This April, MEP's passed legislation that will end roaming charges for using a mobile phone while abroad by December 2015. This means that the cost of making a call or downloading internet data in another EU country will be the same price as at home.
This news will be warmly welcomed by Brits as Europe remains the most popular destination for summer holidays, accounting for 80 per cent of visits abroad, according to the Office of National Statistics.
Our data use across hand held devices is constantly increasing and there are no signs of this trend changing, as 4G networks continue to offer faster download and upload speeds and our data consumption continues to escalate.
In recent years, the EU has legislated to lower the hefty costs, forcing telecoms operators to cap their fees for voice calls, text messages and internet access. Despite this, many consumers have faced bills for thousands of pounds after falling foul of high roaming charges. We have recently seen examples of this, with Brits racking up extortionate phone bills continue to make the headlines, with one British teenager running up a whopping £3,800 bill during a trip to New York. As a result, many are fed up with being ripped off and have no option but to limit their use of the web when travelling in Europe.
The plan is that any calls, SMS or mobile broadband usage will be charged at the same price as if at home, or will use up any inclusive allowances. Beyond this move the legislation also paves the way for removing other barriers for providers, enabling them to sell mobile services across borders. This means you might be able to shop around and buy a tariff that is sold in any of the EU countries.
However, the question remains; will we see mobile contracts suddenly increase in price as a result? In my opinion, there is certainly a strong cause for concern this might happen, as roaming charges have been lucrative for mobile operators and have remained uncapped for many years.
Given the high levels of investment that 4G requires, mobile phone operators will obviously not want to see their profits diminish when deploying new mobile technology to offer better quality data connectivity. In reality, we cannot expect a blunt price rise, but people may find the latest phones command a higher price premium with operators relying on our growing gadget addiction as we upgrade.
Another option is that operators will increase the cost of out of tariff calls and data usage. When you're on holiday, snapping away with a high resolution camera on your smart phone, you can use data up very quickly, as. the best phone cameras can produce pictures of 4 to 7 MB each in size.
So, what can you do this summer to avoid wincing at your phone bill when you return home from your holiday? Some mobile operators including EE offer inclusive roaming inside Europe on selected tariffs. Therefore, I suggest contacting your provider to find out what they offer in terms of roaming, and if you are in a position to change your contract it might be worth shopping around for the best deal that is suitable for you. If you're signing up to a special roaming package ensure it does not opt you out of the EU roaming cost caps. Firms should be upfront about this, but sales staff chase sales as their prime concern, not you peace of mind.
Once we know more about how things are going to work in terms of rates and limits we will add all the details to our mobile broadband abroad guide but for now the best advice to avoid eye-wateringly high bills is to take advantage of free Wi-Fi wherever you can, turn data roaming off, buy a local or global SIM which offers a pay as you go rate, or just turn you phone off altogether and get back to the pool.