The European Commission (EC) trumpeted its move to abolish roaming in the region after a survey showed the share of travellers accessing mobile data as often as they would while at home doubled.
Andrus Ansip, VP for the Digital Single Market, said “people are keen to use their phones like at home when travelling in the EU without the fear of a bill-shock.”
He said operators are investing in networks to meet increased demand, adding: “Our new EU telecoms rules will encourage such investments; they should be adopted by the European Parliament and Member States as soon as possible.”
The EC quoted a Flash Eurobarometer survey (a small-scale, European cross-national survey) which showed 71 per cent of Europeans are aware roaming charges have ended and 72 per cent think they, or someone they know, will benefit from this.
According to the survey, the share of travellers who used mobile data in the same way as at home increased to 31 per cent after 15 June, when the new rules came into force. In the previous six months, the figure stood at 15 per cent.
The share of travellers who never used mobile data abroad halved and, in general, the EC noted restricted mobile use abroad is diminishing with fewer travellers switching off their phones.
However, compared to mobile phone use in their home country, 60 per cent of travellers still limit their mobile phone use when travelling in another EU country.
Meanwhile the EC said several operators reported a rise in data traffic due to travellers, which this summer was three- to six-times higher compared with the same period of 2016. While some of this increase reflects general year-on-year growth in data consumption in domestic markets, a substantial part can be attributed to the new roaming rules the EC claimed.
The rise of roaming calls, although less marked, is also significant. In response, operators in tourist destinations are making important investments in their networks to seize the opportunity presented by the increased demand from travellers.
A recent Juniper Research report forecast revenue from data roaming will rise to $31 billion globally in 2022, after an initial decline in wider roaming earnings caused by EU regulation.
The EC added it is working closely with regulators to monitor developments in mobile markets in member states to make sure operators continue to follow the new rules.
Mariya Gabriel, commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said: “Roam like at home is working: customers are appreciating it, consumption is up and the demand for mobile services while travelling in the EU is very high”.
The European Parliament is also eyeing the abolition of charges for roaming services between EU countries and Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.