Three UK detailed plans to increase the number of destinations within its “Feel At Home” roaming plan by 24 markets from September, taking the total number of countries where subscribers can roam at no extra cost to 42.
The mobile operator said the new countries include popular destinations such as Germany, Greece, and Poland, and noted that the Feel At Home benefit now covers more than 80 per cent of trips made by its customers.
Three UK was an early provider of so-called “roam like home” services that essentially allow customers to use domestic allowances of voice minutes, texts and data for the same price when abroad.
Vodafone UK also said in May that it would not charge extra fees on top of domestic tariffs when customers are roaming, in a total of 40 destinations worldwide.
Indeed, the message of "worry-free" roaming has become a rallying cry of mobile operators in the European Union as they look towards a future in which roaming fees will be abolished.
The European Commission (EC) has been gradually reducing the caps on roaming fees across the European Union. The latest reduction took effect from the end of April 2016, with the prices that mobile operators can charge on top of their domestic offerings capped at €0.05 ($0.055) per minute on outgoing calls, €0.02 per SMS sent, and €0.05 per MB of data.
The EC is now pursuing the well-publicised objective of eliminating charges altogether in 2017: In June 2016, it adopted a proposal to set caps on regulated wholesale roaming charges in order to prepare the ground for the abolition of retail roaming charges from Jun. 15, 2017.
The commission is proposing maximum wholesale roaming charges at €0.04 per minute, €0.01 per SMS and €0.0085 per MB in the European Union.
As well as Vodafone and Three UK, other operators have also pre-empted the move to abolish roaming fees. Tesco Mobile in the UK said its Home From Home service would remove additional roaming fees this summer and France's Free Mobile also promotes mobile plans with inclusive use abroad.
Three Austria has also introduced the "3FeelLikeHome" option that essentially enables domestic minutes, text and data packages to be used abroad. However, unlike in the UK the 3FeelLikeHome service for the European Union, Switzerland, Turkey and the U.S. will be offered as a bolt-on option for an extra charge of €1 a day when a consumer is abroad.
Meanwhile other operators have been advertising reductions in roaming rates in line with the latest EU caps, although it seems that not all have followed the guidelines: Italian regulator Agcom is now investigating Three Italy, TIM and Wind Italy for failing to comply with European roaming regulations.