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Which Mobile Networks Don’t Charge Roaming Fees? And Which Do?

Heading abroad this year? A number of the big UK mobile networks have made changes to their EU and European roaming fees. Here’s what you need to know.

When the UK left the EU, the big four networks stated they had no plans to reintroduce European roaming fees. That plan has changed in 2021, with O2, Three and EE all now making changes to their policies for using your UK mobile plan abroad. Depending on which network you’re with (and whether you travel abroad or not) this may have little impact on you, but if you’re planning on holidaying or working abroad, then it’s worth noting what the changes are to avoid any surprise charges.  You also have a number of options available from other networks that don’t apply roaming charges. Here’s our guide.

One other important thing to note – most people in the UK use less than 10GB of data per month.  Some networks impose a fair use policy of 12GB or more so even though it may make news headlines, it may still mean that you’re not impacted by these fees if you’re an ‘average user’. Heavy data users though, keep an eye on your allowance or look at one of the alternatives mentioned below.

Three

Known for their unlimited data, Three have let you use your phone plan abroad for years with their Go Roam proposition. What some people don’t know is that there is a 20GB fair use policy applied when in Europe.  Outside of Europe that fair use policy is 12GB. Three have recently lowered the 20GB European fair use down to 12GB too.  If you go beyond that 12GB in a month when abroad, you’ll be subject to additional data charges.  Three’s Go Roam page let’s you check the costs of roaming for the country you’re visiting.

O2

O2 now have a 25GB fair use policy (effective from August 2021) when you travel in Europe. This means that if you exceed 25GB when outside the UK, you’ll be subject to additional charges. As mentioned above, if you’re an average data user then this is unlikely to impact you.  O2’s European Roaming Guide has their latest info.

EE

EE have gone one step further than amending a fair use policy. From January 2022, anyone that signed up to a standard pay monthly contract from June 7 2021 onwards will be subject to a £2 per day charge for using their phone in Europe when outside the UK.  EE have a charge checker you can use to see how much it will cost you to use your plan abroad currently (note, on July 7th 2021 it will update with their new policy).

Vodafone

Vodafone have stated they have no current plans to reintroduce EU roaming charges but it’s worth noting they also have a 25GB fair use policy in place already, similar to O2’s.  You can use Vodafone’s Travelling Abroad guide to see how much it will cost you when roaming.

Other price plans

The big four networks recognise that many of their customers often travel abroad so some do have plans or add-ons available specifically for travelling. For example, customers on Vodafone unlimited data Xtra Plans have access to Global Roaming Plus which allows them to use their plan in over 81 destinations around the world. Even though it’s included, like all these add-ons, it’s not free so it’s worth working out excactly how much it’s going to be costing you per month.  You may be better off getting a standard plan and then using a dedicated roaming SIM or temporary plan add-on when you need it.

Alternative networks and services that don’t charge roaming fees

Smarty

Smarty runs on Three’s network. They offer a range of 30 day SIM only plans with inclusive EU roaming currently. Whether they decide to change that is yet to be confirmed but for now it’s included.  There is a 12GB fair use policy though, like Three.

Extreme Connect

Extreme Connect (owned by the Extreme, the action sports brand) is an eSIM mobile network which means it’s powered via a downloadable app rather than a traditional plastic SIM card – the main benefit being you can just download and connect. They offer a range of 30 day plans with no roaming fees as you choose a plan for the country you’re in. Download the app to a compatible phone (the latest Samsung, iPhone and Google Pixel models are all compatible) and then activate a plan depending on which country you’re visiting – over 110 countries are available.  There are also global and regional plan options for those of you that like to regularly hop around the world.  It’s data-only currently making it ideal if you use Facetime audio, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Netflix, Youtube, etc, with voice and text support arriving later this year.

Lebara

Lebara runs on Vodafone’s network and EU roaming is including in all their plans currently. They offer 30 day SIM plans which also include some international minutes for making calls from the UK to other countries.

Information correct as of 24/6/21.

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