Free EU Roaming and then? Mobile market is agitated

The mobile market has long been considered saturated. The fight for more market shares has been conducted by aggressive price drops for a long time, but the downhill ride is slowly coming to an end. It is questionable whether the elimination of fees for surfing by foreign EU networks relieves customers.

Anyone looking for attractive and comparable price offers in the German mobile market must despair in the face of the tariff confusion. There are practically no bulk goods on the German market, which contains almost as much performance and price differences as a mobile phone contract.

Revenues for the saturated market

Flat rate or flat rates, with or without SMS, automatic data transmission or throttling tariff, mobile TV, short or long-term contracts, prepaid or postpaid – the possibilities are unlimited. The industry is obviously using leverage as a lever to secure revenue streams in saturated markets. Mobile telephony prices are still very high, especially in terms of the volume of data offered.

On 15 June there is another uncertainty. There is a caesura in the development of mobile communications: the controversial EU roaming is free on that day. It is about those charges, which arise, if mobile phone customers are abroad and they use their mobile phones. To the hassle of consumer protectionists and regulators, the roaming charges kept the tariffs up for a long time and caused the providers to earn a golden sum.

Now, EU travelers would not be charged extra for wandering through foreign networks out of their pockets. Roaming costs are still going to be paid in the future as well, but it is no longer the end customers who are asked to pay – in principle, in any case. However, the question is, what impact has the elimination of fees?

Indirect price increases

“It is totally unclear what will happen after the 15th of June,” analyzes Susanne Blohm, Digital and Media Director at the Consumer Center of the German Federal Association of Consumer Protection in Berlin. Others like the comparison portal Verivox, already see a price increase in the mobile phone charges. Consumers would pay for a service which is actually free of charge, emphasizes Christian Schiele, product manager for telecommunications at Verivox.

Vendors such as Telekom and Telefónica had already adjusted their tariffs a long time ago and included EU roaming as an inclusive service. For this the price was slightly adjusted upwards. If the roaming charges are omitted, an indirect price increase occurs. Unless the companies reimburse the costs.

The cost factor roaming, argues Verivox, is now being relocated to the domestic market and has entered into the mobile phone tariffs. The result is more money spent by non-travelers and low-income earners to gain nothing. Some discounters like Drillisch’s low-priced brands have already begun to develop purely national tariff models, which exclude an international use.


The market giants around Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone are left alone. “The affected existing customers in old contracts will not have to pay an additional surcharge,” promises Vodafone spokesman Thorsten Hoepken. In the standard tariffs the EU roaming is already included, which also applies to Telekom and Telefónica. For most customers, according to a Telekom spokesman, therefore, no change would be applied.

A lot is still certainly up to mobile operators, who have covered themselves to pay any fee from their own pockets. You must adjust your tariffs during the accounting process. “The customers will be informed by e-mail or SMS in due time”, asserts a Freenet spokesman. With 12 million customers, the North Germans are among the largest network-independent operators.

It is not to be expected that free roaming in the EU will lower mobile prices. The price level in the member countries is too varied. At the same time, the costs for the network expansion devour much money, which must be earned. In Germany, the takeover of E-Plus by Telefónica has also lessened the competition. Instead of lowering prices, there is a tendency to pack more and more services into tariffs, although customers often do not need this, says a market inspector. This is something Telekom expert Thorsten Gerpott, professor of the University of Duisburg-Essen, sees similar: “There is more money for the same service”.

About the author

Adil Khan

Adil Khan

Adil Khan is a 30 years old Nerd who has been playing with his toys, computers and electronics, since the late 90's. His passion lies in the digital world of 1's and 0's i.e. until quantum computers are available for purchase :)

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