EU’s Roam Like At Home is a great step in the right direction, but are you aware of the potential pitfalls?
Let me start by saying that I am a fervent proponent of this initiative. I think it is an important step in adding value to the EU for consumers, something under fire in recent years. While it is vital for EU leadership to be listening to its citizens and finding ways to increase the EU’s value for them, it is just as crucial not to rush, and push policies without being aware of their potential risks. As we frequently see in America, when laws are created by one group alone, legislators often have blinders to valid concerns, even with the best of intentions. When transparency and cooperation are leveraged in creating rules, far more attention is paid to competing visions and potential pitfalls can be avoided before they arrive.
The good news is that effective in June, EU based subscribers can now bring their home plan to any EU country without fear of additional roaming charges. Users can now use their voice, text, and data plans across the EU as though they were still at home.
That being said, here are some pitfalls to watch for:
- Not so fast with unlimited data - While unlimited voice and text are able to be carried across the EU, unlimited data is not. Each carrier is required to make the domestic data allowance available for EU roaming usage, up to a specific point. For unlimited plans, the amount of data allowed is directly related to the user’s monthly tariff, divided by the wholesale cost of data. For full details, please see the EU’s description.
- Carriers will be compensating for lost revenue – Revenue is the life blood of any company, and like water through cracks in a dam, if one form of revenue is lowered (roaming fees), others will likely be raised to compensate.
- Long distance rates – while the regulation covers roaming costs, there is no rule concerning the cost of calling outside the EU. For those calling to America, or anywhere else outside the EU, those costs will likely rise.
- Roaming outside the EU – while the costs to roam inside the EU will be eliminated, those costs for roaming outside can be anything the carrier chooses.
- Added services – while we have yet to see it, carriers could decide to hike fees in other areas to compensate as well: voicemail charges, specialty services, and downloads could be targets to compensate.
- Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) be wary - while the major carriers have been bracing for Roam Like At Home for years, and are well equipped to share any costs across large volumes of subscribers, MVNO’s by nature are niche players with much smaller deployments. In addition, they are solely dependent on the wholesale agreements they reach with the network providers, and are not included in these regulations. It is vital that the EU stay tuned into these small, but increasing important players in the future of mobility.
- Brexit – Until Brexit is complete in 2019 (at this stage), the UK is considered part of the EU, and UK based users will be able to benefit from this initiative. What comes after Brexit is unknown, and subject to the negotiations that follow.
- Which countries are included? All 28 countries of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and in the countries of the European Economic Area: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway.
- Enjoy your time on a cruise ship, just not calling – Unless your device is registered and using the terrestrial cellular towers in port, your calls are going to incur roaming charges. Regardless of the original port of call, or nationality of the cruise line, once on the open seas those calls are not covered.
- Roam like home – just be at home too – Carriers will be closely watching for users who break the spirit of the initiative and spend more time roaming than on their home network. It is left to the carrier to address these users, but a general rule of thumb is at least 50% of the line’s usage must be in the original country. For the full FAQ, visit here.
- UK adding to the confusion (above and beyond Brexit) - Not part of the initiative, but UK users will see a perceived rise in roaming costs come August 2017. UK based users who roam outside the EU, will now face a 20% VAT added to their charges, meaning a £1 call in the US will now be £1.20. While this is not related to the Roam Like Home initiative, and this revenue does not go to the carriers, users may perceive that it is related as their charges will be going up. For more details, visit here.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m a big proponent of the initiative, and think it is a great step forward. It will allow for great travel experiences for consumers and business travelers alike, without fear of bill shock from large roaming costs. With any major initiative, there are frequently unintended consequences, and the more eyes helping spot them, and identifying positive solutions for them, the better.
Let’s take advantage of this new freedom of the Roam Like At Home movement, celebrate it, and help it continue to grow positively!