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After years of discussion and debate, roaming charges have finally been abolished across the European Union. Following an agreement reached between the European Parliament, the Council of ministers and the European Commission in 2015, roaming charges will no longer apply to any EU-registered phone used within the EU from mid-June, much to the delight of the region’s many business travellers and tourists. This means no more unexpected fees if you text holiday photos to your mum, no huge bill when you spend the morning in your hotel room calling colleagues or sales prospects and easy emailing for frantic workaholics desperate to meet their deadlines.
Of course, it’s possible this change could be temporary for Brits, whose benefits could hinge on the government’s newly launched Brexit negotiation campaign. However, we do know that we’ll benefit until at least spring 2019, after which it’s possible the increased use of mobile devices abroad may put pressure on network operators across the continent to reduce their fees. In the meantime, travellers can now access cloud technology, bank accounts, customer service departments and even shops while travelling across the region, rendering this the start of a cheap travel era for millions.
Aside from reducing the chance of unexpected charges, the news could help to encourage the increasing uptake of consumer cloud services to continue. According to data from Statista, the number of consumers around the world using cloud-based services is expected to reach 3.6 billion, up from 2.4 billion in 2013. Services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud are at the forefront of this drive, all acting as popular storage solutions for everyone from snap-happy holidaymakers to Insta-famous jetsetters. In fact, free access to these services can solve multiple problems at once, allowing secure storage of files of any size while freeing space on mobile devices to ensure consumers never miss a thing.
Of course, business travellers are also likely to benefit from a lack of data charge, particularly given the increasing number of remote workers around the world. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, as of 2014 there were 4.2 million workers in the UK alone who worked away from the office, the equivalent of 13.9 per cent of the workforce.
However, even occasional travellers with a little work that spills over to their holiday or a professional on a one-off business trip will enjoy the new level of freedom offered by the removal of data charges. Whether travelling on a first class train or relaxing on a beach, sharing files over the cloud could now be just as simple and cheap as it is at home.
Private cloud service companies are also anticipating higher customer usage, now that the reluctance of some end-users to access data-driven apps because of network costs is likely to disappear.
The comes at a fortuitous time, as private cloud enterprises begin to proliferate rapidly across Europe especially in industries with stringent regulatory requirements (see our article on GDPR), including healthcare, aviation, financial services and insurance, retail and ecommerce, media, manufacturing, banking and IT.
In fact massive growth in European cloud services is expected across all sectors. Srinivasan CR, Senior Vice President of Tata Communications, which is currently expanding its European cloud nodes, aptly comments: “In today’s digital economy, enterprises’ growth is fuelled by cloud-based applications and data.”
Free data is actually subject to ‘fair use policies’ governing the amount of data that can be used, and these differ by mobile network.
While Vodafone doesn’t define a data cap in its terms and conditions, EE data is capped at 15GB per month. O2 doesn’t have a data cap for its business or monthly customers, but some of its Pay As You Go plans do have a cap. Three has a 12GB cap for monthly customers and its Pay As You Go users have a 9GB cap.
There are also time limits that differ by network, for instance O2 will only allow you to roam for 60 days in a four month period before charges are applied.
The legislation covers the 28 European countries: Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Islands, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin (French), San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands and Vatican City.
But some networks also cover one or more of non-EU countries including Switzerland, Norway, Turkey, Monaco, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. Three even covers Australia and the United States.