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Viewpoint | 09 Aug 2021

Why we’re moving towards a fairer way to charge for roaming in Europe

Vodafone is adopting a new approach to roaming across its Europe Zone. It will remain an inclusive feature of some plans, but will no longer be included in every plan. Here Ahmed Essam, Vodafone’s CEO in the UK, explains the reasons behind the move.

The first point I want to stress is that the changes we are introducing will only apply to new and upgrading customers – existing customers will not be affected while they remain on their current price plan with us.

The second point is that while terms and conditions for new and upgrading customers will change from 11 August 2021, the roaming charges themselves will not apply until 6 January 2022.

Thirdly, roaming in Europe and selected destinations will be included with some of our Xtra plans, available with a phone or as SIM-only – with access to 83 worldwide destinations – and we’ll introduce great value eight and 15 day passes at just £1 per day. And roaming will remain inclusive in the Republic of Ireland for all customers.

And finally, I want to make it clear that there will be no unexpectedly high bills to pay – you’ll know exactly what you’re paying in advance. You’ll also be able to set a spend limit on your data usage. Everything will be transparent and easy to understand.

Now let me explain why we’re doing this.

More choice, great value

The majority of our customers are not regular roamers. Indeed, fewer than half our customers roamed beyond the Republic of Ireland in 2019. And the reality is that including roaming – a service that costs us money to provide – in every plan means more than half of our customers are paying for something that they don’t use. What’s free for one person usually has to be paid for by someone else.

So we think it’s fairer to give people more choice over what they pay for, either opting into a price plan that includes free roaming, or paying for roaming only when they roam. Otherwise people who rarely or never go abroad end up paying for something they don’t use.

Changing the way we offer roaming to our customers will enable us to continue investing in our network to the benefit of our customers, and in the context of the rising costs we are facing as a result of new Telecoms Security Requirements, for example. We totally agree that the UK telecoms sector needs a new robust security framework and wholly support this, but it has to be paid for.

We are determined to continue investing in our network to give the UK better, faster, more reliable mobile, broadband and Internet of Things products and services. We already offer some of the lowest tariffs on the market. And this new approach to roaming will mean we can continue to improve our network and services, and fulfil our regulatory obligations, while still offering great value tariffs to all our customers.

Creating the best network

It’s worth me spending a little more time spelling out what we’re investing in.

There’s the Shared Rural Network – a jointly funded programme of mast sharing and mast building to increase mobile coverage across those mostly rural areas that have little or no signal, with Government and mobile operators sharing the cost.

Then there’s our OpenRAN programme, which opens up the network to more hardware and software product vendors, increasing competition and enabling us to expand our network more quickly.

We’re also investing in our superfast 5G roll-out, including 5G Standalone that offers businesses in particular an exciting new range of capabilities.

And we’re energetically rolling out our Gigabit fibre broadband network to bring average speeds of up to 900 megabits per second to millions more UK households, through our partnerships with fibre providers such as CityFibre.

In addition, we recently launched Vodafone Pro Broadband and our flexible Vodafone EVO mobile tariffs – both products widely praised in the market. And I’m determined to continue offering our customers the best products and services underpinned by what I believe is the very best network.

In short, all these fantastic products and services need paying for in a rising-cost environment. And giving customers the choice about whether and how they include roaming in their plans is, we believe, one of fairest ways of doing this.