This site reflects the rules effective 15/June/2017.
They may be hard to read and comprehend. But it's very much recommended for you to understand the basic rules of EU roaming to make up your mind of which option is best for you.
- For the old rules enforced until 15/June/2017 go to this site
- For roaming SIM card offers for the EU go to this article.
While the new rules are clear and laid out on this page, their implementation by the mobile providers remains still uncertain. This page will be regularily updated as soon as more more emerge.
EUROPEAN UNION - Rules and Implications Edit
The good news: most roaming surcharges within the European Union (EU) and the wider European Economic Area (EEA) come to an end by June 15th, 2017; the bad news: some restrictions will still apply and there are strings attached. As the situation remains confusing for visitors and residents alike, this is your guidepost through the new era.
Looking back Edit
Travellers to or within Europe have found an annoying situation up to 2017: every country has still its own national phone system and mobile networks. This has made mobile phone use in Europe cheap only if you are using a SIM card issued in the specific country you are visiting. Compared to that, intra-European roaming rates used to be excessively expensive, especially for data. "Bill shock" was not that uncommon. This has been a particular burden for travellers visiting multiple countries: to get a decent rate for data, one had to buy a new SIM card in every country visited. Many users became so afraid of high costs that they simply disabled mobile data when abroad.
That’s why we started this Wiki some years ago. But there is good news: From 15th of June 2017 almost all roaming surcharges will be scrapped within the EU.
Roam like at home Edit
Roam like at home will be the principle from June 2017 in all of the EU and EEA. This essentially means that you can take any domestic allowance from your home EU country and use it without additional costs in another EU country while roaming for voice, SMS or data. Domestic rates are equal to roaming rates.
The European Commission combats roaming charges through Regulation (EU) No 531/2012, subsequently amended by Regulation (EU) 2015/2120, which applies throughout the EEA. The EEA comprises the European Union (EU), Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Most information about EU roaming regulations refers to them covering only the EU, whereas in fact the whole of the wider EEA is covered.
The European Commission claims that compared to 10 years ago retail prices across calls, SMS and data are more than 80% lower, data roaming is now up to 91% cheaper and the volume of the data roaming market has grown by 630%. However, this is only one side of the story.
Net Neutrality Edit
At the same time the EU commits to strict net neutrality: no blocking or throttling of online content, applications and services. All traffic will be treated equally. This means that there can be no paid prioritisation of traffic in the internet access service. However providers are allowed a reasonable day-to-day traffic management according to justified technical requirements.
Validity Area Edit
All EU roaming regulations are valid in EU member states, including their EU territories outside Europe, and in the countries of the wider European Economic Area (EEA). These countries are shown in green on the map and are listed on the column on the right.
Remember, that the United Kingdom intends to leave the EU, so that its status and that of its EU overseas territory Gibraltar may then change too, but this hasn't been decided yet.
In the following article the EU + EEA countries are referred simply as 'EU' not to repeat the EU/EEA all the time, though it's not exact.
As this zoning creates many borders, remember when staying close to an red area, you should always:
- when roaming: make a manual network selection
- when using your home network: disable data roaming
Major Shortcomings Edit
There are some principal restrictions to the rules you should be very much aware of:
- geographical: the EU rules only apply to all SIM cards issued in the EU and EEA by an EU/EEA provider, not to any provider or any SIM card issued outside. And they only apply to calls, texts from one EU/EEA country to the same or another and data use. Not to calling/texting in from outside or calling/texting out from inside the EU/EEA. There are still the gaps shown in red on the map above.
> steep borders, 1000x as expensive
- options: all EU providers are required to offer you the option to make your tariff or plan compliant to the new regulated EU rules. They can also offer different packages, that can be cheaper or more expensive depending on your consumption. These further offers don't need to obey the EU rules. But you must agree to opt out of EU rules before by choosing a different plan.
> EU allowance on top instead of included
- foreign calls and texts: There is a weird destinction between calling abroad and calling when roaming. The EU regulation is only about roaming. So all IDD (or foreign) calls and texts from the home country of the SIM card even to another EU country are not covered by the legislation. The EU doesn't have a mandate for this.
This absurd situation makes some foreign calls more expensive than using the same SIM abroad on roaming for vice versa calls. This gap only concerns calls or texts to anywhere abroad from the home country where the SIM was issued. Luckily, this doesn't concern data use: for internet you are either at home or roaming as soon as you log onto the foreign mobile network.
