People travelling within the EU will benefit from cheaper calls and capped roaming costs from today, meaning they no longer have to worry about running up extortionate bills.
From 1 July, EU legislation comes into effect, which reduces the tariff for mobile roaming calls to €0.39 euro cents for calls made and €0.15 for calls received. Previously, the tariffs were set at €0.43 and €0.19 respectively.
In addition, a default cut-off for data roaming will be imposed at a monthly cost of €50. Consumers can also select a higher or lower cap for their maximum monthly roaming costs if this is offered by their operator.
Operators will also be obliged to send users a warning when they reach 80% of their data-roaming bill limit, so they can alter their practices accordingly and to prevent shock cut-offs.
Receiving a voicemail message while roaming abroad will also be free of charge.
Last year, a Europe-wide limit of 11p per text message was introduced, which led to 20% more text messages sent from Europe in 2009 compared to the previous year. This limit will remain in place.
What is international roaming?
When you travel abroad, if you turn your mobile phone on it will start roaming. This allows you to make and receive calls, write text messages and surf the internet using a foreign network since your home provider will not normally operate in that country.
For providing this service, the foreign network operator will charge your home operator which will in turn pass on the additional cost to you.
You are charged for sending and receiving text messages and for making and receiving calls because in all of these instances the service has to be transferred between your home network provider and the foreign one.
One of the targets in the digital agenda for Europe is to completely eliminate the differences between national and international roaming tariffs by 2015. This would provide a true single market for providers, which would encourage better competition for consumers.
The next targets are in place for 1 July 2011, when call charges will be reduced to a maximum of €0.35 for making calls and €0.11 for received calls.
David Knox, spokesperson for Acision, a mobile data and charging specialist, says: "While these measures are undoubtedly a a step in the right direction, it is important to bear in mind that they only apply within the EU. Attention must now be turned to addressing how to regulate roaming outside the EU."