Dramatic increase in mobile phone usage in EU after abolition of ‘roaming’ charges

Use of mobile data services while roaming in the EU and EEA increased by 435 per cent

Just over 10 years ago, making a four-minute call to Ireland while on a Paris trip would have cost as much as € 5. File photograph: PA

Just over 10 years ago, making a four-minute call to Ireland while on a Paris trip would have cost as much as € 5. File photograph: PA

 

The abolition of roaming charges across the EU last year led to a dramatic and immediate increase in phone usage among Europeans who were travelling outside of their home country a new report has revealed.

Roaming charges were scrapped for people making calls and downloading data within the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) on June 15th last year. And device usage among travellers to other EU countries jumped by almost 500 per cent almost immediately, according to the the European Commission report.

Just over 10 years ago, making a four-minute call to Ireland while on a Paris trip would have cost as much as €5, while someone calling home from Malta could have paid just under €10 for a call of the same length.

Receiving a four-minute call in France, meanwhile, cost up to €3.97 and in Malta it would have cost €7.96.

In 2005, roaming generated €8.5 billion in turnover for mobile operators, of which up to €5.7 billion was profit. In the summer of 2006, the European Commission published regulations aimed at bringing the charges to an end, although it took over 10 years for the practice to end.

The interim report from the Commission says the series of regulations reducing the roaming charges mobile operators could impose were rolled out from 2007. They had brought tangible benefits to consumers in the form of price reductions for voice, SMS and data roaming services, but many Europeans continued to avoid, or curtail, usage of their phones and data services when travelling.

Switch off

In 2014, more than half of Europeans switched off their data roaming capability while travelling in the EU and only one in ten Europeans made or received calls as often as in their country.

However, once the roaming charges were entirely scrapped consumers “immediately and massively started to take advantage” of the move, the report says.

Over the course of summer 2017, the use of mobile data services while roaming in the EU and EEA increased by 435 per cent compared to the previous year while the volume of roaming phone calls climbed by 145 per cent.

In the last quarters of 2017 and the first quarter of this year, the use of roaming data remained almost five times above its level of the previous year. Travellers now use an average of almost four times more data while roaming than before and make 1.7 times more calls while travelling within the EU and EEA.

“These figures clearly show that the [scrapping of roaming charges] have significantly contributed to stimulate the demand for roaming services and the development of the international roaming market in the EU/EEA,” the report says.

“The end of roaming charges is a great example to demonstrate how the EU can deliver for the benefits of its citizens in their daily life,” said Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune. “We really are a more connected Europe as a result.”