The U.K.’s EE has become the first U.K. mobile service provider to launch inbound 4G roaming for travellers on international networks visiting the United Kingdom. The first deal allows AT&T 4G users to roam on the U.K. EE 4G network, with additional agreements with other carriers expected in early 2014.
Such roaming is quite important for travellers who frequently travel outside their home country, and is useful even when existing roaming agreements for 2G or 3G services already are in place, since Internet access has become a more important mobile application.
The announcement did not specify what roaming rates will be, though. Data roaming typically is an expensive proposition, one reason the European Commission has been mandating wholesale rate reductions for EC roaming rates.
The European Union’s plan to lower the cost of mobile roaming within the EU featured a July 1, 2013 limit on prices for use of roaming data that declined by about 36 percent.
Data roaming now is as much as 91 percent cheaper in 2013, compared to 2007, the EU says.
The EU also has mandated price caps on voice roaming and text messaging as well. As a result of the wholesale price caps retail price reductions of over 80 percent have happened since 2007.
The new price caps set maximum service provider wholesale rates at new lower levels.
Roaming data charges now are set at 45 cents per megabyte, down 36 percent from 2012 levels.
Placed roaming calls are capped at the wholesale level of 24 cents a minute, a 17 percent reduction from 2012 levels.
Charges for receiving a roaming call call dropped to seven cents a minute, down 12.5 percent compared to 2012.
The cost of sending a roaming text message declines to eight cents, an 11 percent reduction compared to 2012 levels.
On July 1, 2014, another planned price reduction will happen, dropping roaming data charges to 20 cents per megabyte, while initiated voice calls will decline to 19 cents a minute.
The cost of receiving a roaming call will dip to five cents a minute. The cost of sending a text message will drop to six cents.
Though the rates do not specifically pertain to 4G roaming, new wholesale rate reductions already are hitting mobile service provider revenues.
Over the last three years, for example, those mandatory rate reductions have accounted for about 75 percent of the revenue decline at Vodafone. At the very least, that means the lower roaming rates will cease to put pressure on overall revenues.