First summer without roaming charges: Europeans see benefits of the new rules


The first summer without roaming charges shows that Europeans are aware of the new rules and have started changing their habits when travelling abroad in the EU.

According to a Flash Eurobarometer survey published today, a large majority of Europeans recognise the benefits of roaming without extra charges. Thanks to the new EU roaming rules, in place since 15 June 2017, consumers can use their mobile phone while travelling abroad in the EU as they would do at home, without paying extra charges. The survey shows that 71% of Europeans are aware that roaming charges have ended and 72% think they, or someone they know, will benefit. Awareness of the new rules rises to 86% amongst those who have travelled since 15 June.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “We see that people are keen to use their phones like at home when travelling in the EU without the fear of a bill-shock. And mobile operators are investing in networks to meet increased demand. Our new EU telecoms rules will encourage such investments; they should be adopted by the European Parliament and Member States as soon as possible.”

Mariya Gabriel, the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said: “This is an example of an EU that concretely improves the life of European citizens. Roam like at home is working: customers are appreciating it, consumption is up and the demand for mobile services while travelling in the EU is very high. It benefits consumers and operators alike.”

Since 15 June 2017 Europeans can use their mobile phones (calls, SMS and data) when travelling in the EU without paying extra roaming charges. This means travellers can use their phone abroad exactly like at home when they travel, without any fear of high phone bills.

Prior to that date, the Commission has been working for a decade to reduce and ultimately end extra roaming charges that telecoms operators imposed on their customers each time they crossed a border while using their mobile device on holiday or during business trips. Between 2007 and 2016, roaming prices had decreased by more than 90%, and prices fell for the final time in April 2016. In 2015, based on a proposal of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council agreed to end roaming charges for people travelling in the EU.

Travellers start changing their habits

The Flash Eurobarometer survey on roaming took place at the end of August, after the main holiday period. The results show that during this summer – the first without extra roaming charges for travellers in the EU – people have started to change their behaviour when using their mobile phones abroad:

The share of travellers who used their mobile data while roaming as often as at home doubled among those who had travelled after 15 June 2017 (31%) compared to the ones who had travelled during the months before (15%);
The share of travellers who never used mobile data abroad halved after 15 June 2017 (21%) compared to the months preceding that date (42%);
In general, restrictive mobile use abroad is diminishing with less travellers switching off their phones (12%) as compared to before 15 June (20%);
However, compared to mobile phone use in their home country, 60% of travellers still restricted their mobile phone use when travelling in another EU country since 15 June 2017.

The impact of the end of roaming charges on travellers’ phone use abroad is also confirmed in comparison with a Eurobarometer survey from 2014 which had shown even more restrictive roaming usage patterns as during the months before 15 June 2017.

Operators note increase in data roaming and calls

Mobile operators can already see the change in travellers’ behaviour in their networks. Several operators reported an important rise in data traffic due to travellers, which has multiplied several times this summer compared to summer 2016 (by 3 to 6 times, in some cases even more). While some of this increase reflects general year-on-year growth in data consumption in domestic markets, a substantial part can be attributed to the new roaming rules. The rise of roaming calls, although less marked, is also significant. In response, mobile operators in touristic areas report important investments in their networks to seize the opportunity presented by the increased demand from travellers.

Commission continues to monitor implementation

After the first summer without extra roaming charges, it can be observed that in general mobile operators comply with the new rules. The Commission, in close cooperation with national regulators, which are directly responsible for ensuring the implementation, will continue to monitor the developments on mobile markets in Member States to make sure operators continue to follow the new rules and consumers benefit from the end of roaming charges.