Major Czech operators end roaming surcharges as EU deadline draws near

The Czech mobile phone operators T-Mobile and Vodafone have just introduced roaming services that cost the same as domestic usage within the European Union. The country’s third major operator, O2, is set to follow suit before an EU directive banning roaming surcharges takes effect later this week.

Photo: Dean Moriarty, Pixabay / CC0 Public DomainPhoto: Dean Moriarty, Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain The European Parliament passed legislation in April that means that mobile users travelling to other states in the EU will be able to call, text or use the internet without paying any additional charges from June 15.

Four days before that deadline, so-called “roam like at home” was introduced on Sunday by the Czech operators T-Mobile and Vodafone.

The country’s largest operator, O2, says it will also discontinue roaming surcharges before Thursday’s deadline.

Lucie Pecháčková is a spokesperson for 02.

“If a customer has a tariff with, for instance, one and a half gigabytes of mobile data, they can draw on part in the Czech Republic and part abroad, or they can draw on their entire limit abroad.”

T-Mobile spokesperson Martina Kemrová says consumers now have no reason to fear high charges for data consumption.

“You always receive notification that you have consumed 80 percent of your data. In the moment when you have used 100 percent of your data, you stop downloading data. You receive a notification and an offer to buy more data – if you want to, that is.”

The coordinator of the government’s digital agenda, Ondřej Malý, says however, that Czech consumers still need to be careful about mobile costs outside the EU.

“Your bill can be hundreds of crowns higher just because you have driven through Switzerland. All of this roaming regulation applies only in the countries of the European Union, plus Lichtenstein, Iceland and Norway. Roaming outside Europe is extremely expensive.”

Vodafone says that in the past the overwhelming majority of its customers using roaming services – some 94 percent – did so within the EU.

T-Mobile said that in 2016 its clients had made 79 million minutes of calls abroad. That figure is now likely to increase.

However, while the end of roaming will no doubt be a hit with Czech consumers, small virtual operators are worried by it. They saying it could put them out of business and have petitioned to the Czech Telecommunications Office to be exempted from the EU directive.

But the big players are also concerned. O2’s Lucie Pecháčková told Czech Television that the change was likely to impact the firm’s revenues, though she refused to estimate by how much.