As of June 15th the EU has abolished roaming mobile phone charges between countries. So you can use your phone in another EU country as if you were at home. Hurrah!
May be good for you but perhaps bad news for us down here in Spain. Why? A probably worse and more expensive service might be around the corner basically. Because with an estimated 23 million EU tourists coming here in July alone, there are very real fears that the infrastructure will collapse. The number of phones connected to the network is likely to go up by 400% in summer, leading an industry body to warn of impending congestion and drop-outs.
In fact, some claim that nine times as many EU phones will be connected to Spanish networks as Spanish phones will be connected to EU networks abroad at any one time.Orange has spent EUR 12,5mln in the last couple of months trying to get ready for the surge. Vodafone and Movistar also say they are investing, but have refused to say how much.
This, of course, will have a knock-on effect upon us residents, because prices are likely to go up. Spain already has one of the most expensive average tariffs in Europe – it costs more to run a phone here than in the UK, Germany, France or the Netherlands – and prices are expected to go up to maintain profit margins.
The CNMC, the competition authority, last year warned in a report that heavy investment would have to be made in the network, and added that it would permit costs to be passed onto the consumer. Consumer association FACUA claims that prices are already going up, and added that the abolition of roaming will not benefit the average consumer one jot – quite the contrary, it will penalise the average user to the benefit of business users who travel a lot.
So far we haven’t the felt the impact yet, but the summer season really kicks in this weekend. But then – in autumn when most of the tourists have gone home, our 4G service should fly. Oh, hang on; they’ve capped data usage on most tariffs, so it’s not as if we’ll see much benefit…