All UK mobile networks need to provide roaming in Europe at no extra cost from June 2017. Compare the fair usage policies & the availability of 4G roaming.

From the 15th June 2017, it’s all change with regards to using your smartphone in Europe. Changes to EU law mean all UK mobile networks now need to provide roaming in Europe at no extra cost. Customers with a UK bundle allowance can use this when they’re travelling abroad, and customers on Pay As You Go can benefit from their normal Pay As You Go rates.

The legislation is known as “Roam Like at Home” and has been implemented in a slightly different way across UK mobile networks. In this article, we’ll compare the “Roam Like at Home” offering on UK mobile networks including the download speeds available and any fair usage limits that apply. We’ll also look at the availability of roaming in certain countries that are sometimes excluded from the offer (namely Switzerland, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Monaco).

Overview of EU Roaming Offers

As part of the EU’s digital single market initiative, all UK mobile networks need to provide roaming at no extra cost for customers travelling in Europe. The new law, which takes effect from the 15th June 2017, allows customers to take their normal UK allowances abroad with them (or if you’re a Pay As You Go customer, you should only pay your normal UK rates).

In practice, there are a few key differences in how “Roam Like at Home” has been implemented on different mobile networks. The following table highlights some of the key differences so you can make an informed choice when choosing a mobile network for European roaming.

  • 4G Roaming. Only four UK mobile networks currently provide access to 4G international roaming. They are BT Mobile, EE, Plusnet Mobile and Vodafone. On other mobile networks, international roaming will typically be limited to 2G and 3G.
  • EU Data Limit (Fair Usage). Typically, you should be able to use the entirety of your bundle allowances when travelling abroad in the EU. However, a fair usage policy applies on certain mobile networks after which you’ll need to pay a surcharge for any additional data usage abroad.
  • EU Time Limit (Fair Usage). Most mobile networks also impose a limit on how much time you’re able to spend abroad. Typically, you’ll need to spend at least half of your time in the UK. This is normally measured over a rolling 4-month period. If you spend more than half of your time abroad, you may need to pay a surcharge for further usage.
  • Countries. There are five European countries that are sometimes excluded from ‘Roam Like at Home’ offers. They are Switzerland, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Monaco. Technically, the five countries are outside the EU so there is no legal requirement for mobile networks to include them in their offers. For simplicity, most mobile networks do include them in the offer but there are a couple of exceptions so it’s worth keeping an eye out for this.
Mobile Network 4G Roaming EU Data Limit* EU Time Limit CH, GG, IM, JE, MC**
ASDA Mobile No 50% of time over 4 months
BT Mobile 15GB 50% of time over 4 months
EE 15GB Normally resident in UK
FreedomPop No roaming service is available on FreedomPop.
giffgaff 6GB Normally resident in UK
iD Mobile Varies 50% of time over 4 months , except Switzerland
Lebara Mobile 2.5GB 50% of allowance over 4 months
Lycamobile Bundles not available for use in the EU.
O2 No (PAYM)
10GB (PAYG)
60 days over 4 months
Plusnet Mobile 15GB 50% of time over 4 months
Sky Mobile No TBC
Tello No roaming service is available on Tello.
Tesco Mobile 12GB 60 days over 4 months
Three 12GB (PAYM)
9GB (PAYG)
60 days over 120 days , except Monaco
Virgin Mobile See notes 50% of time over 4 months
Vodafone No 2 months over 4 months

* This fair usage limit only applies in certain circumstances (e.g. if your UK data allowance is larger than this fair usage policy). Most people should be able to use the entirety of their UK data allowance when abroad.
** Switzerland (CH), Guernsey (GG), Isle of Man (IM), Jersey (JE), Monaco (MC).
† Requires a ‘Roam Like at Home’ enabled tariff. Some Plusnet Mobile tariffs are marked as UK-only and will not provide you with access to roaming in the EU.

The following countries will always be included in free European roaming offers: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland,  Israel, Italy (includes Sardinia and Sicily), Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal (includes Azores and Madeira), Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (includes Canary Islands and Balearic Islands) and Sweden.

Meanwhile, the following countries are only included on certain mobile networks: Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Monaco and Switzerland (see the table above for more information).

In-Depth: EU Roaming By Network

In the following section, we’ll discuss the European roaming offer on each UK mobile network in more detail.

