What the heck is

What the heck is… the end of EU roaming?

By Oliver Smith 15 June 2017
Image: Getty/filadendron.

Explaining the buzzwords of the moment: what is the end of EU roaming and why should I care?

Our weekly series What The Heck Is… exists to shed light on the strange unexplained acronyms and unfamiliar buzzwords that creep into our everyday lives.

From Kangaroo Care to nitro coffee, we’re on a mission to explain the difficult to explain.

Now, in honour of the EU scrapping mobile roaming fees today, we’re exploring what this means for you, your smartphone and your summer holiday.

What the heck are roaming fees?

You know that gut-wrenching feeling when you get back from a lovely holiday, only to be landed with a mobile bill that’s two or three times bigger than usual? Suddenly regretting all those Instagram beach photos?

Blame roaming fees.

Simply put, your UK mobile operator doesn’t own any network in France, so instead it’s done a deal with a South African mobile operator to let you ‘roam’ on their network… but that deal comes at a cost.

The South African network doesn’t care about you or your custom, hence huge charges.

In fact roaming in South will cost you as much as £6 per mb of data!

This is not how you want to feel getting back from holiday. Image: Getty/DrGrounds.

What’s happening with EU roaming fees?

After years, if not decades, of deliberation, today the European Union is finally declaring “the end of roaming charges”.

It means you won’t be charged any extra fees to use your UK allowance of minutes, data or texts while you’re abroad in Europe.

Once you’ve used up your allowance (or if you’re on pay-as-you-go) then you’ll just pay what you’d pay in the UK for more.

What’s the catch?

It’s not all plain sailing however, as the new rules aren’t exactly watertight. There are four key things to remember:

  • This doesn’t mean international calls from the UK to Europe are now cheaper/free, the only data/calls/messages covered are those you make while you’re outside your home country.
  • It also won’t cover non-EU countries that you might assume are part of the EU, I’m looking at you Vatican City, Switzerland and Monaco.
  • Premium numbers called while you’re abroad aren’t covered by the change, so may come with a sting in the tail. If you’re abroad for more than two-months you might be judged to have moved abroad, which isn’t covered by the new roaming rules.
  • And, lastly, if you regularly cross a border to work, like between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, that won’t be considered roaming.

Why should you care?

If you play by the rules, which most people will, your summer holiday is about to get a lot cheaper.

Now you can Tweet, text, post, call, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Instagram those beach pics, wherever you are in Europe.

Our weekly series What The Heck Is… exists to shed light on the strange unexplained acronyms and unfamiliar buzzwords that creep into our everyday lives.