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Virgin Media O2 UK Commits to Retain Free EU Mobile Roaming

Sunday, January 9th, 2022 (6:28 am) - Score 4,848
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Customers of O2 and Virgin Mobile (VMO2) may be pleased to learn that the mobile operator has just said they “will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe.” The move is likely to afford them a distinct competitive advantage for travellers over rivals at EE (BT), Three UK and Vodafone, where inclusive EU roaming is due to end (example).

At present, VMO2’s rivals are currently preparing to charge £2 per day for customers to continue to consume their UK allowances (calls, texts and data / mobile broadband) across EU countries, although some operators may also offer special bundles at a discount. Admittedly, this is still cheaper than being forced to pay excess charges for usage outside your allowance when roaming, but there’s no escaping the fact that it’ll no longer be free.

NOTE: Even under the so-called “free” roaming rules of old, a Fair Usage Policy (FUP) with data caps would often still apply in order to prevent abuse on mobile broadband services (i.e. because not all EU countries offer unlimited data allowances on their domestic plans).

As it stands, Vodafone expects to reintroduce roaming charges for existing customers from the end of January 2022, while EE will follow in March 2022, and Three UK plans the same from 23rd May 2022. By comparison, O2 (VMO2) has remained the only operator not to announce such charges, but until now most people expected that they would follow suit at some point. But VMO2 appears to have other plans.

Gareth Turpin, Mobile CCO of Mobile at VMO2, said (Telegraph):

“With covid still scuppering plans and disrupting day to day routines for so many, we’re starting the year by giving our customers some certainty: we will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe.

Across both O2 and Virgin Mobile we’re maintaining our inclusive roaming so that our customers can travel to destinations all over Europe and use their data, calls and texts just as they would in the UK.”

The move gives VMO2 a distinct competitive advantage and differentiator over rivals, particularly among those consumers who, despite the pandemic, still like or need to travel around the EU. However, it remains to be seen whether the operator can continue to do this indefinitely, but at least for now they appear to be holding firm.

The reality is of course that the recent EU-UK Trade Agreement didn’t guarantee free EU roaming for the future (EU policy). Instead, it only contained vague “measures to encourage cooperation on the promotion of fair and transparent rates for international mobile roaming services in ways that can help promote the growth of trade among the Parties and enhance consumer welfare.

The Government has also introduced some limited protection against the risk of future EU roaming BILL SHOCKs by adding a legislated cap of £45 on roaming charges and related warnings (first proposed in 2018), although this can be tweaked and disable by customers.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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37 Responses
  1. jrhop says:

    Also worth noting the changes on EE will only affect new contracts after 7th July 2021, so if you don’t upgrade then it won’t affect you, although they will probably force a tariff change on you at some point – https://ee.co.uk/help/help-new/roaming-and-international/using-your-device-abroad/what-impact-will-brexit-have-on-roaming

    1. El Guapo says:

      I got an EE contract in September of 2021.

      EU roaming included. Business contract though. I don’t see them offering it now.

  2. Regorimabitbackward says:

    Virgin Media O2 joint venture, volt add on, double mobile data, double broadband speed, at no extra cost free roaming, what’s not to like, good on ya VM.O2

    1. Acdeag says:

      RPI +3.9% annual increase, highest of all networks, means possible increases of over 11% in the spring.

    2. Techuser says:

      @Acdeag

      Both Vodafone and EE now also have a RPI + 3.9% increase term on new contracts.

      https://www.vodafone.co.uk/price changes
      https://ee.co.uk/help/help-new/billing-usage-and-top-up/price-increase/price-increase

    3. Mogwai says:

      @Techuser

      No they don’t. Vodafone and EE use CPI+3.9%. The RPI+3.9% that O2 and now Virgin Mobile use equates to a slightly bigger increase than the CPI figure the others use.

    4. Carl O says:

      Highly congested network is their downfall. The rest is great on paper. Can’t wait to activate my volt package in a few weeks.

    5. El Guapo says:

      double the broadband? I’m on their 350 package, and the “upgrade” they’re offering me if I go for volt is to 500, which isn’t really that much of a deal to be honest. If they would double mine to 700 then that would be great! but they’re not offering me that.

    6. Laurence 'GreenReaper' Parry says:

      That’s why we went for 200 and added the Oomph for 350 (really 380) – it’s the best value, considering the upload is much improved too.

      Of course, it’s still not a huge upload. Will have to see what the deals are like with BT et. al. in six months or so. We were originally going to go with them when they added full fibre, but their initial offer seemed to time out; the one they made later wasn’t as good.

  3. Netz says:

    Clap clap clap. Now how long will it be until others reverse decisions and follow suit.

    Good work VMO2

    1. Peter says:

      I wouldn’t get too excited. Other networks also initially stated they had no plans to re-introduce roaming charges and then they did a U turn. VM-02 might do the same or they might not.

  4. Sam P says:

    For now

  5. Smythe says:

    Does this include giffgaff?

  6. Neil says:

    Well, that’s my mind made up about which network to switch to when my mobile contract is up in May. Just have to wait another year for my broadband contract to be up with BT then back to VM for my broadband, you never know, they may even have started to roll out FTTP in my area (although I highly doubt it, we always seem to be near the back of the queue for speed bumps and network improvements)… But, even with the lower upload speeds, which, as I mostly use it for working from home won’t be an issue losing out a little bit there.

