speed tethering. I found it utterly ridiculous that in US tethering is limited or there are transfer limits. Users easily use 30, 50 or 100 Gbytes / mo. Low limits make torrenting and snapschat, music streaming, Youtube and Snapshat really annoying to use. In Finland average users uses over 10 Gbytes/mo. You can guess what kind of amounts the top 20% transfers based on Pareto principle.

I usually recommend people to buy only one mobile Internet connection. It doesn't make any sense for "normal users" to buy anything else. 100 or 300 Mbit/s mobile, that's it. Yet 300 Mbit/s mobile is pretty expensive, 29,90€/mo (including tax and fees).

> My Verizon unlimited plan is $86/month

You Americans get royally screwed. With all that money they will pay off Yahoo, the FCC, congress and still make a huge profit. They don't even have to invest much in networks, because there's hardly any competition. However they will invest in mobile Ad technology, to get even more money out of you.

It's not so bad if you shop around. T-Mobile has a PAYG SIM card that is $30/month for 5GB of data, unlimited texts and 100 minutes of calls.

I suspect part of the difference in price is due to geography - the US has vast, vast areas of unpopulated land that people still want to receive cell coverage in. Europe has less of that. It would be interesting to see the customer response to a new US network that I'd cheaper but only covers major metro areas.

USA has twice the population density of Finland, for which Sami_Lehtinen quotes prices in the sibling comment.

So it's not that, or not just that at least.

Unfortunately T-Mobile has a noticeably bad network, and I just can't bite the bullet and put up with it. Whenever one of my friends is having trouble getting signal I ask what their carrier is, and it's always T-Mobile.

You are confused about why people are upset at having to pay more for something they don't get any value out of (unless they travel, and Eastern Europeans travel a lot less than Western Europeans)?

I'm wondering why the regulation was necessary and why the free market forces didn't bring the prices or roaming down? What are the forces in telecom industry that kept the prices so high (assuming that the prices were higher then necessary)?

Because it's a confusopoly[1] and roaming charges (like data overage charges) weren't part of the headline offer, which was generally UNLIMITED calls and texts and a FREE phone when you pay £X per month.

Same as 'free' banking in the UK, which is in reality heavily cross-subsidised by the poorest customers paying overdraft penalties.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confusopoly

Roaming is relatively niche, but very expensive product, compared to other telecommunication services, so in my opinion it was fair to charge additional fee for that.

Now that EU regulation is in place mobile operators are no longer allowed to charge the additional cost to people actually using roaming, they have to spread it across all their customers. So, net effect will be: poor people who do not use roaming (e.g. because they cannot afford vacations abroad) will pay for the convenience of middle and higher class people who travel a lot.

Why is expensive? I get that in the times of analog cable, connection centers between different countries networks were cumbersome, and a service that needed to be payed exclusively by those that used it, but these days of interconnected everything?

I have still to see a reason in this thread that justifies the higher prices. If connections between different companies in a country work without significant cost, why is different between (european) countries? Damn, most of the time are the same company! It's price gouging and a racket.

Consider the case of a small national telco that happens to have a large number of incoming tourists.

There's an additional burden on their network, and they should be able to recoup some of that cost.

But almost every carrier I've seen would charge extortionate rates - hundreds or thousands of times the price they would charge their local customers for.

Small telcos rarely handle these things themselves and instead resell bigger telcos. If anything, I hope this triggers an investment in optimising this infrastructure; if i can use the internet without caring where the physical servers are, so should my phone be.

Sorry, when I said 'small national telco' I meant a telco for a small nation.

If they have no way to recoup the additional cost of all the incoming visitors, then they can't invest in expanding infrastructure.

It's probably a pretty limited scenario though.

Recouping costs is different from charge through the nose for international traffic.

Yesterday, that traffic typically was priced at euros per _mega_byte, starting at the first bit transferred; starting today that's at most €7.70 + VAT per _giga_byte, starting after you have used your (fairly generous) fair use allotment, going down to €2,50 per gigabyte in the coming years.

Naturally, countries who see many tourists heavily opposed this change and lobbied to keep the maximum price that the EU now has set high.

The EU has also regulated down the price that mobile operators are allowed to charge each other for roaming though, during the last years.

So roaming is actually not expensive anymore for them, and this latest regulation is the logical outcome, forcing the operators to pass their savings on to their customers.

Roaming is relatively niche

Highly questionable. Concern for the poor that only appears in the context of government regulation often seems to be motivated more by dislike of regulation than worry about the lot of the poor.

