The EU extends its 'Roam-like-at-home' mobile service rule through 2032

The agreement was set to expire at the end of June, but it still doesn't apply to the UK.

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Andrew Tarantola
June 30, 2022 1:28 PM
In this article: news, gear, telecoms, roaming, EU, Europe
EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes gives a press conference on July 6, 2011 on slashing the high cost of using smartphones and tablets across the European Union at EU Headquarters in Brussels. In a season that often sees disgruntled vacationers returning home to shock bills after calls and downloads in other EU nations, the European Commission announced a plan to extend price caps on roaming charges until 2016.
                AFP PHOTO / GEORGES GOBET (Photo credit should read GEORGES GOBET/AFP via Getty Images)
GEORGES GOBET via Getty Images

Back in 2017, the European Union took the shockingly rational step of largely eliminating roaming charges for its citizens travelling among member nations, dubbing it the "Roam-like-at-home" system. Operating across the 27 countries that make up the European Economic Area as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway — but not the UK because Brexit — Roam-like-at-home was set to expire at the end of June. On Thursday, however, the European Commission announced that it will be extending the system for another decade, through 2032.

The EC cites benefits to both consumers and telecom providers as part of its decision, with consumers enjoying "a better roaming experience, with the same quality of mobile service abroad as they have at home," as well as improved access to emergency services and increased transparency in charging rates so travellers in the EU won't find a massive bill waiting for them when they get home.

“Remember when we had to switch off mobile data when travelling in Europe — to avoid ending up with a massive roaming bill?" Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, said in Thursday's press statement. "Well this is history. And we intend to keep it this way for at least the next 10 years. Better speed, more transparency: we keep improving EU citizens' lives."

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The extended rules strongly suggests that carriers "ensure that consumers have access to use 4G, or the more advanced 5G, networks, if these are available at the destination" and "automatically interrupt mobile services if the mobile services over non-terrestrial networks reach charges of €50 or another predefined limit." What's more, they require 112 to dial emergency services be made available across the entire economic area and, by June 2023, for carriers to notify travellers of that ability either by text or popup when they enter the EU.

Most importantly, the new rules will put a couple Euros back in consumers' pockets because the EU is run by rational adults who can negotiate with telecom carriers for better wholesale data and voice pricing without the entire process devolving into a constitutional crisis. Users can expect to pay 2 €/GB this year with that rate steadily dropping to 1 €/GB from 2027 on, 0.022 €/min for voice until 2025 when it will drop to 0.019 €/min, and each SMS from here on out will cost 0.004 € until 2025 when it nudges down to 0.003 €.

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