Return of EU roaming fees could spell big trouble for mobile operators

Young woman in yellow walking with smart phone on the old town square in Prague city
(Image credit: Shutterstock / RossHelen)

The abolition of inclusive EU roaming by several major operators is causing many UK mobile phone user to reconsider their provider ahead of the first major summer holiday season since both Brexit and the easing of pandemic restrictions.

Research from Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) Lyca Mobile has discovered that as many as 44% of consumers are considering making the switch because the cost of using their mobile phone abroad is adding expense to their foreign trips.

Only two fifths of customers feel confident they understand how much they will pay for roaming within the EU, while worryingly 51% don’t even know whether their operator has reintroduced roaming charges.

UK EU roaming

EU regulations that allowed any citizen of a member state to use their voice, text, and data allowances in another were first introduced in 2017. 

However there was no provisions for the continuation of the policy in the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the EU.  

Despite constant protestations that they had no intention of withdrawing free EU roaming, EE, Three and Vodafone have all done so in the past year. This leaves Virgin Media O2 as the only major operator to have continued the policy and is promoting it as a key differentiator in its marketing materials.

LycaMobile also offers inclusive roaming and clearly hopes that the issue will drive more business for it.

“As holidaymakers try to avoid unwanted charges this summer, it’s clear that the reintroduction of roaming fees by operators is having an impact,” said Allirajah Subaskaran, Lyca Mobile chairman. 

"With travel resuming at the same time as the cost of living crisis starts to bite, roaming charges are a major issue for consumers. But they can, and will, take action, as consumers seek better value from their mobile provider.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.