Roaming charges across the European Union (EU) are on course to be abolished by 15 June, after EU negotiators agreed wholesale pricing for operators, the ‘last piece of the puzzle' according to EU chiefs.
However, the benefits may not apply to UK citizens for long as once the nation leaves the European Union there is no guarantee the same rates will apply.
The deal struck sets out the costs operators can charge one another when customers use their networks when abroad, with voice calls set at 3.2 cents a minute. SMS messages will cost one cent, while mobile data is being tiered over the next six years as follows:
- €7.7 per GB (as of 15 June 2017)
- €6 per GB (as of 1 January 2018)
- €4.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2019)
- €3.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2020)
- €3 per GB (as of 1 January 2021)
- €2.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2022)
Andrus Ansip, vice president for the Digital Single Market, said the agreement should mean the final piece of the puzzle was solved and that all Europeans would be able to enjoy free mobile phone services across the continent from the summer.
"We have also made sure that operators can continue competing to provide the most attractive offers to their home markets."
The proposals must now be approved by the European Parliament and the Council before they become law.
While the UK remains part of the EU consumers will benefit from the reduced rates. However, once Britain formally leaves the EU as per the Brexit vote, consumers can no longer expect to be covered by the deal.
As such, they face the return of hefty bills when using their phones abroad, unless separate deals can be agreed between the UK government and the European Union.
Given how long it took for the EU to reach this stage among its member states, it seems unlikely this will be quick, particularly as any deal strike between the UK and EU would also have to be extended to other World Trade Organisations nations, something mobile operators in EU nations would lobby hard against given the huge costs it could incur.
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