Surely you have considered that one of the reasons poor people don't travel more is the predictable large roaming bill they may face upon their return. Once people are used to being in regular contact via cellphone, they don't wish to give that up for travel. Further, suggesting that vacations are the only reason people travel seems disingenuous. People are often motivated to travel in search of work, or to attend funerals, or other in- or semi-voluntary reasons besides leisure.

Also mobile operators are mostly huge corporations with subsidiaries in many EU countries and 'roaming' inside their own networks adds mostly zero additional costs. Which is exactly what they should have charged their customers until now (some did, but these were exceptions).

> Roaming is relatively niche

From the EU's perspective that was a problem, limiting 2 of 4 aspects in the single market's stated goal of free movement of goods, services, people and capital, namely services and people.

Services are still somewhat limited (you can't just buy the Latvian 15€/month service as a German in Germany, telcos made sure of that), but given the reliance of contemporary folks on connectivity, it helps somewhat on the "free movement of people" bit.

> net effect will be: poor people who do not use roaming (e.g. because they cannot afford vacations abroad)

There's a contingent in European's poor (from Eastern Europe) that works abroad (Western Europe) and benefits from not having to deal with roaming anymore.

(also, from my experience from when I was poor[0], it can be ridiculously cheap to have a few days of international vacation within the EU)

[0] poor being relative, but I think most official metrics would have covered me.

> So, net effect will be: poor people who do not use roaming (e.g. because they cannot afford vacations abroad) will pay for the convenience of middle and higher class people who travel a lot.

You'd have to be fairly destitute to not be able to afford to travel within Europe[1]. For example, even people on social welfare in the UK and Ireland can afford cheap sun holidays to Spain or wherever.

[1] https://www.ryanair.com/gb/en/cheap-flight-destinations

However, people on social welfare in Spain hardly can afford a cheap... (ok not sun) holidays in UK and Ireland.

Not to mention Latvia or Bulgaria.

British social welfare is considered (sorry, no source) one of the top in Europe (Swedish is probably higher).

Imagine you had to pay extra when calling someone in a different state in the US (like it used to be with landlines). Why would anyone want to go back to that? Except the telephony providers, of course.

Sometimes fair. But there have been a lot of cases of people unknowingly using data abroad and getting a bill for like £500 for half a GB of data which would fairly cost maybe £5.

What a great term. Mobile companies are the obvious ones to do this. Energy companies use this to great effect - there is never a like-for-like to compare.

Britain has some of the most forgiving overdraft penalties in Europe. My mother spends time in France and has a French bank account, going overdrawn over there is a seriously big deal even if you have an otherwise stellar record and the charges are punitive even if you have a facility.

Maybe, but being the best of a bad bunch doesn't make you good.

Should customers who don't go into the red subsides those that do then.

No, the point is the profit margin on all customers should be approximately the same; if any group is cross-subsidizing any other group then something's probably screwy.

Lol the banks will find away to keep charging for overdrafts and screw both types of customer - just like they did over the reduction in merchant charges I lost £20 a month but the merchants just pocketed the reduced charges as a bonus and did not pass it on to customers.

False dichotomy? Although if I had to choose (and speaking as someone who has never paid an overdraft fee), then yes, because it would be way less regressive than the current arrangement.

There is no free market. There can be only so many telcos in one country anyway, so instead of a race to the bottom, telcos of each country form cartels.

In Greece for example, we have 3 mobile operators and they announce exactly the same changes to their plans within a couple weeks difference. Things like “we increase our basic plan by 5 euros” or “you have to top up your prepaid phone at least once every 3 months instead of 12”. This way, there is no point at switching.

Especially roaming was a golden goose until few years ago, because each telco charged termination fees for roaming subscribers. So your telco was like “I can't do much, I have to pay the foreign telco”. What happened in EU, is that by law these termination fees started getting smaller until today where they become zero.

In Poland it actually is a race to the bottom: there are 4 different mobile operators and every time one of them announce a new offer it usually is cheaper than anything already on the market. And within few weeks other 3 usually follow with similar price cuts.

EU's roaming regulation is the latest example: 3 operators announced tariffs that pretended to make roaming free, but have multiple strings attached. But the fourth one, Orange, announced offer without any fine print, just equating roaming prices with domestic ones, thus forcing other three to do the same.

If I recall correctly there wasn't a single price raise in Poland in the last 15 years.

You guys are lucky. I wish it was the same with the greek market. Though the cynic in me whispers that wait a few years and you'll experience the same behavior once the market is settled.

I don't know man, I have the Cosmote 65 and was paying 12 euros a month until recently (now I pay 20) for 1500 mins/SMS and 3 GB/mo. If you tell them you're switching away every time your contract lapses, they give you huge discounts.

There can be any number of telcos, the telephony regulator just needs to force them to share the infrastructure.

