Europe Just Killed Roaming Fees For Data: Bill Shock Can’t Be Legislated Away

Data Roaming

The EU has scrapped roaming fees entirely for voice and data use when travelling abroad. Assuming it’s approved by EU national governments, the change should take effect from the middle of December next year. The move follows a previous EU cut to roaming charges in August that set a cap on mobile data charges, which were chopped by a third to 45 euro cents per MB.

The core problem is that data spikes have caused much stress on operator networks and they’ve had to react by building more capacity to ease congestion, which is very expensive. These costs are being passed on to users.

As a result, some enterprises don’t even enable roaming as they are worried about bill shock. This strategy can have a negative impact on employee productivity. Meanwhile, the enterprises that do enable roaming have faced huge roaming costs.

The new legislation will mean that the cost of making a call or downloading internet data in another EU country will be the same as at home – great news for consumers and corporates alike. Of course and we hope it will be swiftly passed by EU governments, but let’s not get our hopes up just yet for a regulatory solution to rising mobile data bills.

Even as the per MB cost falls, usage growth outstrips it and overall costs rise. With 4G rolling out and 5G peeking over the horizon, the change comes at a time when users are using ever more cellular data on mobile devices. Consumption is rising exponentially and that is only going to continue.

Whether at home or abroad, mobile data costs are driven up by more than just roaming fees. Popular mobile applications and ‘fat’ data types like video and image are still the biggest suck on data allowances.

Whether it’s ‘content snacking’ on short videos, downloading email attachments, taking restaurant recommendations from location-based services, using Google maps to find your way around or just allowing apps to update continuously in the background, apps and content are the real cost culprits. In fact the average family now generates enough data to fill 65 iPhones each year.

Operators will have their own ideas however about how to recoup lost roaming revenues, and there is the potential for standard tariffs to rise overall in response to the EU move.

At the core, finding ways to reduce the content and apply policy and offload to Wi-Fi will always be beneficial when dealing with massive spike in cellular data volumes. To be effective data controls should be based on an understanding of the most common applications and usage patterns in the enterprise, and focused on managing the issues that analysis brings to the surface. Controls, policies and usage caps can then be applied to individuals rather than catching everyone up in a data dragnet.

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Roy Tuvey

Roy Tuvey is Co-Founder and President of Wandera. Roy is responsible for Wandera’s global market strategy and execution. Roy co-founded and served as President of ScanSafe. He founded and led the company’s operations in North America. Roy has a BSc in Economics from Bristol University.