New UK data roaming charges: what is your network changing?

After all four major telecoms UK companies (EE, Vodafone, Three, and O2) previously stated they had no plans to reintroduce roaming fees post a Brexit trade deal with the EU, it may come as a surprise to many of their customers that almost all of them now have some sort of plan in place to do so. 

What are roaming charges?

Roaming charges refer to the extra cost phone customers pay to their network provider on top of their standard contract minutes, texts, and data when using their phone abroad. 

For context, mobile roaming charges within the EU were banned in 2017 as part of the ‘Roam Like at Home” initiative – saving holidaymakers and business travellers millions of pounds in additional fees for using their phone outside of the UK. 

However, free roaming was not protected in the Brexit agreement signed with the EU. As such, since January 2021 have been allowed to reintroduce these charges, with mobile network operators claiming that the fees collected will help them face rising costs and continue investing more in the UK’s network for new technologies like 5G. 

So what are the new rules for each network?

Roaming with EE

In June 2021 EE was the first company to announce it would be bringing back roaming charges. Other than when its customers are roaming in the Republic of Ireland, EE users will be charged an additional £2 per day to access their usual allowance of minutes, texts, and data when roaming in the other 47 EU destinations. 

While some of their more pricey phone contracts (Smart and Full works plans) will include 30 days of free roaming within the EU, customers with other contracts can also pay £10 for a 30 day Roam Abroad Pass. This works out cheaper if you’re planning a trip that is more than five days long. 

It remains to be seen how EE will present the two plans to its customers. 

EE will begin applying these changes after January 1st 2022, however, they will only affect new and upgrading customers who started their contract after July 7th 2021. 

Roaming with Vodafone

The second company to change its stance on roaming charges was Vodafone in August 2021. From January 2022, customers that are new or upgraded their contract after 11th August 2021 will be charged at least £1 a day to use their phone in European destinations. The maximum they will be charged is £2 a day.

The discrepancy between the £1 and £2 fee is due to the fact that if Vodafone customers buy an eight day or 15 day roaming pass the cost drops to £1 a day rather than the standard £2. Therefore, travellers who plan to go to Europe for longer periods of time and use mobile data will save money with EE over Vodafone.

As with EE, it is also expected that the company will include data roaming with some of its more expensive Xtra plans and in all cases the Republic of Ireland will not be included as part of the new changes.

Unlike EE, Vodafone also plans to introduce fair usage limits to its customers. This means that if a customer can only use less than 25GB of data each month. If they go over this limit, they will be charged £3.13 per additional GB.

Roaming with Three

On the 9th September mobile network provider Three announced significant changes to its roaming policies that will undoubtedly anger many of its customers. 

Not only will customers now have to pay £2 a day to access their own allowances in the EU, the company will also be dropping its Go Roam benefits. This policy allowed its customers to use their contract allowances in 71 locations across the world including the USA, Hong Kong, and Australia. 

When travelling to these previous Go Roam destinations, customers will now have to pay £5 a day (again, the Republic of Ireland is excluded from these charges).

These changes will take effect from 23rd May 2022 and apply to new or upgrading customers who take a contract with the company after 1st October 2021. 

Three has also cut its fair usage limit like Vodafone. While the company used to allow its customers up to 20GB before it would charge extra for their data usage, this limit has now been cut to 12GB. For every additional GB used above this, Three will charge its customers £3. 

Roaming with O2

O2 still says it has no plans to reintroduce roaming charges as of September 2021. It will, however, give its customers a monthly data limit of 25GB when travelling to European destinations. O2 customers will be charged £3.50 for each GB they go over after this limit is reached. 

If O2 does keep its promise to avoid roaming charges there is a good chance it could steal many customers who regularly go abroad from the other three network providers. 

Likewise, smaller providers such as Tesco mobile and Sky mobile also currently state they have no plans to reintroduce roaming charges and so may be able to increase their market share as a result. 
What are your thoughts on the new roaming charges? Let us know in the comments section. And, if you have any questions or other technology queries, please tweet us at @techtroublesho1.

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