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We examine the implications of Brexit for EU roaming.
Learn the fundamentals and determine what you can be charged for.
Simple tips to help you avoid unexpectedly hefty roaming charges.
Our network-by-network breakdown of the costs associated with using your phone while traveling abroad.
The government is increasing roaming fees by 20%. We asked our mobile specialist what he thinks is in store for the future.
The future of roaming costs is less certain in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.
By law, UK mobile phone customers no longer receive free roaming in the EU as of 1 January 2021, the date when Brexit officially took effect. Most providers, including EE, Three, and Vodafone, will still allow you to roam for free in the EU. Give your network a call before you leave to make sure your destination is covered so you don’t get any unexpected costs on your next statement.
The term “roaming” refers to using your phone when traveling abroad. When your phone detects an international network, you’re ‘roaming.’
Consumers were once charged much more for using the internet, making international calls, and sending SMS.
However, things have improved since the days when bill shocks in the thousands of pounds graced the front pages of financial newspapers regularly.
Before Brexit, EU roaming restrictions allowed you to utilize your monthly call, data, and text allocations in 28 EU destinations at no additional cost.
Because the UK is no longer a member of the EU, these roaming laws no longer apply to Brits, therefore you may incur roaming charges if you use your phone abroad.
Fortunately, it appears that most major UK networks will continue to allow their users to roam freely inside the EU.
You won’t have to pay any more than you would at home to check your work emails or to make all your friends jealous of your vacation by uploading sunny selfies on Facebook.
You can, however, be caught off guard.
For starters, several countries that you might think are part of the EU aren’t. We’ve included a useful list further down the page to assist you.
Even if you’re on vacation in the EU, there are still ways to rack up a huge phone bill, even if you’re staying under your monthly budget.
That’s because if you over your monthly usage allowance, you’ll still be charged extra roaming fees. After that, you could be charged up to €8 (about £7) per additional GB of data you consume.
Not only that but there’s more. Among the hoopla around ‘free EU roaming,’ less attention has been paid to the reality that networks impose so-called ‘fair usage’ constraints on roaming consumers.
As a result, networks can limit your data allowance to less than what you’d get at home. So, if you’re not aware of the cap and go over the lower level, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.
“Now that we’re in a post-Brexit world, check with your network operator to see if you’ll be charged roaming fees if you travel within the EU. Outside the EU, there may be additional fees, so make sure you’re aware before you travel. Finally, turning off data roaming can be a last-ditch effort to save money; wherever you go, make use of local SIMs or free (and safe) wi-fi.”
Fair usage means that networks can set a limit on your roaming data allocation that is lower than what you would get at home. As a result, if you go above the lower limit, you could still be charged a lot of money for data.
Depending on your data allocation and the plan you’re subscribed to, each network has a distinct fair usage policy.
Take, for example, O2’s £30 per month pay-as-you-go Big Bundle.
In the United Kingdom, you are given a monthly allocation of 20GB. However, when using your phone in the EU, this is capped at 10GB under the provisions of the fair use policy.
Similarly, if you use more than 6GB of data on giffgaff’s Always On tariff, you’ll be charged extra.
Are you a subscriber to Three’s pay-as-you-go service? If you use more than 12GB, you will be charged extra. EE also has a 15GB fair use cap for all subscribers.
Ringing your network is the only way to find out if your data use is capped and by how much.
Some networks allow you to use your monthly allocations in EU and non-EU European areas, as well as select places outside of Europe, at no additional cost.
Using your phone outside of the EU can be costly, especially now that the government has imposed a 20% VAT on roaming expenses outside the EU. As a result, calling, texting, and surfing the web on your phone will cost you a little more. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a bill of more than £100.
Costs vary by country, but some popular destinations, like the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, are considered to be exceptionally expensive.
Most networks, thankfully, have add-ons and allowances, so look up your carrier below and check how their roaming plans compare to your vacation destination.
|Scheme for network roaming||To whom does it apply?||Cost||Covered destinations||Reasonable usage (This applies if the data tariff is higher than the specified amount)|
|SMARTY roaming||Customers in general||None||35 places||There is no information available.|
|iD Mobile Roam as though you were at home||Customers that pay monthly||None||There are 52 places||Only some SIM-only subscribers are affected. Over 120 days, you can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone.|
|BT Roam as if you were at home||Customers that pay every month||None||There are 47 possible destinations.||15GB. Over 120 days, you can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone.|
|Passport for Sky Roaming||Customers that pay every month||None||36 destinations in the Europe Zone||None|
|Plusnet Mobile Roam As If You Were At Home||Customers on pay-per-use or pay-as-you-go plans||None||There are 52 destinations in Europe Zone.||15GB. Over 120 days, you can spend up to 60 days roaming.|
|Tesco Mobile Home from Home||Customers on pay-per-use or pay-as-you-go plans||None||There are 48 European Zone destinations.||12GB. Over 120 days, you can spend up to 60 days roaming.|
|Bolt-On O2 Full Travel||Choose from 4GB, 15GB, or higher phone and tariff plans.||None||There are 75 destinations globally.||10GB. Over 120 days, you can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone.|
|Usage of the O2 Europe Zone||Customers on new pay-as-you-go plans (not PAYG)||None||There are 47 destinations in Europe Zone.||10GB. Over 120 days, you can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone.|
|Roaming on the EE Max Plan||The whole 4GEE Max Plan||None||53 places||15GB. Over 120 days, you can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone.|
|More Vodafone Roaming||Customers on new pay-as-you-go plans||The cost of using your UK plan is £6 per day.||There are 104 possible destinations.||None. Over four months, you can spend up to two months in a roaming zone.|
|Vodafone Roaming is completely free.||Customers who have signed up for new monthly subscriptions (except Basics)||None||There are 48 places||None. Over four months, you can spend up to two months in a roaming zone.|
|Three Go Roaming||Every Advanced plan||None||There are 71 possible destinations.||Go Roam Europe destinations have 19GB of data, while Go Roam Around The World destinations has 12GB of data. Throughout a 12-month rolling contract, you can spend up to two months roaming.|
Three’s Go Roam plan includes unlimited roaming in 71 different places.