There are free markets and then there are free markets.

There are commodity markets with many producers, many consumers and product uniformity. These can be modeled very effectively using economic theories. Barley, pork bellies, silver.

There are more “normal” markets with many (or at least enough) producers & consumers and nonuniform products with sufficient substitution options. Supermarkets, building supplies, spoons, shoes… These tend to be efficient and broadly explainable via economic theories.

Some markets are highly regulated. Some markets are oligopolistic or have an monopolistic component in the “value chain” (e.g. last mile infrastructure). Some are highly financialized (e.g. health insurance markets) or have weird standardisation/compatibility issues. Some have high fixed/marginal cost structures. Lock-in, licensing issues, externalities, inflexible supply side (e.g. housing), property rights aggregation issues (e.g. regional US radio bands), bundling…

The ability of a market to be dynamic, efficient, innovative and all the other emergent properties of a free market is limited by all these things.

Telcom markets have a lot of these issues. That’s why highly interventionist policies have performed well relative to more “free” market setups.

It could be argued that these criteria lead to the opposite conclusion.

Many producers: maybe not, but most countries have at least 3 [1]. Not worse than e.g. major grocery store chains or gas stations. Many consumers: definitely Product uniformity: significant--I don't care how my 1 mb of data or 1 min of talk is routed

The key anti-free market characteristic is arguably the limited amount of frequency spectrum, which is allocated via centralized auctions. Yet I don't recall hearing similar complaints about the radio or TV industries in Europe.

A lot of the arguments in this thread are that the market is inefficient and therefore must be regulated, but is this the right path if the inefficiencies are due to regulation in the first place?

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mobile_network_operato...

Telcom markets have a lot of these issues. That’s why highly interventionist policies have performed well relative to more “free” market setups.

Which telcom markets are you thinking about? The ones I'm familiar with are all fairly interventionist.

Because it's an overused phrase that doesn't mean what most people think it means. "Free market" is heavily used as a propaganda.

Back when I took few economy courses, we went over numerous real world examples on how big companies price fix. Sometimes you can have eight players and they'll still agree to fix prices.

This wasn't dry theory, this was golf meeting to raise prices by 50% , fishing trips where pieces of papers were exchanged and nobody fished etc.

From this, if the government is non corrupt, it's far better for the people that government step in and regulate than leave it to the market with a handful of players.

> People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. - Adam Smith The wealth of nations

Because all the major operators (at least in Italy) really like cartels: if an operator increases the price of something, you can expect all the other ones to do exactly the same within a few months.

An example of this is when all the operators changed the billing cycle from one month to 28 days, adding another monthly fee in practice: even if only one operator started doing that (with outrage from the customers), now everyone does that, with the except of landlines where the regulator stepped in.

Exactly the same in Spain.

There was no real competition because there was no real market. The high roaming fees were simply a trap for unsuspecting consumers who got a smartphone, went on holiday and only then learned about "roaming", "automatic updates" and their phones' "via wifi only"-settings; business users would just get a local SIM.

EU is a political effort to bring countries together and this is part of it - in this case, consumers will benefit. If not regulated, telcos would be capitalizing MUCH on open EU borders and (more or less) free travel within EU...

Look at the most free market of them all with the least regulation: United States. Here using a mobile phone is WAAAY more expensive than in Europe. My US friends always thinks I'm lying when I tell them how little we pay for data in EU.

In the US nearly everyone has no cost roaming and long distance coast to coast. Having a set phone budget is worth more to me than lower costs. I have friends who have gone for the much cheaper budget plan that only covers their local area: they love it for two months then hit a situation where either it doesn't work or they are get a big bill because they forget they traveled to a roaming area.

As other have pointed out the population density works against us a little too. Having service when I visit remote places is worth a lot too.

The size of the country will play a big role. Many European states are densely populated. Germany, for example, has more than 80mln inhabitants while it is smaller than the state of Montana.

You won't have reception everywhere in Montana but just covering major highways and the interstate system in the US adds a lot of network costs. The barriers to enter are huge whereas you can easily provide coverage for a large part of the population in some EU countries.

The most sparsely populated EU countries (Sweden & Finland) have good coverage and low prices. And mostly domestic (not foreign-owned) operaotrs.

You can't go by pure density. Imagine if you transported Mexico City into Antartica. It would be sparsely populated, but highly concentrated. Cellar coverage would be easy.

Are rural areas in Sweden dominated by small, fairly dense towns? In America, even small cities are sprawling because of cars. People will live 10 miles outside of a small town of 3000 people.

Rural areas in Sweden and Finland are dominated by forests, swamps and lakes. You've got 3G or 4G practically everywhere.

