Three backtracks on plan to restrict data roaming

Instead it is introducing a ‘fair usage’ policy in accordance with new European rules

The new plan Three announced is to apply a fair usage formula for users that has been agreed at European level. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

The new plan Three announced is to apply a fair usage formula for users that has been agreed at European level. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

 

Three Ireland, the second-largest player in the mobile market, has backtracked on plans to dramatically restrict free data roaming for its users while travelling abroad.

Instead, it is introducing a “fair usage” policy that it says is in accordance with new European “roam like home” rules that will come into effect next month.

The change in tack allows Three to sidestep a warning from the European Commission to mobile operators that they must not attempt to introduce data roaming charges by stealth.

The warning came in the wake of an attempt by Three to impose restrictions on data roaming available to its users, who have “all you can eat” data at home.

Its original plan was to make “all you can eat” data consumption an adjunct “service benefit” rather than having it as a core contract term.

Having it as a core benefit would obligate it to also offer “all you can eat” to its users while roaming. Instead it planned to set strict caps for data roaming.

The new plan that Three announced on Friday is to apply a fair usage formula for its users that has been agreed at European regulatory level by Berec (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications).

Under the new plan Three bill-pay customers will get a free fair-usage data roaming allowance of 6GB-7GB, depending on the subscriber’s home package. Prepay users will get 5GB once they have spent €20 topping-up.

The fair-usage limits are far larger than the stricter limits it had previously planned to impose.

“Three continues to be the only mobile operator to offer ‘all you can eat’ data. The application of the fair-use policy means that customers can now also access generous volumes of data when roaming in the EU,” it said.

It will start informing prepay customers of the new regime today, while bill-pay customers will be informed in coming weeks.