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.

Foreign Office trials text messaging service in a crisis

Vodafone UK customers who take their mobile phones overseas may now find their phone is more than just a handy way to stay in touch with friends and family.

The Foreign Office has launched a trial service with the network provider to deliver emergency text messages to their subscribers as well as to customers of any mobile provider whose service runs on Vodafone’s network. The text will be sent out to customers who are in a country where there has been a major crisis – such as a natural disaster or civil unrest.
The service is free to customers of the mobile providers taking part in the trial and will provide essential advice in the event of a crisis. The Foreign Office will pilot this service for a 12 month period.

Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said:

“The recent consular crises in Libya and Japan have demonstrated the need to deliver live travel safety messages to as many people as quickly as possible. This new service is part of our vision to deliver better consular services more cost-effectively and we’re delighted to be working with Vodafone UK and a number of partners on the pilot. We hope in the future we will be able to roll out this service with other mobile network operators and mobile providers.”

“The pilot is part of the Foreign Office’s commitment to improve consular services. We will soon have the ability to send text messages to all affected British Nationals registered on our crisis database. As well as this we’re also exploring delivering important information through a range of mobile and online tools, including Smartphone apps, a travel advice site for mobile phones and making effective use of social media and digital tools.”

The text messaging pilot will not replace any existing services and information provided in the texts will continue to be provided on the Foreign Office website, and the FCO Travel Facebook and Twitter channels.