And mountains, not to forget. Though the coverage up in the mountains is not always great if you are away from populated areas.

Yes, real mountains in Sweden and fells in Finland. Still, where you have a dwelling, you usually also have coverage.

Barriers to switching would be my guess. Three, in particular, has offered an amazing roaming package for years. But it's still fiddly and annoying to switch mobile providers due to long-term contracts, porting numbers and so on.

1. Oligoploly

2. Collusion

It's also why phone services are so much more expensive in the US than say France.

Do you consider the cost of an unauthorised overdraft when opening a bank account? Do you consider the late payment fee when taking out a loan? Do you consider the cost of foreign transactions when choosing a credit card? Do you consider the cost of ink cartridges when buying a printer?

Maybe you do, but most people don't. People aren't price sensitive to every element equally. I recall the first time I used roaming. I was in Heidelberg, Germany, using a UK-issued SIM. The cost per minute for me to make a call to a local number was over 1 USD per minute, billed in minute increments (i.e. a 10 second call would be billed as a minute).

If I had known that before I left, would that have been enough for me to research other carriers' roaming costs and switch? Probably not.

Some telecoms actually did reduce roaming prices long ago, but consumers aren't particularly willing to move between networks (still more difficult than it should be in most cases, and the telecoms like it that way; that's why they resisted software SIMs so vigorously), and plans are often complex and difficult to understand.

Bafflement pricing: Mobile phone plans can be monthly contracts or "pay as you go". They have pricing for texts, minutes, and data. They'll include some amount of free texting and free call minutes. Sometimes you'll get unlimited calls to people on the same carrier.

Mobile roaming is for most[1] people a rare event.

The average user has little idea about how much data they're actually using.

These combine to make it impossible for the average user to buy the best plan for them.

[1] Some people live near borders, and those people got hammered by mobile roaming charges because their phones connected to towers across the border. So they got charged for roaming even when they weren't.

People on average were willing to pay a lot for roaming, because it was charged from:

- business travelers (someone else's money)

- high income people (will still roaming even if it's expensive)

And it had a loophole for frugal people (prepaid local SIM) so they could still tolerate the situation.

Finally, operators didn't decide the roaming costs for their customers - they could only decide what they will charge the other country's operator. So there was no direct way to lower their own roaming costs short of formin a "reverse cartel" of lowering prices.

30 years ago we had carphones, later we only had cartels. ;)

Many commentators here say it's not a free market but I would disagree. It's just that very few people choose their plan based on roaming. There were cheap roaming plans for a while in most countries but many tend to choose a plan that fits best for the time they're at home, not for the few weeks a year they're abroad.

My estimate would be that the telco's rely on each others networks to 'roam', and absent of common rules, the behind the scenes peering agreements would leave someone's network with a bill to pay.

Under these circumstances, mandated cooperation would make sense to me.

free market forces is great when the is information symmetry between buyer and seller. In that world no person would ever be surprised when the phone bill is sent.

Now the question is, how many consumers knew roaming prices (for places which they would travel to) when they had the opportunity to compare companies and made the decision to enter into contract with a phone company. If the answer is almost everyone then regulation is completely unnecessary. If the answer is almost no one then competition is basically impossible and the consumer just have to hope that the contract they signed several years ago was a good one and not a exploitive one. Regulations in that case reduces risk to the consumer.

There was another issue: most people don't travel very often, so roaming prices weren't even considered when signing contract with mobile operator. And when you do finally decide to go for that dreamed of vacation abroad you won't be switching your operator just for that purpose. So you just agreed to whatever roaming plan your current vendor had to offer. And then used your phone only for absolutely urgent things while abroad. Or bought a prepaid sim card from any of local vendors.

Put another way: most consumers don't care about roaming; if they did they would consider it when signing a contract. So why should the EU force roaming on everybody instead of letting operators offer products tailored to the individuals?

Whether the market is currently competitive or not, this move will result in less competition as there is more price fixing and less room for operators to differentiate their offerings.

Cartels/vendor lock in

Indeed! Cartels charging outrageous prices like 0.5€/SMS (roaming) in 2017, that is more than 4000€ per megabyte. I have no idea how the telcos have been able to milk the public for that long. And for Switzerland, there is no end in sight.

It's because there are no free market forces affecting telecoms, because they're a state-maintained cartel.

It's the same with ISPs and banks, etc.

Because telecom companies in different countries do not compete. So roaming charges are free money for all of them.

It did in some cases - same operators across borders, or some neighboring country specials. But nothing global.

The available frequencies are limited, this means new companies can't enter the market.

