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New Roaming Regulation - guide

25 February 2021
by eub2 -- last modified 25 February 2021

To ensure that citizens can continue to enjoy roaming without additional charges when travelling in the EU, the European Commission proposed on 24 February a new Roaming Regulation.


Why is the Commission proposing a new Roaming Regulation?

Thanks to the Roaming Regulation roaming charges ended on 15 June 2017. Europeans travelling within the EU only pay domestic prices for calls, SMS and data. The current regulation is in place until 30 June 2022.

In November 2019, the Commission published the first full review of the roaming market, showing that travellers across the EU have benefitted significantly from the end of roaming charges and thus those benefits should remain unspoiled. Without prolonging the regulation, the conditions on the mobile telecoms market would still not ensure a sustainable 'roam like at home' for all businesses and customers while travelling in the EU. Therefore, it is important to extend the rules. As part of its review the Commission also ran a public consultation, from June to September 2020, to collect views on retail and wholesale roaming services and on the impact of prolonging and reviewing these rules.

On 24 February 2021, the Commission proposed a new Roaming Regulation aimed at extending the rules for 10 years and enhancing its benefits for the citizens.

Who will benefit from the new Roaming Regulation?

The new Roaming Regulation will benefit European citizens, businesses and operators alike. It also includes new measures to address areas of improvement that were identified during the review of the current Roaming Regulation.

The new rules will enhance the 'roam like at home' experience of citizens, who should enjoy the same mobile network quality and speed abroad, as they enjoy at home. Consumers will also have better information about the possible additional charges when calling service numbers, such as customer care services, while roaming. This will decrease the risk of unexpectedly high costs and bills. Furthermore, the proposed rules will increase awareness about alternative means of access to emergency services that are available in the visited country. This would minimise the risk for end-users with disabilities not being able to access emergency services while roaming.

Operators will continue providing 'roam like at home' services in a sustainable way. This is because the new rules include lower wholesale rate caps, i.e. the maximum prices that the domestic operator pays the operator abroad to provide roaming services. Proposed wholesale rate caps ensure cost recovery for visited operators and can very likely drive further increases in roaming traffic.  

Businesses will benefit from seamless connectivity in the Single Market. This is particularly important for application developers and start-ups, because it means that consumers can continuously use their innovative applications and services as they travel across borders in the EU, without network interruptions.

Will consumers have the same network speed guaranteed while roaming?

To provide roaming services to their customers, an operator has to use networks that are available in other EU countries and managed by other operators. Since network availability throughout the EU varies, the same mobile network speed may not always be available. However, the new rules aim to ensure that when similar quality or speeds are available in the visited network, the domestic operator should not deliberately lower the quality of the roaming service. Operators in the visited country should allow reasonable access to all available networks and technologies. That means, if a consumer has 4G connectivity at home, they should not have 3G connectivity while roaming, if 4G is available at the location they are visiting. According to the new roaming proposal, operators should inform their customers of the quality of service they can expect to have while roaming by stating this in the service contract.

What are "value-added services" and why should consumers be aware of those while roaming?

Communications to some numbers are charged in a specific way because of the added value of the service. Examples may be customer care services offered by insurance companies or banks. They also include entertainment services, for example calling a specific number to vote for winner in a popular TV programme.

For domestic calls to numbers that provide value added services, the costs vary: they may be free, they may cost less (shared-cost numbers), or they may cost more than regular calls. Since they are subject to special charging schemes domestically, when roaming these calls typically entail additional charges that the customer may not expect. For example, a call that is free at home may not be free or may be more expensive than expected while roaming.

The proposed new regulation aims at providing transparency to consumers about value-added services and increasing their awareness about phone numbers that may be used to access value-added services. The objective is to give consumers practical tools to make informed choices about using value-added services numbers while roaming and avoid 'bill shocks'.

Operators can ensure this by including information about the types of services that may be subject to higher charges in roaming in their contracts with the consumers. In addition, when citizens are entering another EU country, they should receive an SMS about potential increased charges from using such services. The SMS should include a link to a dedicated webpage providing additional information on the types of services and, if available, about the relevant phone numbering ranges.

How will citizens have effective access to emergency services, particularly through alternative means, when roaming?

The single European emergency number 112 ensures that everyone can place a call to that number and has effective access to emergency services also while roaming. Dialling emergency numbers and transmitting caller location while roaming should be seamless and for free. Likewise, citizens that cannot place a call to 112 should be able to access emergency services free of charge through alternative means when roaming, such as through smartphone applications, SMS, or others.

In cases of cross-border use of these means of access, there is room for improvement so that consumers do not incur charges, in particular when it comes to the transmission of the caller's location to emergency services. The new roaming regulation reinforces access to emergency services, through calls and alternative means of communications. It will also ensure that the transmission of caller location will be seamless and free of charges while using roaming services.

EU travellers should also be aware about the available means of accessing emergency services in the visited Member State. Therefore, the new regulation will ensure that roaming consumers are provided information about the single European emergency number, 112, but also with regards to alternative, non-voice means of access for end-users living with disabilities.

Why is the Commission proposing a modification to wholesale caps?

The regulation of wholesale caps, the maximum prices that operators charge each other when consumers use other networks while roaming, is an essential element for the sustainability of 'roam like at home' for operators and continues to be necessary based on the assessment of current technological and business developments. The review of roaming market in the EU showed that wholesale caps should be further reduced.  The Commission is proposing a gradual reduction of the wholesale caps with the first reduction of wholesale caps from 1 July 2022 and the second reduction as of 1 January 2025. These caps reflect decreasing operators' wholesale costs of providing roaming services, provides sufficient investment incentives and maximises sustainability for EU operators.

Wholesale caps glide path from 2022 onwards:


From 1/1/2022 to 30/6/2022 when the current Roaming Regulation 531/2012 expires

From 1/7/2022 to 31/12/2024

From 1/1/2025


0.032 €/min

0.022 €/min

0.019 €/min


0.01 €/SMS

0.004 €/SMS

0.003 €/SMS


2.5 €/GB

2 €/GB

1.5 €/GB

How does the Roaming Regulation facilitate innovation?

The new Roaming Regulation proposed will ensure that consumers and businesses can use mobile services with the same quality of service as at home and that operators inform their customers adequately about the quality they can expect abroad. The proposal also includes measures to ensure that operators can have access to all network generations and technologies necessary in other EU countries to provide the same services to citizens abroad as the ones they provide nationally. 

For application developers and start-ups, this means that consumers can continuously use their innovative applications and services as they travel across borders in the EU, without network interruptions. This is particularly relevant for applications that offer mobility solutions, accommodation, or other services related to tourism and all those the applications that might be particularly useful while travelling.

Europe is investing in strategic capacities to develop and use innovative digital solutions, such as in extensive 5G (and in the future 6G) networks. The quality of service will likely become an increasingly important element of the mobile service offer. With 5G services, it will become more and more important for consumers travelling abroad to know if they could be affected by limitations in available network quality when using certain applications and services. The new roaming rules aim to address innovation and business developments, ensuring the widest use of innovative services and to minimising the risk that citizens would not be able to use certain applications requiring the latest network technology, such as 5G, when crossing borders.

Source: European Commission

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