ASDA Mobile

From the 15th June 2017, customers on ASDA Mobile will be able to use their phone in Europe at no extra cost. This includes ASDA’s 30-day bundles and also their standard Pay As You Go rates of 8p/minute, 4p/text and 5p/MB.

Customers spending the majority of their time abroad over a 4-month period may have their roaming restricted on their account. There are no additional limits or fair usage policies on how much data you can use when you’re abroad.

Source: ASDA Mobile FAQs – Roaming Rates
Tariff Information: ASDA Mobile Website

BT Mobile

On BT Mobile, the Roam Like Home offer allows you to use your smartphone abroad in 47 destinations at no extra cost. As BT Mobile is now essentially the same company as EE, customers of BT Mobile can leverage EE’s international roaming relationships. This includes the use of 4G roaming on compatible mobile networks abroad.

According to BT, the Roam Like Home offer is not designed for customers living abroad:

Roam like at home is only available if you live or are usually based in the UK and you mainly use your BT Mobile in the UK. If we think that over a period of at least 4 months, you’ve been living or mainly using your BT Mobile in a Roam like at Home country, we may ask you to explain the reasons for this and you might need to pay a surcharge.

Customers with a data allowance of 20GB or more will see their data usage capped at 15GB per month in the EU. Typically, BT Mobile doesn’t offer more than a 15GB data allowance anyway so this restriction shouldn’t affect the majority of users.

Source: BT Mobile – Roam Like Home
Tariff Information: BT Mobile Website

EE

EE offers European roaming at no additional charge for all customers on Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go. Customers with a 4GEE Max tariff will also be able to use their handset abroad in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the USA.

For customers with a UK data allowance of more than 15GB, data usage in the EU will be capped at 15GB per month. EE says the offer is available to all customers providing they are “normally resident in the UK”.

4G roaming is available on compatible mobile networks abroad.

Customers on Orange and T-Mobile will also benefit from European roaming under the same conditions as customers on EE.

Source: EE – Travelling Abroad
Tariff Information: EE Website

FreedomPop

Unfortunately, FreedomPop does not offer international roaming on their normal UK SIM card. The only way to use FreedomPop’s service when travelling abroad is by purchasing a FreedomPop WhatsApp SIM card. For more information, please see our in-depth review of FreedomPop.

Source: FreedomPop Help – Roaming FAQs
Tariff Information: FreedomPop Website

giffgaff

giffgaff offers a Roam Like At Home service allowing you to use your goodybag abroad in most European countries (excluding Switzerland, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Monaco). You’ll get 2G and 3G coverage abroad, as giffgaff doesn’t yet offer international roaming on 4G.

According to giffgaff, users should be eligible for free EU roaming providing they “typically reside in the UK” and visit the EU “from time to time”:

“The inclusive EU roaming is intended for members who typically reside in the UK, but may go on trips to the EU from time to time. It is not intended for people to start using giffgaff in any other country, without ever planning on coming to the UK, simply because it beats their local rates. If people do end up doing that we’ll have to put some restrictions in place for them.”

For customers who have the £20 goodybag with Always-On data, a usage allowance of 6GB applies in the EU. For any further usage beyond 6GB, an additional charge of 0.78p/MB will apply.

Source: giffgaff Forums – Take your goodybag on holiday with inclusive EU roaming
Tariff Information: giffgaff Website

iD Mobile

iD Mobile now offers free international roaming in Europe for all of their customers (excluding in Switzerland). They have a fair usage policy in place for the offer, which requires you to spend the majority of your time in the UK:

Our fair usage policy has been designed to prevent misuse of our inclusive EU roaming feature, such as someone permanently roaming and not living in the UK.

We understand that sometimes you’ll want to roam for a few weeks at a time. That’s absolutely fine. But if you roam more than you use your phone at home (we mean in the UK) over a 4-month period, we might think you’re permanently roaming.

If you spend more time abroad than in the UK, you may be asked to provide proof “that you have strong ties to the UK”. If you don’t, iD Mobile may apply a surcharge of 3.2p/minute, 1p/text and 0.76p/MB.

Customers with a large data allowance may be affected by iD Mobile’s open data policy. This is a threshold for how much data you’re able to use in the EU:

Monthly Plan Cost EU Roaming Data Threshold
£8/month 2.05GB
£9/month 2.30GB
£10/month 2.56GB
£12/month 3.07GB
£12.50/month 3.20GB
£15/month 3.84GB
£20/month 5.12GB
£25/month 6.40GB
£30/month 7.68GB
£32/month 8.19GB
£35/month 8.96GB

Prior to June 15th 2017, free European roaming was only available to customers on iD Mobile with a TakeAway price plan.