This is great, now I can ditch my UK Three SIM that I've had for years simply because they implemented a "feel at home" kind of policy long ago, where roaming within the EU is free. There was always a data limit, and you can't tether your phone to your laptop which was annoying, but it's been great for me who's been travelling in the EU frequently. Now I can drop that extra £30/month cost and don't have to carry extra SIMs. I love it.

I users UK 3 for 8 weeks through Europe last year and it was a godsend. Even better, about 3 weeks prior to my trip they plugged the black holes I had worried about by covering a whole heap of extra countries. They made it possible for me to simply use my phone anywhere I went there and that was honestly game-changing for my travel and fundamental for how I'd planned my trip. It was slow but it was fast enough for turn by turn maps and that's exactly what I needed since I spent a month driving wherever I felt.

No other plan offered such comprehensive roaming at the time, so I had a mate fly a SIM over from the UK for me when I arrived in Germany.

This change will be a huge boon for travellers especially. I can see how for some cheap telcos it could cause harm though.

EU roaming was not free with UK Three. There were some countries missing, such as Germany. I had a Three spare card just for the feel at home feature and will continue to use it whenever I go to the US but it had to be extended significantly to fit new EU regulation.

As far as I know, the data limit is whatever your tariff normally gives you - no more, no less. I wouldn't be surprised if the other carriers have a no-tethering-while-roaming rule too.

EE are good with tethering and roaming speeds.

Do you think it's likely it'll stay that way after Brexit?

Regarding Three, one of the telco available in the UK, as the parent said they were already aligned with this proposition with their "Feel at home" option.

Since it covers the EU and many other non EU countries (USA included for instance) I think it'll stay this way.

The 3 Feel at Home offer was (and is, for non-EU destinations) an extra, paid add-on to the basic "essentials" service. You also get tethering on that higher price plan, so maybe the average HN user wouldn't consider the lower tier and just counts it as 'free' from their perspective.

Vodafone allows 4G roaming and tether. Biggest reason I switched from three.

Result around here: roaming disappeared from all mobile plans except for the most expensive ones, which got nudged a few euros up.

The frequent travellers (presumably wealthier) get subsidized by the infrequent travellers (presumably less wealthier).

Infrequent travelers will also profit. If you're from Northern Europe going to Spain for vacation you now don't have to change money, don't have any border checks and can use your phone like at home. Using Facebook, Instagram & Co on holiday is important to many and will make people feel more "at home" in another EU country.

This was never supposed to save money, it was to bring the EU closer together and make borders disappear further.

Business travelers had fees paid by their employer anyway, not that much changed for them.

this is all nice and dandy but it's still only half job, since this doesn't mean there are no charges for international calls

so yes receiving calls or using internet will be same as home, you still have to watch what number you are calling, if it's from country of your carrier or different

please correct me if I am wrong

EDIT: so I was right, now it's even more insane than before:

For example: If you have a Belgian card and you travel to France and call either a hotel in France, back home to Belgium, or to any other country in the EU and the EEA, you are roaming (refer to legal text on the regulation on roaming) , and you will pay Belgian internal domestic prices (refer to legal text).

However, if a Belgian SIM card holder calls from Belgium to Spain, she/he will pay the international tariff. Calls from home to another EU country are not roaming and are not regulated.

source: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/faq/frequently...

TLDR: there are no fees for international calls while you are in roaming, but when you return back home enjoy fees for international calls, using your SIM in foreign network is cheaper than using it in your own network at home

It was about time; it will also help a lot with short-term mobility around the EU.

Cool, just as Brexit looks to be falling apart under its own incompetence.

Whether this gets reversed after Brexit remains to be seem. Given mobile phones behaviour it seems likely.


If you want to continue commenting on Hacker News it can't be like this.



Thank you very much. I worked very hard on it.

You won, get over it.

I am wondering how much extra cost the operators for a roaming call, in both case A where both phones are on same operator and in second case where second person is on a second operator.

I'd guess that there's no extra cost for an operator like Vodafone if they have a roaming client using data. Mobile data will not go back to the home country and peering costs are similar throughout Europe. Phone calls have to be routed to the home country but that's not a significant cost item.

well that's nice. at least i can call from belgium now when i will be there on saturaday. however if it is true that all the phone bills go up now then it is just a policy that lets poor workers subsidize rich travellers. that is an ethical problem. however we need to move on with european integration. the current system allows far too many loopholes for rich tax avoiders (who mostly move their money where tax is low) so any integration is a good one.

From reading this thread it seems that telecoms companies and the EU need to make it much more clear what is actually happening. Half the people commenting here have one experience and the other half have the complete opposite. It's probably difficult to know how this will all shake out for a couple of years considering most of us are locked into multi-year contracts.