  7. Ig Og says:

    VMO2 ARE EVIL EU LOVERS!!!!

    LEAVE THEM NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. El Guapo says:

    EU roaming is slow. Most of them won’t roam on 5G either, and even some won’t even roam on 4G!!! So I always ended up spending £20 on a local SIM card while I was in the EU. Still got my telia SIMs and my Movistar ones.

    1. Name says:

      That depends on roam operator and VPN link speed back to O2. In Poland with Plus operator I was getting up to 180Mbps on 4G about3 weeks ago. It is true that there is no 5G in roaming.

    2. sebbb says:

      5G roaming is dependent on agreements of UK network providers, not EU carriers not allowing it. Funny enough, a vodafone italy SIM with 5G enabled roams in EU on other vodafone networks in 5G just fine… but not in the UK (tested in Germany and it was 5G, when flying back to London no chance).

  9. Mike says:

    Just goes to show you don’t need an unelected bureaucracy to get EU roaming.

    1. Kevin says:

      Pretty sure the House of Lords is unelected too. Whatever the EU can do, the UK can as well.

    2. Random Precision says:

      The EU parliament MEP’s are elected, stop lying.

    3. Mike says:

      @Kevin

      House of Commons has final say.

      @Random Precision

      They can’t make legislation, only accept or reject it.

    4. Blunt Instrument says:

      MEPs are elected.

      Shame the EU president wasn’t. Or the council.

    5. Nigel Farage says:

      @Mike

      How are you finding those Brexit Unicorns? Got your new blue passport yet? (printed in France)

    6. anonymous says:

      Assuming you’re in the UK you live in a monarchy with the distinction of having the second largest legislature in the world behind India, the vast majority unelected, and of being the only nation in the world besides Iran to have appointees to the legislature purely based on the national religion.

      You live in a place with an electoral system that gave a majority to the people who won 35.2% and 36.8% of the vote respectively while giving 1 of 650 MPs to a party that received 12.6% of the vote.

      We really can’t throw stones about the unelected or democracy in general.

    7. anonymous says:

      ‘Shame the EU president wasn’t. Or the council.’

      There isn’t an EU president. There are presidents of the Council, Commission and Parliament. President of Parliament is elected from the MEPs in the Parliament, president of Council elected by the heads of member states, president of Commission is democratically unacceptable and needs reform, but isn’t our problem.

      Please remind me who elected the current Prime Minister? I’m fairly sure I didn’t get a vote on it, only on my local candidate. Looks an awful lot like his own party got to decide who’d be in charge. Or why some of the cabinet making our policies are unelected? We have a Minister of State that lost his election in 2019.

      Given all the talk about ‘democracy’ from 2016 onwards it’s quite curious that the House of Lords, FPTP, no directly elected head of state or representative and unelected ministers are apparently acceptable.

      TL;DR we’re out of the EU and should get our own house in order. Anyone in the UK that actually cares about democracy I’d have thought would be more interested in those issues.

      Seems lack of properly representative democracy isn’t such a problem when it gives the results people agree with.

      If someone like Mike is still bringing up Brexit you know it’s clearly going swimmingly. The bitterness is bizarre if it was such a roaring success, and such a brilliant idea.

    8. Optimist says:

      So roaming charges removed, despite the UK having left the EU, and with no intervention by the UK government either.

      I wonder if it’s because we have a competitive market?

  10. Popeye13 says:

    Does this apply to GiffGaff also?
    And what about VMNO’s such as VOXI ect?

    1. Carl O says:

      I don’t think pay and go are included, along with mvno. Worth asking them directly if you’re impacted.

    2. macchap says:

      Yes, this includes GiffGaff, albeit limited to a max of 20GB usage (or lower if you have a Goodybag with a data allowance less than 20GB).

      The GiffGaff app has a handy EU roaming “allowance remaining” tab where you can check how much you have used. Click on “More Details” under your Goodybag summary on the home section of the app and you will see it, plus a note confirming the allowance is included at no extra cost.

  11. Martin says:

    I wonder if Tesco Mobile will also jump onboard as well due to them being owned by O2.

    1. Roger_Gooner says:

      Not owned, rather a 50:50 joint venture with O2.

  12. Liam says:

    I am with three and will be looking to exit my contract early without being penalised based on the fact they will be charging £5 per day for roaming in the US.

    Has anyone got any advice or experience with similar?

    1. Boris Lie Calculator says:

      You need to check your Three contract. If there’s nothing mentioned about being able to leave penalty free d/t new roaming charges then you will be legally required to pay off any early termination charges.

  13. I back Boris 100% says:

    Ah ha! PROOF that Brexit is a success! We don’t need no unelected lefty wefty commie fascist EU brusselocrats to tell us what to do! Were British and we rule the radio waves! Are sovrentee and are laws as are Boris promised!! BEST PM EVER!!! Suck that Remoaner traitors!

    1. Boris Never Lies says:

      Could have made your sarcasm a little less obvious 🙂

    2. Fed Up says:

      Certainly has been a great success in the Alice in Wonderland world of Boris Johnson and company….

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