What will happen to mobile roaming charges after Brexit?

Following Britain’s departure from the EU on 31st January 2020, one of the many questions that has been raised is about what will happen to mobile roaming charges. Currently, you’re still able to use your minutes, text messages and data included on your mobile phone tariff when you travel to countries within the EU by 31st December 2020, which is the end of the Brexit transition period. The same is true if you’re an EU citizen travelling to the UK.

What is roaming?

But before we look into what is likely to change from January 2021, let’s just quickly remind ourselves of what roaming is. This is the ability to automatically make and receive calls, send and receive messages and use mobile data when you’re travelling outside of the geographical coverage area of your home country. So, when you go outside of your mobile network provider’s coverage area, your device starts to “roam” and search for other available mobile networks to use. It works because most mobile network providers have made mutual network sharing agreements with other mobile network providers in other countries.

The current situation

According to Gov.uk, you can travel in EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries without having to worry about mobile roaming charges until 31st December 2020. This means that you can still use your mobile device within these countries to make calls, send text messages and use mobile data services for no more than what you’ll normally be charged when in the UK. This surcharge-free roaming will be guaranteed until the transition period, during which virtually all EU rules and regulations will continue to apply.

What will happen after that?

This largely depends on what is agreed about the UK’s future economic relationship with the EU, meaning that surcharge-free roaming when you travel to EU and EEA countries may no longer be guaranteed. The big four mobile network operators in the UK – EE, O2, Vodafone and Three – have all declared that they do not intend to re-introduce roaming charges from January 2021 even if the UK leaves the union without a deal. Although this is encouraging, you should still check with your mobile network provider nearer the time in case something changes.

It is also useful to know that the UK Government has introduced measures that would safeguard consumers from extra charges in case of a no-deal Brexit. These include:

  • A £45-a-month limit on the amount that you could be charged for using mobile data abroad. This means that you cannot continue to use mobile data services when roaming unless you actively choose to do so
  • Requirements for customers to be informed by text when they have reached 80% and 100% of their data
  • Mobile operators in Northern Ireland will be required to take reasonable steps to protect their customers from paying roaming charges

Want to know more how you can use mobile services abroad? Check out some of our other posts on the topic: