Just recently, after many years of gestation, the EU regulators announced that they intend to take a firm stand against roaming charges across the continent. A new directive from them will come into play from June 2017, removing all additional roaming charges currently levied on phone calls made within the EU. In the lead up to the directive being implemented, the regulators have also pushed for telecom operators to slowly phase out their charges, meaning the cost of using a phone in Europe should decrease steadily. While many of us may feel like celebrating the fact that using a phone anywhere in Europe will become cheaper and easier, quite a few European businesses may find themselves stung by the small print in this announcement.
This is because many companies, in particular those with a presence across multiple European countries, took the sensible decision years ago to firmly control the cost of roaming in the EU. They will see no benefit from the reduction in roaming costs, as they will have already negotiated enterprise roaming rates via selected vendors, and in almost all cases, these are much lower than current market rates for consumers. For example, this year has seen some vendors offering all-inclusive EU roaming packages with zero rated (that is to say, zero cost) calls internal to a company, no matter where in the EU an employee is using their phone.
For companies, the sting (or bill shock) of this new ruling will come from potential increases to data usage costs in the future, as telecom operators seek to maintain their revenue. As a result, a key priority for companies will need to be educating their employees on how to use their devices in a cost-effective manner. These could include taking advantage of free WiFi wherever possible and removing automatic downloading of emails while traveling. In addition, companies will need to focus on the data usage of their employees, and consider special low-priced daily data bundles as a way of reducing their employees’ data costs.
From our perspective, we recommend that businesses keep an eye on this regulation, as the recent announcement does not appear to be full and final, and the directive will need to be approved by Europe’s individual member states before becoming law. It has been our experience that these rules tend to be “adapted” over time before being deployed, so we can expect to see further changes or announcements before June 2017!