Source: iD Mobile – EU Roaming Fair Usage & Open Data Policy
Tariff Information:
iD Mobile Website

Lebara Mobile

Customers on Lebara Mobile can use their phone at no extra charge in most European countries (this excludes Switzerland, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Monaco). This is subject to a fair usage policy of 2.5GB per month and also you using more than 50% of your allowance in the UK over a 4-month period:

When using a Lebara bundle while roaming in the EU (Zone 1 and Zone 1 – EEA, below), we may apply a Fair Usage Policy in order to prevent any abusive roaming situation:

  1. Mobile Data – You may use you mobile data in the EU up to 2.5GB during the validity period of your bundle. After this threshold you will be charged £0,007/MB in Zone 1 and £0.006/MB in Zone 1 EEA until the renewal of your bundle.
  2. Continuous roaming – If we notice that you are using your bundle while roaming and that you are using more than 50% of your allowance in visited countries out of a four months observation window you will be charged.

Source: Lebara Mobile – International Call Rates
Tariff Information:
Lebara Mobile Website

Lycamobile

According to the Lycamobile website, roaming in the EU will be charged at normal UK domestic rates from the 15th June 2017. Rather alarmingly, it’s implied that you won’t be able to use your bundle allowances when travelling abroad:

Prepaid bundles
Please note that you will no longer be able to use bundle allowances while roaming.

We are currently unsure whether this is permitted by EU roaming legislation as this specifically states: “communications (phone calls, SMS, data) made from another EU country will be covered in your national bundle”. Therefore, we currently await further clarification on Lycamobile’s EU roaming policy.

Source: Lycamobile UK – EU Roaming
Tariff Information: Lycamobile Website

O2

O2 is offering roaming in Europe at no extra charge for all customers on O2 Pay Monthly and O2 Pay As You Go. Customers will have access to 2G and 3G when abroad, as O2 doesn’t currently offer any 4G international roaming.

According to the fair usage policy published on O2’s website, you mustn’t use your service in the EU for more than 60 days in any four month period. If a large volume of your allowance is used abroad in a EU country, this may also be deemed to be “an unfair use of the service”:

What to avoid: Using our services for the first time outside of the UK, using a large volume of your allowance (be that text, calls or data) in our Europe Zone (excluding the UK), or using our services outside of our Europe Zone (excluding the UK) for prolonged periods which don’t follow reasonable consumer holiday and travel patterns and behaviour. If you use our services outside the UK in our Europe Zone for 60 or more days in any four month period this is likely to be deemed to be an unfair use of our services.”

For customers on O2 Pay Monthly, there is no explicit limit on how much data you can use when abroad. For customers on O2 Pay As You Go with a £30 Big Bundle, a limit of 10GB per month will apply. Any further usage beyond the 10GB will be charged at 0.597p/MB.

Source: O2 Help and Support – Roaming in Europe
Tariff Information: O2 Website

Plusnet Mobile

Plusnet Mobile is offering ‘Roam Like at Home’ for customers with a compatible plan on their mobile network. Customers with an enabled plan can use their data allowance at no extra charge in 40 European destinations and will also have access to 4G in countries where EE has a 4G roaming relationship.

When ordering a price plan from Plusnet Mobile, it’s important to keep an eye out for discounted ‘UK Only’ plans. Typically, their £5/month tariff is marked as ‘UK Only’ and will not provide you with access to any roaming when abroad.

For customers who do have access to roaming when abroad, a surcharge might be payable if you mainly use your smartphone abroad over a period of four months:

“Roam Like at Home is only available if you live or are usually based in the UK and you mainly use your mobile in the UK. If we think that over a period of at least four months, you’ve been living and mainly using your mobile in a Roam Like at Home destination, we may ask you to explain the reasons for this and you might need to pay a surcharge.”

Nominally, for customers who have a UK data allowance of more than 20GB per month, there is also a 15GB fair usage policy for ‘Roam Like at Home’ countries. However, as Plusnet Mobile has never sold a tariff with more than 20GB of data so this doesn’t apply in practice to any customers at present.

