Tomorrow, 15th June 2017, roaming charges across the European Economic Area will be abolished, thus making phone usage the same price at home as it is abroad.
This day has been long-awaited and will surely be welcome news for millions of people around the continent. Only a decade ago I still remember my normally £10 phone bills coming back at over £50 after a short trip with only a few necessary calls. Smartphones and iPads weren't a thing back then so all communication had to be conducted over SMS for the budget conscious.
Beware though, non-EEA countries are not subject to the law to ban these charges. So if you are heading to Monaco, Switzerland, Andorra, San Marino, Channel Islands, and many Eastern European countries you need to check with your network operator to see if they will include these. Many do, but you still check nonetheless.
“Fair Use” policies will apply so that not everyone goes flocking to the cheapest provider in Europe, though so far most companies have kept rather quiet on what “fair use” actually means. Could it mean spending a certain number of days per year in the sim card provider's home country, or not being excessive with the data consumed? We're not so sure.
For perspective, I got myself a pay-as-you-go Dutch Vodafone sim card last year, had it posted to a friend who then posted it to me. In the 12 months I have had it I have spent less than 24 hours in The Netherlands, and so it has been on permanent roam.
On the other hand I previously had one issued by 3 UK, who deactivated it after a few months of being abroad, costing me the £20 of credit I had in my account.
Time will tell how these companies now start competing against each other, though if you are in the UK things look even more uncertain as there is no obligation for operators to follow the directive after Brexit. My intuition says the financial desires of the oligopoly will overcome the inertia of free competition, and users will be back to paying £10/MB of data.
One thing is for sure though, if you are a tourist visiting multiple EEA countries in the same trip, you can now pick up a sim card wherever you arrive and it will be a lot more convenient to stay in touch as you travel.