The European Union has been working towards eliminating roaming charges within the region for a few years now. After several delays and other setbacks it looks like the region’s executive body, parliament and representatives of the 28 Member States have agreed on the final details regarding wholesale charges and fair use policy, and are set for a final vote to enact the new ‘roam-like-at-home’ rules starting June 15.
As part of the agreement, wholesale charges for data — the prices operators charge each other when their customers use other networks when roaming in the EU — will be gradually reduced over the next five years from 7.7 € per GB in 2017 to 2.5 € per GB by 2022. This was a major sticking point in the negotiations as countries which host a lot of tourists, like Spain and France, would be most affected if wholesale rates were dramatically cut at once. On the other hand, if the caps are too high, smaller wireless operators or carriers from Eastern European countries where mobile data plans are cheaper would be forced to hike domestic prices to recover the costs of accommodating the extra tourist traffic.
For end users, with the agreement now in place, the end result is that they’ll be able to use their included minutes and data abroad wherever they are in Europe and any overage charges — if applicable — will be charged at the same rates as in their home markets.
The agreement also includes fair use policies to keep ‘permanent roamers’ from abusing the system — buying cheaper mobile contract in one European country in order to use it all the time in a more expensive EU country. In a previous draft, the maximum allowed was up to 30 days at a time, for a total of 90 days per year, but the revised version requires that over a period of four months, the end user spends more than two months abroad. If this isn’t the case, and if the customer has consumed more abroad than at home over this time, operators will send an alert to that customer.
Once the alert is received, the customer will have two weeks to clarify the situation. If the user continues to remain abroad, operators will be able to apply small surcharges capped at 8.7 € per GB, just slightly above their own wholesale costs, which isn't terrible compared to pricing for data in the U.S.
It appears there are no longer limits on consecutive days or total days in a year. “This was the last piece of the puzzle,” the European Commission’s VP for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip said in a statement. “As of 15 June, Europeans will be able to travel in the EU without roaming charges.”
It's unclear what will happen with UK mobile users’ roaming fees in Europe after they leave the EU.