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EU roaming charges end but at what cost?

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In the same month that charges to call 0800 numbers from a mobile are abolished, we've welcomed news that EU roaming charges for calls, data and SMS will too become a thing of the past. Over the years we've seen some consumers rack up phone bills amounting to thousands of pounds from phone usage abroad, even without excessive use. Following years of campaigning by consumers, the EU plans to put a stop to EU roaming charges by June 2017, which will follow a 14 month interim period that reduces the surcharged rate. While it might sound like the answers to the prayers of every worker who spends time abroad on business, we can't ignore the fact that the change might still come at a cost. MNOs currently generate a significant amount of revenue through roaming, so how will they make up for lost revenue? And who will suffer as a result- the operators or their customers?

One option that MNOs may consider to make up for lost revenue is raising prices for customers. Businesses and consumers may be faced with higher bills following the changes, even for their phone usage at home. Operators may add to this by raising the tariffs for a roaming service bundle. Both would essentially mask a roaming charge being abolished. This would mean that ultimately, customers may not see any difference to their phone bill.

There are smarter ways that MNOs may make up for the reduced revenue. An alternative to raising prices for standard services is to offer premiums for higher quality services, for example through high quality voice. If this is the case, benefits brought by the EU roaming changes will be twofold: 1) we won't be stung by extortionate roaming charges, 2) it will give businesses and consumers access to more advanced telephony.

If you had the bright idea of buying a SIM card from a European country where an MNO was offering a cheaper tariff from your home country, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. The small print of the changes includes a 'fair use policy,' in which MNOs can charge for EU roaming beyond a certain point to prevent us from abusing the axed charges and 'permanently roaming.'

Details of the 'fair use policy' are yet to be announced, as what constitutes 'fair use' hasn't been defined. As operators have the capacity to build an approximate picture of how much customers typically use when abroad, we can be assured that the policy will be based on accurate evidence. But how can workers who spend several months of the year abroad ensure that they don't exceed 'fair use' and incur a fee?

It's important that businesses consider mobile packages that are on offer to them to prevent racking up substantial roaming fees. MVNOs like Redcentric are able to build out accurate packages that consider the individual business's mobile usage abroad. This can support a business's mobile roaming however regular or high it is, making phone usage throughout Europe more financially viable. As discussions around the EU roaming changes are ongoing, businesses and consumers must ensure that they're aware of the progress being made; particularly with regards to how it may affect domestic and international roaming tariffs.

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