EU mobile roaming after brexit

I saw an article yesterday, well, someone read it to my whilst I was reading my Ada book, on EU mobile roaming.

The theory is that the "free" roaming in EU will continue after brexit because the Great Repeal Bill will maintain all the existing EU laws as UK laws when we leave, including the requirement to do the roaming at no extra cost.

First off, it may be that the deals the mobile operates have will indeed continue, and maybe we will retain the "free" roaming in some form.

However, a UK law cannot really enforce that. Right now the operators in UK and mainland Europe are all subject to the EU law saying they have to allow the roaming like this. When we leave the EU, those mainland Europe operators will NO LONGER be subject to that requirement when it comes to UK mobile operators roaming to EU as UK will not be in EU. So those operators can go back to charging UK operators a small fortune for roaming calls, texts, and data.

If the UK tells UK operators they have to allow roaming at same price as UK and the foreign operators charge a lot for roaming, what will happen? Someone loses out, or roaming becomes no longer an option. More likely is the operators which you can use when roaming get to be few and far between.

I also suspect that EU law retained in UK law will not necessarily force UK operators to allow EU phone users to roam to UK. After all, they are foreigners, and all that... So even the logic of reciprocal arrangements does not necessarily hold true.

Somehow the person writing the article thought UK law could bind all of these EU phone companies to play nice after we have left the EU - do people not think these things through?


  1. No, people do _not_ think these things through.

  2. > do people not think these things through?

    But... but... immigrants stealing our jobs... £350bn/hour to spend on the NHS...

  3. There are some wierd things going on right now re this. EE are currently saying "yes, you can have free roaming in the EU, but only if you agree to huge roaming costs in US and Asia. Or you can have normal roaming costs in US and Asia if you agree to continue paying your old not-free roaming costs in EU". I really doubt this is what the new EU roaming costs law intended. But is it legal?

    And in a twist, it seems that while roaming from a UK EE contract onto a local network in a southern EU state a call to a local phone number in that territory is not getting charged by EE. I don't think that was the intent either. I think that was supposed to still be charged as an international UK-to-foreign call.

    It's all a bit of a mess.

    1. All internal EU calls and texts are meant to be treated as domestic calls, while roaming. Ironically it therefore costs more to call France from the your UK home network than it costs to call Latvia from Spain while roaming!

    2. OK, that actually works out OK for me. In the UK I am rarely more tan 200 miles from my VOIP landline with roughly 1p per minute calls to EU.

  4. Few of the large operators can pay much for roaming services. Two indicators of this are the ability of Vodafone to offer low cost roaming in scores of countries outside the EU.

    Also Google's Project FI offers their domestic rates for roaming in 120+countries.

    Roaming charges are a covert cartel

  5. Three have free roaming to large parts of the world, many not in the EU.

  6. Governments should not waste time on this stupid sort of price-control trivia. They should make sure there's a functioning market and then let adults get on and contract with each other as they see fit.

    One might reasonably argue that the loss of a (very recently introduced) control of roaming prices is just one of umpteen brexit-related paper-cuts that, together, will amount to a serious wound. But that doesn't mean it isn't still a mere paper-cut, and there are plenty of those on both sides.

  7. "So those operators can go back to charging UK operators a small fortune for roaming calls, texts, and data."

    In theory perhaps, but Three for one had already dropped roaming charges for a list of countries (much of the EU, plus Australia and some others). If they didn't charge that fortune *before* doing so was prohibited, why start now?

    Apart from anything else, the capped wholesale charges were €7.70 per Gb for data, a great deal more than the retail price Three charge, which suggests they already have an agreed price in place lower than the EU's figure. (Or they're eating a loss on some obscure corner cases, on the assumption not enough users will roam to those places to matter?)

    Talking of roaming, any news on A&A SIMs? (The current web page says: "We hope to have some new SIMs available later in 2016 which will work in a similar way, but on a different base UK network. Watch this space...")


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