- maritime or aircraft networks: This regulation doesn't apply to networks offered on cruise ships or in aircraft using satellite links, even when these vehicles are located within the EU or EEA.
Have in mind that these networks are usually charged very high typically around €16-25 per MB data or incoming calls at €2-7 per min and should be avoided at all costs.
EU Roaming Rates Edit
effective 15/JUN/2017 Edit
The EU finally agreed on bringing roaming fees to an end in 2017 with a few exceptions, so that prices for roaming are the same as domestic.
Effective June 15th 2017 roaming charges will be banned on all EU providers for the entire union. Under the regulated tariff every EU provider needs to charge the same rate domestic and abroad when roaming within the EU for data, calls and texts.
But your operator may offer a different plan or option not compliant with the regulation to opt in. For instance according to EU rules roaming consumption is not "free" but debited from your domestic allowances. You may be offered other options, where roaming allowances come on top of the domestic packages instead. For certain users this might be a better deal. So compare carefully. You will always be able to change to the EU regulated rate anytime.
However, a Fair Use Policy (FUP) will be enforced then to prevent what is called "permanent roaming". This FUP will have a still unknown time and/or volume quota, which is considered to be "fair" to occasional travellers. But users who try to use a SIM card from another EEA country continuously in their home country on roaming will keep on paying some surcharges.
This is because of the huge differences in domestic prices between some EU countries. The providers fear that users might take a cheap plan from certain countries and use it permanently roaming in an high-priced country. This would undermine the pricing there. So they will build some mechanisms to limit this usage. But for occasional travellers roaming will be a thing of the past in the EEA from mid-2017.
What are the implications? Edit
Implications for voice users Edit
For voice all roaming surcharges are scrapped from now on without limitations.
Incoming or passive roaming (that's when you are called abroad by someone else) is free from now on.
Outgoing calls within the roaming country, to your EU home country or to another EU country are charged at the domestic rate only.
- If you have a domestic all-net flatrate for voice to all lines in your home EU country, the roaming call will be "free" on this flatrate.
- If you have a certain allowance of xx minutes airtime to all domestic lines in your home EU country, the roaming call will be debited from this domestic allowance.
- If you call on a pay-as-you-go rate of xx cents per minute domestically, the roaming call will be charged at the same domestic per-minute rate.
Again, all calls from your home country (= home country of the SIM) calling IDD abroad are not considered roaming calls, but foreign calls. They can be charged much higher as they are not regulated under the EU rules.
Implications for text (SMS) users EditFor text / SMS all roaming surcharges are scrapped without limitations from now on.
Incoming or passive roaming (that's when you are texted abroad by someone else) is free for a long time now.
Outgoing SMS within the roaming country, to your EU home country or to another EU country are charged at the domestic SMS rate only.
- If you have a domestic all-net flatrate for SMS to all mobiles in your home EU country, the roaming SMS will be "free" on this flatrate.
- If you have a certain allowance of xx texts to all mobiles in your home EU country, the roaming SMS will be debited from this domestic allowance.
- If you text on a pay-as-you-go rate of xx cents per SMS domestically, the roaming SMS will be charged at the same domestic per-SMS rate.
Again, all SMS from your home country (= home country of the SIM) texted abroad are not considered roaming SMS, but foreign SMS. They can be charged much higher as they are not regulated under the EU rules.
Implications for data / mobile internet users Edit
Now things become much more complicated.....
Rates for Prepaid Roaming Data in the EU & EEA (2016/7): Edit
Market Situation Edit
How will the providers react? Edit
While voice and text will be given out "unlimited" without surcharges, the operators are much stingy with data. This applies especially to the cheap EU countries where they will face losses when they sell roaming data at domestic rates. In the more expensive countries and plans this can be easily absorbed.
there are basically these measures how operaters can restrict roaming from the start:
they can terminate cheap plans or raise fees to recover their expenses
they can block all internatl. roaming or a least data roaming on a certain plan. Then the EU regulation doesn't apply anymore.
They can think of technical restraints like depriorisation, long latency, no 4G/LTE roaming, dropped calls or other measures to slow roaming speed and connections
They can apply for sustainability at the regulator to be allowed to impose a FUP to limit expected losses.
Sustainability / FUP Edit
Given the harsh price differences for domestic mobile internet between EU countries.....