Prepaid wireless plans in America are marketed as being cheaper than long term contracts. San Francisco tacks on a 23 percent fee to prepaid wireless plans.


You should move to a more densely populated country ;)

What is the correct European SIM to buy for data/voice/etc. (prepaid)? Presumably best to get one from a country you don't actually visit much, so you're always roaming, and thus don't pay the home to foreign number charges?

There is a limit of 4 months of roaming usage per year.

I think it's 60 days a year.

So a 'normal' person going on vacation, traveling for work, visiting a city just across the border will have fee-less roaming.

But you can't go to Romania, buy a SIM and use it here indefinitely.

You have to go to Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, and Poland get one each? Or just get six cards from different services?

In that case you will call cheap only within the countries you listed. No roaming fees doesn't mean that calling between different countries will be cheaper.

Do you have a source for that so I can read more into it?

Uk three. Uk is the only sane (at least on this topic) country left in the EU in which you could buy a sim card without photo id.

French operator Free sells prepaid SIM cards through vending machines in many places. No ID check, totally automated, machine spits out a SIM of your chosen type along with a receipt with necessary info.

I wouldn't describe the Free SIM cards as prepaid, they are a pay monthly subscription.

You can also order them online for delivery to a specified address, they don't seem to check whether it is your home address but mine is paid using a French bank account which may help.

You can actually choose between having a normal subscription (where they charge your card monthly) and paying for a certain number of months (1 or 2 iirc). If you choose the latter you have to make a new payment manually (where - again - you choose how many months you wish to pay for), otherwise your number will be automatically terminated. I'd say it's fair to call that prepaid.

You can get prepaids without any ID card in Finland, at least. Sweden as well, the last time I bought.

Regular subscriptions not, that's relevant for invoicing (as you can buy things through these subscriptions, it is pretty much like getting a credit card, hence asking for photo ID is entirely reasonable.)

I bought two SIM cards while travelling this month, one in Estonia, one in Latvia.

No ID checks at either. Felt nice.

I bought a Lyca mobile SIM in Germany last year, no photo ID. I got a Meteor SIM here in Ireland, also no ID required.

My current operator is Virgin, and that didn't require ID etiher, although since I already had a home internet account with them, that may have been why (no idea if new customers need ID). I did not need ID to setup the original home broadband account though. They obviously have my address and billing details, but they never had any proof that I'm who I saw I am. My previous phone provider was Three Ireland and they didn't require any ID either.

All of these except my Virgin SIM are/were prepaid. It seems that prepaids don't always require ID (and having postpaid/bill phones require ID does make sense).

This seems incorrect. I've traveled around in EU and haven't seen a single ID check for SIMs yet. Where is this happening? In my home country of Estonia we even have SIMs being given away for free on the streets as advertisement.

Germany (O2) had an obnoxious check. The dude bitched at me because I had a copy of my passport "saved in the cloud" (it was in 1Password local on my phone; given that the US, RU, CN, JP, UA, MY etc governments all have copies of my passport already, it's a whole lot less sensitive than anything else I have in a local-only encrypted database on my phone. It took about 30m to go through the process.

In Portugal the ID is needed for the large operators (e.g. Vodafone). Not sure but likely not needed for Lyca and such.

In Germany you can buy SIM cards on the local supermarket, no ID requested.

In Spain you need to provide your ID for a prepaid SIM.

They even requested your ID for SIMs you already owned and eventually disconnected all the unidentified.

You specifically have to show your photo ID if you want the porn and torrent ban, hrm, I mean adult filter lifted from your Three account.

I wonder if prepay will work with same rates while roaming. I'm in Italy now with 20GB of data from TIM... I'd like to continue using it in Slovenia, but somehow I'm doubting this will work.

The article lists the 28 EU countries, but note that this is true for the countries of the European Economic Area too: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Does anybody know what this might mean for Phi users?

Unfortunately, there is still one important limitation: we will keep the fees for the traffic from our home countries.

No, calling foreign numbers costs the same in both your country and abroad. And it's usually more expensive on mobile networks, but that doesn't have anything to do with roaming.

I misunderstood, I read things again and you are right.

This isn't correct - these regulations only apply when roaming. In your home network the operator can charge what it likes for intra-EU calls.

I don't think that the price of foreign calls will be affected – everything is simply charged at the home plan rate. Calling e.g. a French number will cost the same regardless of whether I am in France or the UK.

Incorrect. The regulation only applies when roaming.

To take three UK for example:

  Calling Spain from the UK: 46p/min
  Calling Spain from France while roaming: inclusive in minutes allowance, otherwise 3p/min.
I also checked Vodafone.de and it's the same thing - nearly €1/min if you're in Germany, or inclusive if you're roaming.