Australia, the United States, Switzerland, Spain, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and New Zealand are among them.
All three plans, including pay monthly, SIM-only, mobile broadband, and Pay As You Go, include Go Roam, except previous Essential options.
If you have a Three Essential Plan, you will be able to utilize your allowance in the EU at no additional cost. However, you will not be eligible for unlimited roaming in other locations.
As part of their mobile, mobile broadband, or tablet allowance, all existing EE pay monthly, and pay as you go customers get free roaming to 47 European destinations.
If you have a 4GEE Max plan, you can take advantage of EE’s Roam at Home promotion, which gives you free roaming in 52 destinations across the world.
The EU, as well as the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand, are among them. This covers more than 80% of EE consumers’ time spent abroad.
In O2’s Europe Zone, all existing O2 pay monthly and corporate customers have unlimited roaming in 47 European destinations.
However, while pay-as-you-go users also enjoy unlimited roaming in most of those places, the Europe Zone excludes Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Monaco, and Switzerland.
The O2 Travel Inclusive Zone Bolt-On, which is included in some plans, allows you to roam in an additional 27 worldwide locations. The bolt-on costs £4.99 per day if you’re not on a qualifying plan.
They can, however, sign up for a Travel Bolt-On to expand the scheme’s coverage region to include these sites. If you add an O2 Travel add-on to your package, you’ll get 100GB of data to use inside the EU for £1.99 per day.
Customers can now call and receive calls within Europe for 50p each call and talk for up to 60 minutes at no additional cost. Using an O2 Travel add-on, text messages are free to receive and 5p to send.
O2 Travel roaming add-ons for Turkey and outside Europe are available for £3.99 per day and £4.99 per day, respectively.
Under Vodafone’s Roam Free scheme, subscribers on its Essentials and Red Extra plans get free roaming in 48 locations.
You can join its Roam Further scheme for £6 per day. This allows you to utilize your UK limits in 104 more destinations, most of which are further away. You will only be charged £6 on days that you use your phone.
Customers who signed up for one of Vodafone’s Red Entertainment plans after August 15, 2018, are eligible for free-roaming in 77 places across the world. If you joined up before this time, you’ll be covered by the Roam Free plan, which is limited to 50 sites across Europe.
The low-cost Basics plans from Vodafone do not include roaming. So, if you’re on one of these plans and want to use your phone abroad without racking up hefty expenses, you’ll need to switch to another.
Vodafone, on the other hand, has declared that roaming costs would be reinstated in January 2022.
All new and upgrading users will have to pay up to £2 per day to use their phones in all EU destinations beginning next year.
Customers who purchase an 8 or 15-day roaming pass from Vodafone will have their rates halved.
Customers with Vodafone Xtra plans will continue to have roaming included in their contracts.
Customers would also be able to half their fees with Vodafone.
With Virgin Media’s Roam Like Home program, subscribers get unlimited roaming in 43 countries.
This covers non-EU territories such as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Gibraltar, as well as overseas territories such as the Canary Islands, French Caribbean, Martinique, and Reunion, in addition to the 28 EU sites.
Customers who go over their allowances will be charged no more than they would at home, according to Virgin Media.
Customers with Sky Mobile plans can use their mobile data, calls, and texts for free in 36 European locations.
All calls to landlines and mobiles, as well as all messages sent within the EU, are included for customers with Unlimited Calls and Texts as part of their package.
You’ll pay the same rate for calls and messages as you would in the UK if you’re on Pay As You Go.
The other huge selling point for Sky Mobile in terms of roaming is that if you have a lot of unused data in your Sky Piggybank, you can utilize it when you’re in Europe.
Finally, it’s all about being informed and prepared before you leave for your vacation.
“The best suggestion for British travelers is to do a little bit of research and planning,”
says our resident mobile expert. To help clients avoid losing out, most networks now provide particular rates or add-ons. So, before you go abroad, check to see if your destination is covered by your current deal or if an add-on is available.
“Try to limit your phone usage and, whenever feasible, connect to the Wi-Fi at your hotel or wherever you are.” If you need to use your phone frequently while traveling, the most cost-effective choice is usually to purchase a local SIM.”
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