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||✘||20GB||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.|
|60 days over 4 months||✔|
|Plusnet Mobile†||✔||15GB||50% of time over 4 months||✔|
|Tesco Mobile||✘||12GB||60 days over 4 months||✔|
|60 days over 120 days||✔, except Monaco|
|Virgin Mobile||✘||See notes||50% of time over 4 months||✘|
|Vodafone||✔||No||2 months over 4 months||✔|
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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”:
For customers who have the £25 goodybag with Always-On data, a usage allowance of 20GB applies in the EU. For any further usage beyond 20GB, an additional charge of 0.47p/MB will apply.
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:
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:
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
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:
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:
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.
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”:
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.
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:
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
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.
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:
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:
Three offers 3G roaming to customers who are travelling abroad. 4G roaming is not currently available to customers on Three.
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:
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:
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.
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:
There are no additional restrictions on how much data you can use when abroad.
For more information, please refer to your mobile network’s website. You can also see the FAQs published by the European Commission.