Cheaper European smartphone usage from July

Travellers to Europe after July 1 can look forward to the lowest ever data roaming charges when carrying their smartphone.

Legislation passed by the European Parliament means that the cheaper phone usage prices from July are set to become cheaper still during 2014.

From July 1, the most that a mobile operator can charge a customer to access mobile data in Europe is £0.56 per megabyte, a substantial reduction on charges that are currently being imposed. From 2014, overseas smartphone users will also have the right to use a different provider to the one that they use at home, in a move that is intended to encourage greater competition.

The legislation has come about in the wake of large numbers of travellers returning home to extortionate mobile phone bills, often generated at the ignorance of the user by features that are constantly updated by the home provider when the phone is left switched on, even if it is not used directly. Such usage will now be capped at £40.00, after which the user will have to be informed and agree to further charges. Call charges are also being capped at £0.23 per minute plus VAT.

The changes that are being imposed will result in overseas mobile usage charges showing an 85 percent reduction compared with those imposed in 2007.

However, caution will still be recommended when using smartphones in Europe, as the amount of data that specific applications use is unpredictable and can vary greatly dependant on location and individual systems. This means that despite the hefty price reductions, undisciplined usage could still lead to a nasty surprise when the traveller returns and opens their phone bill.

High charges discourage smartphone use abroad

High roaming charges, data protection concerns, or simply a lack of an Internet-compatible device – according to a recent survey, these are the reasons why many travelers reject smartphone use abroad. Together with ITB Berlin, Hochschule Heilbronn polled a total of 4,000 people from Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the UK to find out their willingness to make use of local services abroad with their smartphones. These services identify a subscriber’s geographical position, which make it possible to access navigation systems, maps, special information, and booking services in the area. The representative survey was carried out by IPSOS, an international market research institute.

According to their findings, unpredictable roaming charges discourage travelers from using phone services abroad. Overall, 66 percent of the respondents in all the countries put together said that charges abroad were the main reason for not using local services when on holiday. Fifty-five percent of those polled lacked a suitable device to even access these services. The high cost of these phones prevented them from buying one. Forty-one percent voiced data protection concerns and for that reason would rather not use local services.

Dr. Manfred Lieb, Dean of Studies at the Faculty of Economics 2 and in charge of the survey, said, “What is interesting is that people in every country display a positive attitude towards modern technology, the Internet, and mobile devices and that they accept desktop capabilities which have been transported to mobile devices.”

David Ruetz, Head of ITB Berlin, said: “The survey does, however, show that people’s use of smartphones on holiday is determined by costs and not by a non-availability of service apps. In order to achieve broader smartphone use, charges must become more transparent. At the same time, users’ data protection concerns must be taken seriously, and online services must be made as secure as possible. These are some of the topics we will be examining at the newly-enlarged eTravel World section at ITB Berlin 2012.”

A look at the various European countries reveals individual differences: for the majority of respondents from Germany (68 percent) roaming charges were the main reason for not using local services abroad. Around 70 percent of the men and 67 percent of the women polled would rather not use smartphones due to costs. In second place were data protection concerns, voiced by 50 percent of both men and women. This was followed by the high cost of purchasing a suitable device.

In the Netherlands, the high purchase cost was the main reason discouraging smartphone use abroad. Both men and women, as well as older respondents, gave this as their reason. For younger people aged between16 and 29 who took part in the survey, it was high roaming charges that counted most. The second and third-place responses were high roaming charges and data protection concerns.

Respondents in the UK and France said high roaming charges discouraged them from using smartphones abroad. This was followed by a lack of a suitable device, due to the purchase cost, and data protection concerns when surfing the Internet abroad.