The European Union is finally ready to ditch roaming charges across Europe after a decade of negotiations in this regard.
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, representatives from the European Parliament, Council and Commission taking part in the negotiations finally agreed on price caps to limit how much carriers have to pay one another when their customers travel in other European countries.
No Roaming Fees For Mobile Users In Europe
Under this agreement, EU mobile users will not have to pay extra for calls, texts, and data usage when abroad. The only condition for customers is to stay within the contract limits and within the EU — roaming charges will still apply in territories outside the EU.
Reaching this agreement was the last step necessary for carriers to scrap roaming charges across the EU. The new scheme will go into effect on June 15.
"This was the last piece of the puzzle. As of 15 June, Europeans will be able to travel in the EU without roaming charges," says Andrus Ansip, vice president of the Digital Single Market for the European Commission. "We have also made sure that operators can continue competing to provide the most attractive offers to their home markets. Today we deliver on our promise."
— DigitalSingleMarket (@DSMeu) February 1, 2017
Roam Like At Home, But Not For Non-EU Travelers
Since 2007, the EU has been making notable efforts to make mobile phone use abroad more affordable, and in 2013, it promised to abolish roaming fees across the EU altogether. EU mobile users have long been waiting for this to happen, and it's finally settled. The EU calls this plan "roam like at home."
The plan benefits people who live or have stable ties to an EU member state and have a SIM card associated with a local carrier. This means that non-EU customers can't just buy a SIM card in one country and enjoy free roaming across the EU.
Taking advantage of "roam like at home" will not require any official registration, but networks could require customers to show proof of residency, study, or employment in an EU member state.
British mobile users, meanwhile, will be able to take advantage of this new roaming scheme for as long as the UK is still in the EU, but it remains unclear just how high the post-Brexit roaming fees will be.
Price Caps For Networks Charging One Another
The officials also agreed on specific price caps to limit the amount that carriers can charge one another when their customers travel abroad and use each other's networks. Prices are capped at 3.2 cents per minute for voice calls, 1 cent per text message, and 7.7 euros per GB of data. The price of data will gradually decrease over the next five years by at least 1 euro per year, so 1 GB of data should not cost more than 2.5 euros by Jan. 1, 2022.
With the final piece of the puzzle now solved, all that's left is for the European Parliament and Council to formally approve the agreement so that carriers can get ready for the new scheme and price caps in June.