EU helps out business travelers with mobile data roaming rate cut

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Here's some good news for business travelers on the fourth of July. The European Union has cut the mobile data roaming limit by 36 percent.

This move has nothing to do, however, with the Europeans celebrating American Independence. The mobile roaming rules, which limit the roaming charges mobile operators can charge customers when moving from one country to another, were put in place in 2012.

Effective July 1, the maximum rate an operator can charge for outgoing voice calls is €0.24 (31 cents) per minute, down from the €0.29 (38 cents) per minute rate in effect since last July. For data, there has been a substantial reduction, €0.45 (57 cents) per megabyte, a 36 percent cut from €0.70 (91 cents) in effect since last July.

According to the EU rules, operators "have to send users a warning when they reach 80 percent of their data-roaming bill limit and cut off the mobile internet connection once the limit has been reached, unless the customer has indicated they want to continue data roaming that particular month."

Despite the data rate reduction, Ovum regulation analyst Luca Schiavoni argues that it does not go far enough. "Charges for data roaming are still perceived to be very high by end users, and this is causing them to turn off data connections on their smartphones when they are abroad, hence not making full use of their devices. Either with or without regulatory pressure, the market has to find a way to reduce the cost of using data roaming now that smartphone adoption has become widespread."

Schiavoni noted that, as July 2014, the EU will allow users to buy separate roaming packages for each country in which they travel.

"However, plans to completely remove roaming charges should be carefully evaluated before passing them as roaming provision does involve additional costs to operators. Therefore, zero-rated roaming may result in operators looking for other sources of revenue perhaps by increasing domestic bundle prices or charging higher rates for non-EU roaming. Alternatively there may be a knock-on effect on the level of investment," the Ovum analyst concluded.

Data roaming caps are a good step to help business travelers be more productive--by not having to turn off data connections when they are abroad. According to a 2012 report by Wi-Fi provider iPass, around 43 percent of mobile workers said that they had experienced an expensive monthly data roaming bill on average 1.4 times a year, with their high bill averaging $1,089. - Fred