Source: Plusnet Mobile – Roam Like at Home with Plusnet Mobile
Tariff Information: Plusnet Mobile Website

Sky Mobile

Customers of Sky Mobile can take advantage of the Roaming Passport feature which allows you to “roam in more than 30 EU and EEA destinations at no extra cost”. Notably, the Roaming Passport offer does not cover usage in Switzerland, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Monaco. Customers will have access to 2G and 3G coverage when travelling abroad.

Sky has not set a fair usage policy on roaming so customers can use the entirety of their allowances when abroad.

Source: Sky Mobile Help – Roaming Passport
Tariff Information: Sky Mobile Website

Tello

Unfortunately, Tello does not provide international roaming as part of their service. For this reason, it isn’t possible to use a Tello SIM card when travelling abroad in the EU.

Source: Tello Help Centre
Tariff Information: Tello Website

Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile offers the Home From Home feature for customers on both Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go. The feature gives you inclusive roaming in “48 destinations across Europe” with the ability to access 2G and 3G coverage when abroad.

The Home From Home feature has a fair usage policy of 12GB per month, after which customers will need to pay a small additional charge. Usage is also only for customers “normally resident in the UK” and is for no more than 60 days in any four month period:

“HFH [Home From Home] Usage shall be limited to periodic travelling and is only available for customers who are normally resident in the UK.
HFH Usage:
(i) for prolonged periods which don’t follow reasonable consumer holiday and travel patterns,
(ii) in amounts that exceed other non-HFH Usage or
(ii) for the first time in a HFH Destination would not be expected when periodically travelling.
HFH Usage in any four month period for 60 or more days is conclusive of non-periodic travelling.  You will be normally resident in the UK if you live, work or study in the UK and you may be asked for proof of this status.”

Source: Tesco Mobile – Home From Home
Tariff Information: Tesco Mobile Website

Three

For customers travelling abroad to another European country (excluding Monaco), Three offers Feel At Home in Europe. This allows you to use your smartphone abroad at no extra cost and is available to all customers on their network (including Advanced Pay Monthly plans, Essential Pay Monthly plans and Pay As You Go).

For customers on an Advanced Pay Monthly plan or on Pay As You Go, the additional ‘Feel At Home Around The World’ offer is also available. This gives you roaming at no extra cost in selected countries outside the EU (Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Macau, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Sri Lanka, US Virgin Islands and USA).

For Pay Monthly customers on the Feel At Home In Europe offer, Three has a fair usage policy of 12GB per month. This applies to all customers with an all-you-can-eat data plan. Further usage beyond the 12GB limit will be charged at 0.73p/MB. On Pay As You Go, a monthly usage limit of 9GB applies instead.

There is also a requirement for you to spend the majority of your time in the UK, which is measured over a rolling period of 120 days:

“In order to help us to detect possible abuse of Feel At Home in Europe, we may monitor your usage and presence. We’ll look at the balance of your roaming and domestic (UK) activity over 120 days: if you spend a majority of your time abroad and consume more abroad than at home over the 120 days, we have the right to add a small surcharge to your usage. This surcharge will be capped at a maximum of 0.73p/MB; 3p/min; and 0.9p/SMS. Don’t worry – we’ll send you an alert 2 weeks before the surcharge is applied, giving you an opportunity to modify your roaming behaviour to avoid this surcharge.”

Three offers 3G roaming to customers who are travelling abroad. 4G roaming is not currently available to customers on Three.

Source: Three – Feel At Home
Tariff Information: Three Website

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile offers a Roam Like Home service which gives you international roaming in the EU at no extra charge. Notably, the offer does not cover usage in Switzerland, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Monaco. Roaming is also restricted to 2G and 3G.

Virgin’s restrictions on Roam Like Home usage are listed in their terms and conditions. Broadly speaking, you’ll need to be spending more time in the UK than abroad in other European countries. Your usage in the UK should also exceed your usage in Europe:

2.1.1. In any rolling 4 month period, you must use more data, SMS and calls in the UK than the EU – we call this “prevailing domestic consumption”; or
2.1.2. In any rolling 4 month period, you must spend more days in the UK than the EU – we call this “prevailing domestic presence” (we count each day you connect to our network in the UK as a day in the UK).

