It’s finally here: exorbitant EU roaming data charges were switched off from Thursday 15th June allowing anyone travelling in the EU the ability to share, like, view and watch mobile content until their heart’s content. Well, nearly. For consumers and global businesses alike, Roam Like Home is great news. For most, the cost of data bills for roaming will drop, however, there are a few caveats to be aware of that could still catch you and your organisation out if you’re not suitably prepared.

What does the Roam Like Home legislation actually mean?
Essentially, the cost of data usage will be treated the same abroad as it is at home if you are travelling within the EU. Depending on the carrier, this may also include Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. However, the levels of service and terms & conditions differ.
Consider these caveats with Roam Like Home before you jump for joy.

1. Exceeding your data allowance is still a bad idea

While it may be obvious, it is still worth saying. If you exceed your data allowance, you will still be charged. Employees are likely aware of the new regulations and the expected trend is that, as a result, people will use more data abroad as they now believe it to be ‘cheap’. The average cautious employee will become less so. As individual employees are not privy to the organisation’s plans and limits, they are likely unaware of the knock on impact to the business of the increase in usage, ‘cheap’ or otherwise.
For example, businesses often have data pool plans, allowing their employees to share data from one central pot, with the idea that there is less data wastage if one person uses less and one person uses more. To learn more, read this article: ‘Three things to consider before signing up to a data pool plan’.
Roam Like Home
Now, data in Europe will come out of the domestic pot instead of the roaming pot. So while roaming costs will go down, total usage may go up (exceeding the previously suitable limit) and bill shock could still happen.
It may be worth going back to your carrier to examine your specific tariffs – perhaps shrinking your roaming data pool whilst increasing your domestic. Or move away from tariffs that have preferential European roaming rates to something more suitable.

2. Check what countries are included

It is worth checking with your carrier what countries are included in Roam Like Home and educating your employees on this. Whilst the 28 countries of the EU are always included, carriers may include additional countries. There are differences between plans offered by each carrier and which countries are included as part of the deal. So for a country which may be included in an employee’s personal plan but not the business plan, e.g. for one carrier and not another, employees may incorrectly believe it included and be more relaxed with their data usage.

3. Tailored tariffs may not be part of Roam Like Home

Businesses often have tailored tariffs. If you are on a tailored tariff, the terms and conditions stated in the contract may still apply and Roam Like Home may not. For example, at the time of writing, O2 UK customers are advised that tailored tariffs do not include the new Roam Like Home costs and that businesses should contact their account managers for more details.
Roam Like Home

4. Moving abroad still means moving abroad

If you move to another European country, you may be in breach of the acceptable usage policy if you continue to use your UK SIM card and plan as your primary method of contact. Roam Like Home is aimed at travellers using their phones whilst on short trips, rather than those living abroad using a foreign SIM card. If you are deemed to be using your mobile more often out of your home country than in, this will be deemed as unfair use of the service and you will be in breach of the policy. This could lead to high charges or being suspended from the service. More importantly, the carriers can apply these charges retrospectively!

5. Unlimited doesn’t always mean unlimited

As part of the law, there are provisions for ‘fair usage policies’ to limit the extent of roaming usage. This is due to the fact that the data used abroad incurs a cost for the carrier (as they have to negotiate deals with each local carrier), unlike extra data used domestically (which is used on their own network). The rules state that if you go above the fair usage limit, you may be charged. The charges are capped at a maximum of €7.70 per GB. The limit varies across providers. For most users, it should not be a problem, however for those who use large amounts of data, they may end up going over this limit. To account for this, operators are redefining ‘unlimited’ to mean ‘unlimited while at home’ in plan definitions.

6. Redefining the ‘home country’

In some organisations, corporate plans explicitly disallow roaming. These plans may stay the same, as some carriers are not necessarily redefining the ‘home country’ to include whole of the EU. Instead, they are insisting these plans continue the way they are. In the same vein, some organisations have separate data pools for smartphones and data devices such as tablets, Wi-Fi routers, etc, which are charged at a very low price. Again, these are being defined as home only and does not include the EU.
Roam Like Home

7. Reduced internet speed

Unlimited data plans don’t entitle you to optimal speed whilst roaming. Once you reach a certain threshold, many carriers are reducing the available network speed, potentially slowing the user experience down. This is expected to become much more prevalent abroad where carriers are artificially reducing download speeds so that consumers use less data, keeping the cost to the carrier down. Whilst this could affect productivity, it is anticipated to have the biggest impact for high bandwidth streaming services such as Netflix. On the plus side, the reduced speed (and potential usage) may help to stop employees going over the fair use limit or the organisation over data pool plan limit.

8. Plan price increases

There are also grumblings of increased prices at home as carriers look to recoup the lost roaming revenues. More on that as it happens.

Don’t rely on legislation, take control of your bills

Wandera specialises in decreasing data costs and preventing bill shock. Using a mixture of intelligent policies, compression, capping and alerts, it is possible to eliminate bill shock and decrease usage by 30- 40% typically.
So don’t sit and wait to see your roaming bills drop because it’s unlikely they will given all the caveats. Instead, take control now.
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