Vodafone has pre-empted next year’s banning of roaming charges in the EU by launching an inclusive roaming package across 40 destinations.
Customers of Vodafone’s Pay Monthly Red and Red Value bundles will be able to use unlimited calls, texts and picture messages with a monthly data allowance of up to 4GB.
The new countries covered include the EU as well as Turkey, six Caribbean islands and Switzerland.
Kester Mann, Principal Analyst at CCS Insight said that Vodafone’s launch of inclusive roaming would create pressure on rivals to follow suit.
Roaming charges in the EU are set to end completely on 15 June 2017, thanks to an agreement between the European Commission and the European Parliament and Council. As it stands, customers of one operator travelling to another and using the local network would have to pay a fee to this local operator. This charge is set to disappear.
Phasing out of the charges began in April 2016, with operators only able to add €0.05 per minute on mobile calls, €0.02 per SMS and €0.05 per MB of data. This charge will be 75 percent cheaper than current caps.
While there will soon be no choice over whether operators can charge for roaming, some companies are in a better position to make it into a profitable business. Pan-regional players like Vodafone can benefit from allowing customers to roam on partner networks.
In December, Vodafone extended its Business Traveller package to include 54 new destinations as part of an expansion of its roaming offering. Business travellers on selected business price plans can now take their home price plan abroad to nearly 100 destinations, with Australia, India and the United Arab Emirates now accessible through the plan.
Some of Vodafone’s rivals are also approaching the roaming market. Another mobile operator in the UK that decided to get a head start on the competition in roaming is Three. Its Feel at Home offering allows customers to use their UK allowances in 18 destinations, such as Spain, France, Australia and the US.
Virgin Mobile is one MVNO that has made an effort to capitalise on its international presence. Through its owner Liberty Global, Virgin Mobile can access the Belgacom International network and Telenor, with the resulting low wholesale prices allowing them to provide a lower cost offering to customers.
Plans such as EE’s Europass, which costs £4 per day for unlimited data and texts will be increasingly obsolete as the EU phases out the charges.
For business travellers using their own devices on consumer plans, the increasing attention to roaming paid by mobile operators will be welcome. Currently many are faced with either racking up large data bills or being forced to seek out wi-fi networks to carry out their work.