Travel advice: how to cut mobile phone costs abroad – A new EU ruling will make it cheaper to use your mobile phone abroad this summer.

Travel advice:

How to cut mobile phone costs abroad

A new EU ruling will make it cheaper to use

your mobile phone abroad this summer.

Despite my best efforts (turning off the data roaming, hunting down Wi-Fi hot spots), the cost of using my mobile phone abroad is still very high. Am I right in thinking the EU is about to tackle the problem – and how will the new regulations work?

Using your phone abroad can be expensive but, as you say, a recent EU ruling will make it cheaper.

The major news was on data roaming, which for the first time will be capped at 70p per Mb, falling to 45p in 2013 and 20p in 2014. This compares with £3 per Mb with O2 now, for example, or its default £40 cap for 50Mb per trip.

The new rules, which come into effect on July 1, also mean that it will cost no more than about 29p per minute to make a call, 8p per minute to receive a call and 9p to text.

However, these phone services are already competitively priced on UK networks. Orange, O2 and T-Mobile currently charge around 36p, 11p and 10p respectively and while specialist travel SIM cards tend not to offer much better rates, most don’t charge to receive calls in certain countries.

For now, you’ll still get better rates within the EU if you have an unlocked phone and buy a local SIM. For example, in Italy, TIM ( charges €0.16/13p per minute for local calls and €2.50/£2.06 per week for 250Mb of internet. In Spain, Orange’s “Delfin” tariff includes 100Mb of internet, 50 free texts and calls at €0.09/7p per minute, for €3.50/£2.89 per week. Both countries have phone shops everywhere (you’ll need photo ID).

Equally significant is the EU’s decision to “force” competition in the roaming market. From 2014, you’ll be able to choose a separate roaming provider to which your phone will switch without swapping SIM.

In European countries outside the EU’s regulatory reach, a local SIM is also the cheapest option. In Croatia, for example, a pay-as-you-go SIM with T-Mobile ( costs £2.20. In-country calls cost 5p and data on the “Start” tariff costs 6p per Mb, £5.50 for 500Mb, or £1.10 for a day’s unlimited web access with the “Internet Dan” option. This compares with 75p for a local call and £2 for 25Mb internet each 24 hours on the cheapest roaming deal, Vodafone Passport and Data Traveller.

Travel further afield can be pricier, and a local SIM will often be cheaper for stays longer than a few days. In the United States, UK networks charge between £3 and £8 per Mb, with a daily bundle from Orange the best at £6 (30 Mb).

O2’s 90p per minute standard call charge is the cheapest of any UK network. AT  & T’s  “Daily Unlimited” tariff costs $2/£1.26 per day, and includes unlimited national calls and texts, or pay-as-you-talk for $0.10 a minute. Calls to UK landlines cost $0.49/32p per minute, or buy 250 minutes for $10/£5.30. A prepaid bundle of 500Mb costs $25/£13.25. Not all UK smartphones connect with US data services. Check with. A SIM costs around $20/£10.60.

Source – Donald Strachan, a specialist in technology and new media

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