You can finally roam across Europe with your mobile

You can finally roam across Europe with your mobile

Smartphone users rejoice: data roaming charges within the EU will become cheaper than ever in July – and will fall even further by 2014.

Most travellers have been confused by a pricing policy which appeared to be aimed at ensuring consumers did not use their smartphone at all while away, or face returning home to a bill similar in scale to the cost of the holiday itself.

Compared to 2007 prices, the new capped charges are 85% cheaper, and the move has also sparked even better offers from phone companies as they compete for travelling customers using the new tariffs.

Perhaps the biggest relief will be that those who inadvertantly use data roaming on their smartphones abroad, or are unaware of the charges, will have their bill capped at 50 Euros (about ?40) and have to agree to further charges before continuing.

From 1 July, the maximum operators will be able to charge is 70 cents per megabyte (MB) of data, plus VAT (ie, 84 cents, which is around 67p). This will fall to 45 cents plus VAT (around 42p) in July 2013 and 20 cents plus VAT (around 18p) in July 2014.

The problem still exists that even experts cannot predict accurately the amount of data you will use for any specific task with your phone. Checking Google Maps five times could cost you more than ?3. An hour on Facebook could cost the price of a decent lunch. The range is huge, so if you do plan to use your smartphone (rather than use it in an emergency) it will probably be better to investigate a specialist travel plan from your provider.

Here’s our checklist before using your smartphone while on holiday:

1. Check that the country you are visiting is within the EU. Remember, the caps do not apply for trips outside of Europe, or for those countries in Europe yet to join the EU, such as Croatia and Norway. However, you will get a block if you spend 50 euros anywhere in the world, which you then have to agree to go over before your data costs increase further.

2. Think about where and how much you will be using your phone. Remember, there are no costs when using free wi-fi if it is provided in hotels or other places you visit. If you have frequent access to wi-fi, and will not need to urgently browse the web or check emails, then you can still avoid charges altogether.

3. If you want to use your phone regularly while away then you could still get an even better deal. Sadly when you are in Europe, it is too late to easily get a cheaper deal from your smart phone provider. However, a bit of preplanning could still save you money if you expect to use your smartphone regularly on the move, away from wi-fi, as you might at home. O2 have launched O2 Travel, and from July it offers 25 MB of data per day for ?1.99 a day, and applies to 38 countries in O2’s European zone. Vodafone offers Data Traveller for ?2 a day for 25MB if you are travelling within its Europe zone (with some price plans it’s free). For the rest of the world it’s ?5 a day for 25MB, and regular European travellers can get a monthly version for just ?10 extra. All of these plans are likely to save you money compared to the one-off prices when you arrive (as long as you actually do use your smart phone at some point).

4. Check your phone’s data roaming status before you leave. The only way you can be charged for data roaming is by having it turned on when you arrive abroad. Check your phone’s handbook as to how to turn this off before you leave (or check with your phone’s provider if it is on contract).

5. Are you travelling before July 1? Then don’t charge up the iPhone or Galaxy for browsing on the beach just yet. While providers are already lowering prices, the new caps don’t come into place before then, so check with your phone company before you go.

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