Enforced Cuts in Mobile Phone Roaming Charges: Billmonitor

Following the EU’s Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes announcing enforced cuts in mobile phone roaming charges effective today, please find below comment from billmonitor, the Ofcom-accredited mobile bill analysis engine.

They have also included billmonitor calculated roaming figures from real bills. These are not estimates, they are not based on user surveys, they are not compiled data from different sources, they are based on analysing 28,000 real customer bills that we analysed over last year.

Nick Wright via billmonitor comments that while any reduction in extortionate roaming prices are of course welcome, the latest EU price cuts will leave few regular roaming customers rushing to make calls while on their summer holiday.

The 10% cut in outbound roaming call prices will certainly help but as the 40% of us who make roaming calls well know, it will be a drop in the ocean relative to already very high costs. Especially as there is a distinct lack of help for mobile subscribers who might benefit from the large array of roaming bundles, bolt-ons and add-ons but simply forget or are not informed about their options.

It’s particularly disappointing to see no per minute retail price cap on roaming data costs. Although customers have probably benefited from a £40 (€50) monthly price cap on roaming data, the current effective per minute cost for the average customer using roaming data is £2 per MB – that translates to £2 for just 5 minutes of web browsing or £24 per hour of mobile browsing.

As Kroes will know very well, cuts in wholesale price caps unfortunately do not always translate into lower costs to the customer. Roaming data remains an area of excessive profits for the networks.

This is at the expense of around one quarter of mobile subscribers who use their phone to access the Internet abroad. 
In the last year, UK mobile subscribers made and received 2,17 billion minutes of roaming calls and used 219 Terabytes of roaming data.

This is a significant chunk of network traffic and amounts to total customer spend of £1,23 billion per year. Given the large minority of users wanting to use their phone abroad and the volume of usage and spend, it’s hardly surprising, though it remains frustrating, that networks are reluctant to lower their prices.

I would hope that the currently rather vague “comprehensive new proposals for long-term solutions to address the underlying problem of lack of competition in roaming markets” that Kroes intends to publish shortly will go further in trying to remedy the manifest customer pain experienced by many. I would certainly not recommend for anyone to see this as a “license to talk” more freely abroad. Roaming remains an unnecessarily expensive mobile spend category and we share the EU’s vision (or, should I say, dream) that roaming costs will approach national calling costs by 2015.”

Roaming/International factsheet: –

Roaming calls Spend
– Total annual spend on roaming calls by Brits – £792M
– Proportion of total roaming cost that is calls = 58%
– Average spend per roamer = £60.84 per year
– Average spend of 95% of roamers vs. top 5% roamers = £33.36 vs. £582.96 per year (17.47 times as much)
– Average effective cost per minute paid by UK subscribers for roaming = 36.5p/minute vs. 31.5p = 14% cut

– Total number of calls made and received by Britons abroad — 876M calls
– Total number of minutes made and received by Britons abroad — 2,17 Billion minutes
– Average length of roaming call— AVG= 2mins 29s
– Total number of UK subscribers (percentage of subscribers) making/receiving roaming calls – 12.8M people in total — 39% of all subscribers
– Average usage by someone who uses roaming calls — 14 mins 5 s per month or 169 mins/2hrs 49mins per year
– Average usage for 95% of users vs. top 5% users (trimmed mean) — 6 mins per month OR 74 mins per year vs. 165mins/2hrs 45 mins per month OR 33 hours a year! (27 times as much!)
– Total usage by top 5% as % of total — 59% of all calls by 5% of subscribers

Roaming data Spend
– Total spend on roaming data by Brits abroad – £443M
– Proportion of total roaming cost that is roaming data — 33% (one third)
– Average spend of roaming data users – £56.40 per year
– Average spend of 95% roaming data users vs. top 5% roaming data users – £25.64 vs. £564.84
– Average effective cost per MB for mobile subscribers – £2/MB

– Total data usage abroad – 219TB
– No. People/% of total subscribers using roaming data — 24% of subscribers – 7,9M people
– Average roaming data usage per user — 2.3MB
– Average usage for 95% vs. top 5% – 1MB vs. 25.7MB (24 times as much)
– Usage by top 5% as % of total data usage — 56% of data usage by 5% of people

Roaming texts
– Insignificant cost but reasonable usage – 156 roaming texts per user — £7.80 per user per year — £124M per year in total — 1.4Billion texts sent — 9M people use it — 27% of subscribers

Roaming voicemail
– Totally insignificant cost and usage — £12.3M every year spent

Find out when and how UK mobile subscribers use their mobiles via billmonitor

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