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The End of Roaming: Expectations vs. Reality

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Almost two years ago, we looked at the opportunities created by the elimination of roaming charges in the EU. As of June 2017, roaming charges have been phased out. Have our hopes for better travel and business come true?

 

The Smart Traveller

In 2015 we imagined an enhanced travel experience within Europe. Staying connected lets sightseers find their way around smoothly and discover the best of each destination with location-based services.

Notably, TripAdvisor and Google Maps have been building these services for a couple of years already. Today, the connected traveller fully enjoys the fruits of this work, having a digital guide walking her through the most attractive experiences at just the right time and place.

Having my smartphone has also helped me (and several colleagues) out of a jam on certain occasions. Changing your travel arrangements, transport or accommodation can now be done anywhere at any time.

 

The International Businessperson

Business in Europe, and indeed around the world, relies on timely communication even when we travel more and more. We predicted costs could drop up to 1000€ a year for frequent business travellers, and that this would enable a boost in business communication apps.

While the jury is still out on precise savings, we feel the products that keep us in touch still have a way to go to meet our expectations. The mobile versions of Slack, Trello, and other leading office tools have advanced, but we still see significant opportunities for taking advantage of huge data packages available almost anywhere. We’re still waiting for screen sharing on mobile and quality video conferences with multiple colleagues, among others.

 

The Unexpected

One concern about the EU’s plan to reduce roaming charges was resistance from carriers. Indeed, there were several attempts to delay or water down the plan. However, over the past two years, we have been pleasantly surprised at carriers such as Vodafone who proactively reduced and then dropped their roaming charges up to a year ahead of the EU plan. Other carriers quickly (or not so quickly) followed suit to remain competitive, prompting yet others to expand their free roaming to the US and other countries outside Europe.

In parallel, the trend to offer larger data bundles at higher speeds continued. In Europe, it’s quite likely that the preemptive roaming competition actually accelerated this trend, leaving us all more connected.

 

Roam like at home

The actual changes brought about by free roaming may not seem revolutionary, but that is precisely one of the things I appreciate most. When you are visiting or working abroad, it’s very convenient to do the same things you do at home – order food, hail an Uber and keep in touch with friends and colleagues.

For all its talk of a Digital Single Market, the EU’s measure is long overdue. Now we have the mobile regulations that match the bloc’s economic and political integration. We can feel at home with our smartphones abroad, but the full benefits are still to come.