As of February 2018, the UK is home to 66.4 million people and of that number, there are a total of 48.52 million smartphone devices – according to statistics portal Statista.
The number of active devices is expected to rise by five million over the next four years and with a plethora of service providers – the public are spoilt for choice with what contract to sign up to.
You will look at the price, how many minutes, how many texts – but also, how many GB of data you can use.
What is mobile data?
Mobile data is the way in which a smartphone or tablet device with a contract can gain wireless access to the internet.
Only applicable through data-enabled devices, the amount of internet available is explained in your phone contract with your provider.
The internet is needed for an ever-increasing number of apps as well as emails, messaging services and streaming platforms.
WhatsApp, Outlook, Spotify and Netflix are some of the premium apps that eat up most mobile data. Anything that involves downloading will affect your data usage.
If you are connected to a wifi network, then you will not be using any of your monthly data.
What is data roaming?
In short, data roaming refers to the data your mobile device receives from your operators coverage area, outside of your ‘cellular network’.
If you are in the UK, your service provider will have outlined your monthly data usage per month and that can be used within that cellular network. This means that wherever you are in the UK, there will be no hidden charges. These ‘data roaming charges’ will only apply if you go abroad into a different cellular network (in another country).
Roaming fees for data usage are, nowadays, commonly part of the deal that you sign up to – especially as international travel and connectivity is becoming a lot easier.
The strength of your signal can vary from city to city, and can also be diminished in more rural areas of the UK.
So – ‘roaming’ outside your cellular network is outlined in your monthly usage contract, and when you are in the UK there will be no added charges. It is common practice to inform your home provider that you will be travelling as hey will put in place any necessary
When you go international and use anything internet-based, you will be often be using another provider – you will be ‘data roaming’.
You can disable your mobile data and still use the internet abroad – however this can only be done via wifi.
The most prominent causes of ‘data roaming’ charges when abroad are;
- Viewing a video online
- Listening to music online
- Email – sending, receiving and calendar updates
- Using GPS and mapping services
- Messaging via the internet
- Playing games online
How does data roaming work?
Data roaming only applies if you are out of your cellular network.
Therefore, when abroad you will be using a different provider when not using wifi to connect to the internet.
Many apps that are running in the background can be using data when you don’t even realise it – so it is good practice to check and close them. This will avoid any unwanted data charges. People do not want to pay more for a service they already have a set monthly contract for.
Therefore, many modern devices (especially Android), will have a pop up telling you that you are nearing your limit and when you are roaming in a area that will cost you more.
There are thousands of mobile phone contract providers around the world and in order for someone to remain connected they will need to access these. The roaming charges are used to borrow their service.
Who are the top mobile phone providers in the UK?
In the UK, there are many high profile companies that provide mobile phone contracts.
Some of these include;
- 3 Mobile
- Virgin Media
- Sky Mobile
- Tesco Mobile
- Asda Mobile
Of these, EE, Vodafone, Three and 02 are ‘host networks’. These are brands in themselves (like the others), but are often used to ‘host’ other brands’ networks.
Avoid data roaming charges
You have the latest device. Agreed your monthly contract (or added to your Pay As You Go – PAYG – contract). Then you notice you’ve been charged for using your device to access the internet outside of your cellular network.
There is nothing you can do now, but how can you avoid this in the future?
The first, and most common way of avoiding any unwanted charges is to work out with your provider, where in the world you will be ‘roaming’.
Once you have this figured out, contact them and inform them of your travel intentions – they will often offer you a deal for data (and messaging/calls) so you don’t have any large surcharges.
The second tip is to totally disconnect from mobile data. If you have no need for access to the internet 24/7, this is the best plan of action. If you are staying in a hotel, visiting a coffee house or in a hotspot – connecting to available wifi can keep you updated with the outside world.
How to reduce mobile data usage?
The most common way in which data roaming charges can run up in costs, is that most people are unaware of how much internet their apps use.
Therefore, you should always close an app fully after use as they will remain running in the background.
This is especially true for email-related apps, which keep searching or updates, downloads and inbox messages.
When visiting a website, access the ‘mobile version’ of a website. This is available for all major websites and are in place to make it more accessible while roaming and when lesser quality internet connection is available.
There are even websites that use a ‘text only’ browser and are simply just words on a blank screen. This requires little data and provides the sameinformation needed.
Don’t clear your cache – this is for both internet and apps that use the internet.
Normally this is one of the fixes for improving the speed of your device. However, a cache means that your phone has the webpage server already saved on the device and so there is no need for extra downloads and data being used.
The browser will not have to fetch images, logos or regular feature of the requested website.
Modern phones have task managers and cleaning programmes that automatically delete cache history. Make sure that these are disabled before you go ‘data roaming’.
How will Brexit affect data roaming?
2017 saw the introduction of the rights for EU citizens to use their native data allowance in fellow EU nations – meaning that no extra data roaming charges will be added to your monthly bill.
Now into 2018 and this is still the case. However, will Brexit and the UK’s separation from the EU – what will happen to data roaming charges on the continent?
The rights and regulations surrounding data roaming Brexit are currently up in the air and none of the major networks have made any guarantees that free roaming within the EU will continue.
It is almost certain that in the immediate post-Brexit that costs will rise, but whether they will fall and, possibly, disappear altogether is another question.
With the deadline for Brexit fast-approaching, as well as rising phone contract prices – it is certain that the UK mobile phone industry could see a big hit to profits and productivity.
It has been suggested that data roaming become a prominent part of the negotiation process in Brussels, but that has yet to come to fruition.
However, there is hope.
For example, UK mobile phone provider, 3 Mobile offer free roaming in countries outside the EU, including the USA, New Zealand and Australia.
This shows that negotiations and deals with individual non-EU countries about data roaming are possible. This may take some time post-Brexit, as the other 27 EU member states will need to be negotiated with.
A possible outcome is that there will be ‘capped’ pricing that providers can charge customers in the immediate, post-Brexit.
In the lead up to the agreement, there will be announcements from the EU and UK government regarding the future of data roaming.
What current EU regulations impact on data and mobile phone charges?
Mobile phone charges are outlined in your monthly or Pay As You GO (PAYG) contract.
Under current EU regulations, phone calls, texts and monthly data allowance can be used abroad without any extra charges. Whatever is included in your plan can be used in any of the 28 EU member states.
That includes using these services within any EU country and sending to-and-from the UK from another EU state.
However, there is a limit to the amount of days you can roam abroad each year. This is outlined by the mobile phone provider.
The current EU Member states are;
- United Kingdom
- Czech Republic
Before Brexit becomes a reality, both Brussels and 10 Downing Street will make announcements regarding the future of the telecoms industry.
How much did the telecoms industry change in 2017?
Recently, Business Leader Magazine featured a column from Dave Millett – the CEO of leading independent telecoms brokerage and consultancy firm, Equinox.
He shares his expert opinion on how the sector has changed and what we can expect in the near future.
Read the full feature here: https://www.businessleader.co.uk/much-telecoms-change-2017/38601/