Virgin Media O2 offers free roaming in Europe: EE, Vodafone, Sanno

A person walks past a Virgin Media mobile phone store in London that was closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic on May 4, 2020.

Torga Akmen | AFP via Getty Images

Britons have enjoyed free mobile roaming in Europe for years, but that will hit tens of millions in the coming months as telecom operators start charging back across the continent after Brexit. People bring about change.

EE, Vodafone and Three have all announced that EU roaming charges will be reinstated between January 31st and May 23rd.

However, two mobile networks, Virgin Mobile and O2, smashed the rankings when they announced no plans to recharge on Monday. As a result, their customers will be able to use their data and make calls and texts as they would in the UK. Both networks are operated by parent company Virgin Media O2.

“Virgin Media O2 has opened the door to roaming,” Kester Mann, director of consumer and connectivity at analyst firm CCS Insight, told CNBC. “The decision to buck the market trend to recoup fees, and its decision to stick to its stance, will draw attention across the industry to competitors. It’s a blow.”

He added: “With EE, Vodafone and the three all confirming they will reinstate dire fees, it leaves the door ajar for Virgin Media O2 to break the rankings and disrupt the market.”

Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial Officer of Virgin Media O2 Mobile a blog post On Monday, a family of four could face roaming charges of around £100 ($136) or more a day on their phones over a two-week holiday without O2 or Virgin Mobile.

Multiple people wrote on social media that they planned to leave EE, Vodafone or Three and join Virgin Media or O2 to take advantage of free European roaming.

The EU eliminated bloc-wide roaming charges in 2017. When the UK becomes part of the EU, all Britons can roam free in Europe, regardless of their mobile operator. However, an EU trade deal in December 2020 enables network operators to recharge.

Virgin Media O2 was founded in $39 billion merger This was approved last April. Mann said the company could “die for the leather” when marketing its free European roaming service.

“Roaming is a toxic term for many people, and horror stories of people paying huge bills while on holiday rightly lead to widespread mistrust and resentment against telecom operators,” he explained.

It is unclear whether Virgin Media O2 will increase its mobile tariff rates over time.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson say on twitter On Monday, he welcomed Virgin Media O2’s decision to continue free roaming.

Sue Davies, head of consumer protection policy at UK consumer group Which?, told CNBC that the new roaming charges introduced by EE, Vodafone and Three are not as high as some of the roaming charges Britons have faced before. However, she said some people who travel a lot might consider switching phone contracts when they expire.

“As the UK continues to negotiate trade deals, it should take this opportunity to reduce roaming costs for consumers travelling around the world,” Davis said. “The UK and EU should also work to reach an agreement on roaming charges to stop companies from undercutting the roaming benefits customers have become accustomed to and ensure that the high charges people faced in the past don’t come back.”

The three suffered the most?

Mann added that the move could cause the most serious damage to the Three. “It was the first company to begin phasing out roaming in 2013 and has aggressively promoted its Go Roam product as it looks to differentiate by overcoming common customer pain points. If it goes ahead with plans to resume roaming in May, It could cost a lot to lose this effort.”

Francisco Jeronimo, vice president of devices at analyst firm IDC, told CNBC it’s difficult to quantify how many customers will leave EE, Vodafone and Three.

“It will definitely have an impact and attract a lot of customers to switch, especially those who travel to EU countries on a regular basis,” he said.

“However, for those who only visit once or twice a year during their holidays for a week, the extra £2 ($2.7) daily cost of using their phone abroad to avoid bill shock may not be enough to make them switch.”