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Mobile Roaming Charges are Back: What Does it Mean for Your Business?

In 2017, the European Union banned roaming charges for people using mobile phones abroad. The new rules meant citizens travelling within the EU were able to call, text and browse the internet at the same price they paid at home.

However, after the UK voted to leave the EU and with the trade agreement not incorporating protection against mobile roaming charges, some of the UK’s largest operators are now reintroducing the fees. Such a change in service could create significant difficulties for international companies with employees travelling abroad for work.

In this article, we will discuss what we know about the situation so far and outline what your business can do to ensure the charges don’t catch you or your communications teams off guard.

The Roaming Situation: What We Know So Far

Roaming charges after Brexit were always a possibility. Although the trade agreement promised users would benefit from ‘transparent and reasonable rates for international mobile roaming services’, this was never a guarantee of free mobile roaming.

At the time of writing, three of the UK’s biggest mobile operators (Three, EE, Vodafone) have indicated that they will be implementing EU mobile roaming charges starting at £2 per day for new customers or those who upgrade — with rates taking effect from 2022 — due to unforeseen wholesale costs and disrupted travel caused by the pandemic.

Fair use restrictions will also apply. Fair use means that there are limits on how much you can use your mobile phone abroad. UK customers have been told that their operators will charge extra if they spend more than half of their time overseas (more than 62 days in a four-month stretch). Data limits will also be affected by these restrictions, with operators implementing a data roaming cap.

With the pandemic and a slow resurgence of international business travel, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is no big deal. We’ve grown accustomed to Zoom calls and e-invites. But the truth of the matter is that borders are starting to re-open, and soon employees will be going on international business trips again.

In addition, many predict that the future of work is mobile. According to Gartner’s ‘Telephony is Dying’ report, on either a daily or weekly basis, 77% of users use real-time mobile messaging tools for quick or informal conversations related to work. This figure highlights business’ modern dependence on mobile usage and UCaaS, in general.

Businesses, therefore, need to be prepared for the reintroduction of mobile roaming charges to combat any sudden price hikes in their communication spend.

How Will You Be Affected

None of the networks will be charging for roaming in the Republic of Ireland — good news for those hopping across the Irish Sea for work.

If you’re based in the UK and travel to other parts of the EU, however, you can expect to pay the following EU mobile roaming charges if your contract is affected:

  • Around £2 a day for using your mobile phone for calls, texts and data
  • Between £3 and £3.50 for every GB above the data limit set by the operators

Remember, not all operators will charge the same — some aren’t charging anything at all. This is simply to give you an idea of how your communications budgets could be impacted if your contract is affected.

Meanwhile, EU nationals travelling to the UK may also be affected by roaming charges, depending on their operator. For instance, Polish operators have already informed their customers that they will have to pay roaming charges when travelling in the UK. In comparison, some French operators have announced that customers won’t be charged for roaming in the UK.

Beyond the EU

For those doing business further afield, the charges to make calls and access data never went away. However, some mobile operators have taken advantage of this situation to shake up their mobile plans for outside Europe, too.

For example, Three has effectively brought its long-standing (and widely popular) roaming feature ‘Go Roam’ to an end, which previously allowed customers to use their contract allowances in 71 countries, including Hong Kong and Australia. Now, users will need to pay £5 a day for roaming in these destinations.

Although it’s difficult to predict anything in such an unpredictable climate, Three might not be the only one to introduce or increase fees for roaming further afield in a post-Brexit Britain.

What Businesses Need to Look Out For

Mobile phones aren’t changing but the way we use them certainly is. Businesses are built and run on the freedom afforded by mobile phones and their applications. Now that the world has re-opened its doors, businesses are getting into the groove of foreign travel again.

With mobile roaming fees coming back as early as January 2022, businesses need to analyze their mobile needs now to ensure they’re not caught off-guard in the future. You must calculate how much employees rely on their mobiles when abroad and measure their usage to get the best possible deal.

It’s also important to look at your current contract to renegotiate it or move to a different operator before it’s too late. Not all operators are introducing the same fees — some insist they won’t at all. You, therefore, have options and may need to shop around to find a deal that works for you and your employees’ needs.

Get the Full Picture with Calero

Calero can help you navigate the sea of mobile plans that operators are offering by giving you real-time insights into the best deals on the market. With our expense management platform, you can also gain an accurate picture of how employees use their mobiles — no matter where they’re located.  

If you want more information about our expense management platform, get in touch with our experts today for a free consultation. You can also learn more about the various trends driving enterprise mobility in Gartner’s report, available here.