It's a bit of a joke really. I don't know why the EU didn't think of this.

That is correct. Calling from your own EU country to any other country within the EU is still costing extra.

Technically it isn't roaming and the telcos happily charge you premium as it does not fall under that regulation. Many people will be confused by this bit.

> It's a bit of a joke really. I don't know why the EU didn't think of this.

It's not within their power to regulate these charges.

Some years ago happened a similar thing with SMS. For example within Italy they costed 15 cents, but between countries 13cents because of the EU regulation.

EU mostly regulates inter-state commerce, not internal markets in countries, that's the job for the local regulators.

Ahah, I see. It's quite hard to see what's going on through the contract language!

> calling foreign numbers will cost more at home than when travelling abroad

How so?

Unless your provider’s plan includes calling abroad at domestic rates, calling a foreign number from home will be more expensive than calling that same foreign number from another member state. It’s a rather absurd consequence of the fact that it was decided that any communication from the state your provider is in (calls, data usage, etc.) is not technically “roaming”, and therefore not part of the “Roam like at home” agreement.

While this agreement is definitely a step in the right direction, a few exceptions like this might actually increase phone bills for a number of people who were previously on special EU plans with their provider, some of which are now being phased out. A couple of parties are calling for the EU parliament to address these issues, but I don't think it will be changed any time soon.

Suppose I have an Italian SIM and pay x to call Italian numbers, and 2x to call French ones. If I go to France, with these rules, I think I'll still pay x to call Italian numbers, and 2x to call French ones?

No, while in France you'll pay x to call all EU numbers.

No Symbiote, his assumption is correct. You will pay 2x for calling french numbers, but still x for calling italian numbers. I also tried these days (my operator activated this regulation last week). I went to Italy with the german card and I could call german numbers for free(that's in my contract) but I was spending more to call italian ones (2 cent btw).

for people like me who don't understand how the fees work


As a TMobile customer in the US, tongue in cheek question: what's a "roaming fee"? It's kinda cool when your phone just works worldwide. That's the way it ought to be, imo.

Ah! Central regulations brought us inefficient telco monopolies and cartels.

Surely some more central regulations will remedy the situation! "To each according to his needs." What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the reason why there is so much telco competition in Europe, and the prices are so low, is that the EU set common standards for mobile phone protocols from the start. Each company cannot keep its customers from going to the competition, I have been able to buy one phone which works with every company everywhere in the continent for decades. Everyone I know buys a phone (often second hand) then moves from one company to another to get the best deal. The problem with the US is not regulation, it is bad regulation.

"If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

Pray, Mr. Babbage, what is the "true value" of roaming?

How much profit shall we decree suitable, for private corporations? And why stop at telcos?

Yeah, the telcos have already found a way out. They simply remove EU roaming from their standard subscriptions and it now becomes an add-on.

So if you want to use your phone in a different country during the holidays, you'll need an EU roaming subscription.

The politicians once again failed to be sufficient precise in formulating a law that would produce the decided result. They should have added a clause that state that all subscriptions are to cover the entire EU.

You are probably way too negative. Yeah, some telcos are looking for ways around it, and some plans will become a bit more expensive, temporarily. However, there is healthy competetion in most European telecoms markets. So it is very likely that over the mid term, competition will push prices down.

Why is it so damn hard to be happy about a giant step forward, just because it doesn't happen in the most perfect way? (what does?!).

It's particularly those telcos who are already extremely competitive (mostly, the Nordics) who particularly need to start looking at these ways around, because otherwise they'll be subsidizing the top line of the countries where their little-paying customers often travel.

Competition in the Danish market isn't actually health. It's good for the consumers, but the providers are running on extremely low margins compared to pretty much anywhere else.

It's basically the world's toughest market for mobile telephony.

This sounds exactly what the free market is always sold on: lowest prices for consumers, only the most effective businesses stay afloat...

True, but the same free market allowed the phone companies to charge exorbitant prices for EU roaming.

Telenor and Telia wanted to merge in Denmark last year, but wasn't allowed to, because it would hurt customers, so the free market isn't really in play anymore.

> Yeah, the telcos have already found a way out

What are "the telcos"? I just got an SMS from Vodafone announcing that from now on, I won't pay roaming fees in EU countries.

Same with EE in the UK. I did previously pay for an EU roaming addon which cost £3/day in the EU, they've said that that's removed from the account, and charges in the EU will be the same as at home, no extra charges.

Same from TIM in Italy.

This is not possible! The rule is clear: in every EU country you can use your mobile phone under the same conditions as in your base country (with some minor exceptions mostly for mobile data). Telcos not obeying this rule will be fined (or may even lose Radio Frequency License if not willing to obey).