As well as this, there is also a fair usage limit on data consumption in Europe. This is set to the minimum amount permitted by EU law:

5.1.1. Pay monthly customers: twice your monthly airtime cost (before VAT) divided by the current EU data wholesale capped rate.
5.1.2. Pay As You Go customers: data up to the amount that can be purchased at the current EU data wholesale capped rate with the credit you have on your account at the point of roaming.
5.2. You can see the surcharge rates and the latest EU data wholesale capped rate in our Tariff Table.

At the time of writing, the EU data wholesale capped rate is £7.80/GB (this is calculated by taking €7.70 and converting it into pounds sterling using the exchange rate on the 1st May, and then adding 20% VAT). Therefore, customers on a £20 Pay Monthly plan will have an EU fair usage limit of about 5.1GB. You should check with Virgin Mobile Customer Services to find out the exact limit for your plan.

Source: Virgin Mobile – Use Your Mobile Abroad
Tariff Information: Virgin Mobile Website

Vodafone

Vodafone offers a service called Global Roaming to their customers, allowing them to use their allowances abroad in other EU countries (Vodafone refers to this as their “Roam-free” zone). You’ll get 4G coverage in countries where Vodafone has the relevant roaming relationships and it will be “full speed roaming with no restrictions” according to Vodafone.

Vodafone’s fair usage policy is you can only spend up to 2 months abroad in any 4-month period:

We’ll send you a text requesting you moderate your usage in our Roam-free destinations if you use them for a total of 2 months or more during any 4-month period. If your usage in any of our Roam-free destinations continues to exceed this allowance after a 2-week period from which you first received this text, we may charge you for further use or bar your roaming services. We’ll always let you know before we do this.

There are no additional restrictions on how much data you can use when abroad.

Source: Vodafone Global Roaming
Tariff Information: Vodafone Website

More Information

For more information, please refer to your mobile network’s website. You can also see the FAQs published by the European Commission.

Your Comments 12 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 12 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Mike Dalgleish said:

    Ken, Since EU mobile data roaming within the home bundle has become standard across all networks, there are a lot of posts in the various user forums about miserable performance on data throughput when roaming. (Test my comment by goggling “giffgaff [or Vodafone etc] throttling eu”.) The legislators apparently did not realise that users want the level of service they get at home carried over to roaming in the EU. My experience recently in Greece with 3, Vodafone and Giffgaff is that they are all throttling down to 1-3 mbps. You still have to buy a local SIM to get decent data rates. In my case I saw 20 mbps on a local SIM using the same network (WIND) and even on the same cell. This whole area deserves your attention and through you we might see better competition between UK suppliers rather than an implicit monopoly centred on poor data rates. The real bad faith act is that all mobile operators are purposely denying users good service, even when plenty of bandwidth is available. And they are all denying it! Hope you can consider this area. Its ripe for you! Best wishes, Mike

    • Hi Mike,
      Many thanks for your continued support of the website! Hope this is OK with you, but I’ve just moved your comment to my article about European roaming as I felt it better fitted in there & more people were likely to see it. Appreciate you sharing the information about your experiences using a handset abroad roaming on Vodafone & giffgaff.
      I agree: this is definitely a really important area with very little information available about it on the internet. Unfortunately, it’s a difficult topic to cover as it really depends on so many things including your home mobile network, the country you’re visiting and the roaming partner network (the amount of throttling sometimes varying according to all three factors). I’ll definitely have a think about how we can improve visibility in this area but my initial thoughts are it would be great to have some kind of crowdsourced tool where people can share/rate their experiences roaming on different mobile networks and in different countries abroad.
      Ken

  • For info, I switched to ASDA mobile less than four weeks ago, went to Switzerland and was positively surprised to get 4G service over there (and in the French network when getting too close to the border). So ASDA seems to offer 4G Roaming as well.

    • Hi Tim,
      This is a fantastic insight – thanks so much for sharing! I’ve just updated the article to reflect the fact that ASDA Mobile also offers roaming on 4G.
      Thanks again!
      Ken

  • I’m a lycamobile customer and their current stance is illegal. Vectone are doing the same too. The irony is up until a month a go they had one of the best roaming offers. I have the feeling this regulation is going to hit mnvos hard and some are going to need to be really pushed. Smaller operators like delight mobile are just ignoring it completely, like it hasn’t happened. I called delight and they said data in UK will cost 1p MB and it France it will be 9p MB . who will clamp down on these practices.

Load more comments (7)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *