15 June 2017. Drum roll. Get ready to pop the champagne. The time has finally come to say goodbye to roaming costs. We will be able to travel around Europe without having to worry about the phone bill at the end of the month, and why? Because from this day forwards, we won’t even have to pay one cent to use our data abroad.
But in which parts of the continent does this apply? At first, roaming will no longer exist in the European member states such as Monaco and San Marino. Then, in Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. And last but not least, the abolition of roaming costs will be implemented in the United Kingdom. At least before Brexit starts to take shape.
Despite the challenges, it’s already a reality
Although it may seem like a logical choice, especially with regards to Europe’s single market - blood, sweat and tears were spilled for this project to be put into action. Of course, there are limits: it may seem as though you can use your phone as much as you want to, as long as it stays within the limits of your plan. However, once you’ve exceeded the minutes or data in your package, you need to be careful. These can create extra costs.
After months of waiting, one of the main commitments of the European Union is finally seeing the light of day. This is partially thanks to an almost unanimous vote from all the leaders that wanted to abolish roaming. Only 25 leaders voted against it. In the end, the battle didn’t take place in the assembly room but between the member states and the telecommunication companies. The project to end roaming could have been finalised in 2015, but lobbyists from SFR, Orange, Bouygues and other companies stopped the process.
In any case, in a time where international relations are tense, the EU could use this outcome as a political instrument to prove that, in the midst of bureaucratic paperwork, some decisions can have a positive influence on the lives of citizens. From our side, as long as we can save money and gain a bit of freedom, we won’t complain. Everybody wins.
Still, saying goodbye to roaming means saying goodbye to some serious adventures: strange situations, misunderstandings and anecdotes that will stay burned in our memories. Travelling around Europe will be more comfortable, but will also be much less entertaining. Stefano, for example, learned how to drive his car as if he were in a Formula 1 race, without using gusts of air to overtake other vehicles. This 25-year-old Italian wanted to stay as close as possible to a Megabus in order to have access to their wifi and download GPS maps.
Feeling alone in a crowd
Claudia, on the other hand, got to know a lot of different European universities, but not for academic reasons. This young Italian took advantage of their free wifi. And what better place to stay connected than in a bastion of knowledge? Long live Eduroam. For Alvaro, roaming will not be missed: “Before, everyone was looking at their phones for the first five minutes we would meet up in a bar or restaurant.” The initiative is not just a negative one. This Spanish roaming specialist learned to sharpen his senses. “I ended up developing a complex system of missed calls to warn my friends that I was going somewhere.”
Diego, a young Parisian, can thank roaming for worsening his family relations. Every time he went to visit his brother, he always found a way to stay connected. Of course he had missed his brother, there was no doubt about that, but he just wanted to stay connected to his network. This need to feel as close as possible to one’s friends ended up taking its toll on the quality of his sleep. Although he is embarrassed about it, Diego remembers spending far too much time in the Delirium Café one night in Brussels. The main reason was to take advantage of their free wifi, but he still managed to down a few delicious beers while doing so.
In the end, people realise that these surreal moments all come from a need to feel connected. It’s all about finding that sweet spot. The question is: will roaming allow tourists to enjoy their trips even more, without this incessant need to find wifi, or will it make them even more addicted to their phones?