11 Sep 2018

Intra-EU roaming charges are under control, fair use policies permitting

This is a viewpoint by Chris Koeneman, senior vice president strategic solutions for MOBI.

After legislation came into effect last summer, international travelers were granted a reprieve from international roaming charges—at least while inside the European Union (EU).

Thanks to a combination of the “roam like at home” rule and an influx of Managed Mobility Services (MMS) partners into the region, European businesses are saving more money than ever on international charges and roaming rates.

Much like enterprise mobile technology itself, MMS providers are rapidly expanding, too. From 2016 to 2021, the industry’s annual global revenue is predicted to grow almost four times  larger than it was a few years ago—from four and a half billion dollars to more than 19 billion dollars by the end of that five-year span.

What is MMS and how does it help corporations?

While the MMS industry’s description may vary from one enterprise mobility expert to the next, today’s vendor landscape encompasses any external IT or business process service that takes place during endpoint planning, procurement, provisioning, activation, management, and/or support.

Some MMS partners even offer mobile network operator services and ancillary system/application management capabilities.

Every enterprise has its own offering, but the MMS industry is organised into five primary categories based on its core deliverables:

  • sourcing and logistics management
  • Unified endpoint management (UEM)/enterprise mobility management (EMM)
  • security management
  • financial management
  • programme management (including professional services).

Over the past few years, MMS has heavily invested in automation and configurability. This focus not only streamlines the industry’s service offerings and improves margins, but also helps it address key drivers such as generating efficiency, improving business agility, and simplifying complex, internally managed and designed mobility programs.

Roam like at home

Under this rule, employees are free to travel throughout the EU without worrying about additional charges or international data limits. Whenever one of these workers makes or receives a phone call, sends or receives a text message, or accesses a data service from a land-based carrier, the relevant service provider simply deducts this consumption from each user’s regular monthly plans and features—as if the user consumed those minutes or megabytes domestically instead.

Considering 61% of global IT decision makers believe at least half of all monthly carrier bills are spent on employee overages, this means huge potential savings for businesses across Europe. In fact, this new rule is already shifting the region’s data consumption habits—in the first few months following the “roam like at home” rule’s rollout, 4G data roaming traffic rose by as much as 800% in some countries.

However, this policy won’t work for employees who are always on the road.

Mobile network operators enforce a fair use policy to ensure they have reasonable and proportionate controls in place to prevent abuse of “roam like at home.” Every four months, carriers check each line’s location status—for anyone that’s spent a majority of their time abroad or has used more data outside their home country than inside it is given 14 days to respond before surcharges and penalties are applied to monthly bills.

In fact, 20% of the EU’s mobile data subscribers have been hesitant to take advantage of “roam like at home” for this very reason.

What to do outside the EU

Unfortunately, today’s “roam like at home” rule only extends to citizens within the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA) namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. If employees need mobile connectivity in places such as Switzerland, Turkey, or the Channel Islands, for example, businesses will need to rely on more traditional techniques when turning off data roaming isn’t an option. Here are four innovations that can help:


Leveraging wifi connectivity eliminates the risk of carrier data consumption, but some protected networks may require a daily access fee to use first. A select group of wireless carriers and independent service providers even offer worldwide hotspot access for a small monthly fee, giving frequent travelers the ability to connect to a variety of unlimited mobile data networks all over the world

Local SIM cards

Another low-cost alternative to international data plans and features are prepaid carrier SIM cards. By replacing an endpoint’s everyday SIM with one from a local carrier instead, travelers are given access to in-country connectivity. However, users are also given a new phone number for voice calls, so this probably isn’t the best option if customers and/or other employees frequently need to reach out to them via voice call

International plans

While this isn’t the most exciting alternative, a specific international plan or feature can make up for the mundanity with tremendous savings potential. Each individual provider’s offerings are unique, though, so be sure to ask questions and research all available options first. Some plans can sound expensive but deliver tremendous value in return, while others offer cheap packages that may not be able to satisfy users’ needs for global connectivity.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Rather than relying on carrier connectivity to make calls over mobile voice networks and risk incurring charges every minute, a VoIP application gives users a free alternative to international phone calls. Like local SIM card switches, however, users can’t use their normal phone number with these innovations.

Additionally, VoIP solutions also consume lots of data, so ideally employees should only use them whenever they’re already connected to wifi.

As Europe’s enterprise mobility efforts evolve and change moving forward, it will be interesting to see whether the GDPR and its rules continue to help companies save money and expand global technology initiatives. Will the EU’s successful experiment (so far) to cut data consumption costs influence regulations or carrier policies elsewhere?

This is a viewpoint by Chris Koeneman, senior vice president strategic solutions for MOBI.

Opinions and views expressed by all guest contributors do not necessarily reflect those of tnooz, its writers, or its partners.

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