Mobile users to pay less in Europe as new roaming rates take force

European phone costs cut

Holidaymakers should pay less to use their phone in Europe as new mobile roaming rates come into force. 

Roaming rates have been falling since 2007 and the latest change, which took force on 30 April, marks the last reduction in European roaming prices ahead of the fees being abolished altogether from 15 June 2017.

The rates apply to consumers travelling in all countries in the European Union, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

Under the new rules, if you’ve got a pay-monthly mobile allowance, your roaming usage is now deducted from this, and you pay the roaming rates on top.

So if, for example, you’ve got an allowance of 60 minutes worth of voice calls, 100 text messages, and 100 MB of data, and you make a 10 minute phone call, send 10 texts and use 10 MB of data abroad, you’d have 50 minutes of voice calls left, 90 texts and 90MB of data – and you’d pay the new roaming charges on top.

Prior to 30 April, your roaming usage wouldn’t have been deducted from your at-home allowance, and you would have paid roaming rates capped at the old rate. 

From 15 June 2017, roaming rates will be deducted from your at-home allowance and you won’t be charged anything extra – so when you roam, it will be as if you’re at home.

However, a fair use policy – which has yet to be determined – will ensure roaming only applies to genuine travellers and not to those who buy a SIM card in another EU country where domestic prices are lower to use it at home, or who permanently stay abroad with a domestic subscription from their home country. It’s likely those who breach the fair use limit will be charged a fee. 

What about roaming charges outside Europe?

The cost of data roaming can be significantly higher outside Europe – often around £6-£8 per MB of data, according to telecoms regulator Ofcom.

However, all mobile operators have to apply a cut-off limit once you have used €50 (excluding VAT) – around £40 – of data per month, wherever you travel in the world, unless you choose to opt out.

To cut the cost of roaming charges when you’re abroad, Ofcom recommends: 

  • Downloading any apps, films, books or music before you go to avoid charges abroad.
  • Turning off data roaming. If you leave it on, you can run up a big bill without actively using your phone as smartphones and 3G/4G enabled tablets automatically seek out mobile connections and use them to update apps.
  • Using Wi-Fi to get online. Most hotels abroad now offer free roaming access, as do many restaurants and cafes. 
  • Buying a local pay-as-you-go Sim when you arrive. This means you pay the same price as locals, although obviously you’ll have a different phone number.
  • Talking to your provider. Some providers, such as Three, allow users to roam for free in certain countries. Others may be able to offer you a roaming add-on deal. 


Here's the most you'll pay (excluding VAT): 


From 1 July 2014

From 30 April 2016

From 15 June 2017

Outgoing voice calls (per minute)

Capped at €0.19

Domestic price + up to €0.05 (i)

No extra roaming fee, same as domestic price

Incoming voice calls (per minute)

Capped at €0.05

Capped at €0.0114

No extra roaming fee, same as domestic price

Outgoing texts (per SMS message)

Capped at €0.06

Domestic price + up to €0.02 (i)

No extra roaming fee, same as domestic price

Online (data download, per MB)

Capped at €0.20

Domestic price + up to €0.05 (i)

No extra roaming fee, same as domestic price

(i) Domestic price refers to the country the Sim card is from, not the overseas country you’re using your Sim in. Must not exceed 1 July 2014 caps.