The mobile don’t roam

Mobile roaming just got a whole lot cheaper in Europe - and it's about to get cheaper yet.

When I touch down in Berlin, the first thing I do is pay £5. Why? Because it allows me to use data on my phone for the rest of the day, and a phone without data is pretty much unimaginable to me – and misty of you, I’d guess – for any length of time.

Just over a week ago, I landed in Hong Kong, and paid nothing, yet used my phone like at home in the UK. The same was true of a couple of trips I made to New York earlier in the year. Why? Well, Hong Kong and New York are what my network calls “feel at home” destinations – places where they have reciprocal arrangements in place to allow phone and data roaming freely. I’m rather hoping that Germany will get added to the list before NEXT15…

This is the strange world of international data, which is one of the things that makes Europe a difficult place for mobile-focused start-ups. In the US, they have one huge country with one language and complete data access to play with. Here in Europe, we not only have language issues, but we also have data roaming issues.

Thankfully, that’s in the process of changing, and earlier in the week it all got cheaper:

From Tuesday, Europeans traveling around the union will pay a lot less for mobile data, voice and SMS. The most drastic cut will be for data, with the retail price cap dropping from 45 euro cents ($0.62) per megabyte to 20 cents ($0.27).

Free the European Mobile

And the news gets better:

It’s far from being the end of the story, though — a major package of telecoms reform that’s almost been signed into law will do away with intra-EU roaming premiums altogether.

This really is good news. Border controls have been relaxed to the point when moving around continental Europe is straightforward. Most of the carriers are international companies, with a pan-European presence. But our telecoms infrastructure just hasn’t caught up. As data access becomes a central part of our lives, creating an environment where we can use it without worrying about the cost when our of our home nation is a prerequisite of making Europe a really friendly home to digital innovation.

Roll on the end of roaming charges.