I'm not completely sure that's true – it's possible that an operator might simply choose not to offer roaming at all with their basic plans, requiring an add-on to allow roaming.

But the op said that telcos found a way around this, implicating that plans were changed to exclude roaming. But I haven't heard from anyone in UK or Germany who had roaming taken away.

So it remains possible that a company will try it at some point but it will likely be very rare.

Would anyone get a plan without roaming? Looking at the size of European countries that would be unthinkable for anyone I know. Unless it's.. free or something. Maybe then.

I use LTE for my home's main internet connection, and it will never roam.

(I can't get fiber without paying five digits sums of €, and ADSL is around 3 Mbit/s).

So, if prices rise due to roaming charges, I'm paying more and get nothing.

Can you Netflix?

Yes, that's the bulk of traffic of course, although it's mostly the kids, not me.

Not quite. Providers are still free to offer contracts without any kind of roaming.

Do you have any source for this information?

This document seems to imply it, but it's not explicit: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/faq/frequently...

Every existing or new contract that includes roaming services will change to "roam like at home" contract.

That does seem to exclude contracts that don't include roaming services.

Worked out perfectly fine for me. My provider is one of the cheapest available in Austria and they recently sent me a message to let me know that I now pay the same for phone calls and mobile internet in other EU countries.

Try and use your full data allowance abroad and get back to me.

Won't be a problem. They can have fair use policies for unlimited data but otherwise it'll be the same as using it at home.

Of course it is a problem. I pay for 10gb a month but go on holiday for say two weeks and only have 2gb available precisely when I'm likely to need most of my allowance. I get charged a ridiculous rate for each GB after that. This is a big improvement but is not the end of roaming as it is currently advertised.

Which telcos and in which country? Everything seems fine here in Croatia.

In Denmark it seems that most are remove EU roaming. I don't think 3 is, but Telia and CBB (Telenor subsidiary) are.

The CBB contract for example is adding 40DKK to the price, for EU coverage.

Telia in Norway has offered free EU roaming (GB included are also available in EU without extra cost) for about a year now.

Can you name one European operator that does that?

Telmore in Denmark (my current operator) first gave my subscription a price hike to "compensate" for the new roaming rules and then advertised that I could change to a "Denmark only" subscription for the old price.

It seems this option is now gone, however instead I now have separate data limits between Denmark and EU, with the latter being substantially less (only 5 GB, "calculated based on your subscription").

When I'm a bit less stressed I think I'll start shopping around for another operator :^)

Telmore's web page was confusing up until today, but my "Telmore Play" with 25 GB included has 8 GB of it usable in EU.

Apparently there's a complex "fair usage" formula that is allegedly EU mandated:

> EU Data = (abonnementspris x 2) / EU-defineret GB pris

Which looks fair. It's obvious that they need some kind of fair use policy to avoid that people just buy the SIM in the cheapest country. 8GB per month abroad on a 25GB plan will suffice for 99.x% of people and is a huge step compared to the situation previously.

Telenor in Denmark, and its subsidiaries, are removing EU roaming for some contracts, or splitting them into EU and DK contracts.

50DKK extra for double the data (20GB) and EU roaming isn't that bad.

Telecoms in at least some countries are already having to back down on that due to regulator pressure.

Everything fine in Greece too. In fact, I've been using this for free for a year+ because my telco decided to include it in my (high-price, 20 eur/mo) plan for free earlier than planned.

Oh, yeah, some telecoms have no interest in trying to get out of this, and have been doing some form of free roaming even before forced to. Ultimately, "we're not trying to screw you over" is a great marketing point; I'd say telecoms who try to resist will suffer in the marketplace.

Anecdotal but not the case for me. I have a dual sim phone with a Virgin UK SIM and a Meo Portuguese SIM - both sent me texts recently saying my plans now work across Europe without roaming charges (and they aren't super impressive plans, just standard ones).

Exactly. My both subscriptions -- Congstar in Germany and T-Mobile in Poland still charge me for everything abroad.

I didn't bother to compare the prices too long but I think they cut them down just a bit.

This is not legal.


I'm a heavy EU roaming user and I truely welcome this change.

How does it feel to crosspay my phone bill? ;)

What? The benefits of having roaming policies for a person that doesn't travel, is completely the same as if there are no policies. There is nothing to be forced upon you.

Since roaming is zero-cost and has no effect on your existing plan, it seems weird that you would object to it.

This is not how companies behave in a market.

As long as something which was previously part of the profit is cut out, costs will be realigned. This effect is independent from the label used to justify this previous profit.

If it does not end up like this, the companies allocation mechanisms were not working as expected in the first place.

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