Brexit – what now for roaming charges for UK business travellers?

comms and commerce in EU post-BrexitAh, Brexit…Just when it was all going so well! After many years battling the incumbents across the EU, 2017 was going to be the year that British travellers would finally see the end of roaming charges in Europe. There have been many horror stories about huge bills run up whilst using mobile phones when on holiday or business travel – the renowned “bill shocks” – although with the constant reduction in tariffs and the cap placed on operators to limit bills, the average extra being paid by UK travellers for mobile usage has reduced to a mere £61. (This does however still add up to a whopping estimated £573 million between us all).

Freedom of Mobile Movement?

The removal of roaming tariffs entirely within the EU is estimated to reduce mobile operators´revenue by around 2%, which may cause the EU MNOs to increase domestic prices to cover the shortfall. Post Brexit, it may well be that the big 6 MNOs in the UK decide to scrap adherence to EU caps altogether, and also refuse to play ball regarding no more roaming charges in the EU for British travellers. It is going to be down to consumers to campaign to prevent this and for government to find some way to enforce similar roaming rules to those being adopted in June 2017 EU-wide. This action would protect British interests within the EU after the two year Article 50 period has expired.  Telcos have been dragged kicking and screaming to this point so it is unlikely that they will play nice once they have the freedom to set the market prices as they choose. Business is business, after all.

However, just playing the side of the telcos for a moment, the telecom and mobile market has been squeezed to pitiful margins on all sides – from handsets to tariffs, by competition, by disruptive technologies, roaming caps, and by the many freebies being run as loss leaders such as Facebook Messenger, Google Talk, Microsoft with Skype, Whatsapp etc. The chance to regain some of those lost profits must seem awfully tempting, however loud the howls from consumers are likely to be should the telcos revert to type and charge whatever they choose.

The last couple of years have seen companies such as Three negotiate deals across 18 countries (around half in the EU) to permit Three customers to “Feel At Home” and use voice and data at the same rates as in their own country, which must have felt ahead of the game until the referendum. It may well still feel the same; if UK MNOs do not want to see travellers simply purchasing SIM cards etc abroad whilst on business or holiday, and spending the money with the EU competition, then contracts will need to be drawn up between UK MNOs and those within the EU. Once (if?) Article 50 is triggered, there is still a 2 year period in which to negotiate said deals. With around 1million Brits spending an overnight in the EU, this is revenue not to be sneezed at, nor given away.

How might it affect your business post-Brexit?

Clearly, if your business, whatever your industry, is heavily involved in Europe, and intends to remain so, the wait and see approach fostered by the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit may not seem ideal. Despite the Fear Campaign, it is highly possible that the economic ties between Europe and Britain could strengthen post-Brexit, and many industry sectors are already looking at the opportunities, freedoms and reduced costs that non-adherence to some of the lunacies emanating from Brussels may bring.  It is likely now that many more businesses will be looking to the potential solutions for reduced cost national and international communications to enable future EU trade.

Many businesses with workers who travel nationally or overseas, work remotely, or who make international phone calls whilst on the move have already adopted VoIP and unified communications solutions, which can substantially reduce call costs and hence improve the bottom line compared to standard business tariffs for a mobile workforce.

Express Telephony has considerable experience in this field – we use it within our own business for daily national and international communications, both internal and external -and are happy to advise on the options available, as well as keeping you up to date as the Unified Communications technology matures and develops.

Just call us for advice, and don´t forget to sign up to our newsletter, which often features news and features on Unified Communications and VoIP.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *