This summer, the European Council announced a long-overdue complement to the integration between EU member states: the elimination of roaming charges. From April 2016, EU residents will enjoy a reduction of up to 75% in roaming costs, with all charges to be phased out by mid-2017. This step promises not only to make our lives more convenient, but also creates new opportunities for the mobile world.
The world of mobile services is constantly evolving, with carriers always expanding their offers and improving the speed and quality of communication. Something that tends to lag behind this innovation, however, is making the latest technology accessible to all consumers. Though carriers can be expected to pose some friction to this initiative, downward pressure on prices is a consistent trend (by some estimates, carriers have already lost €15B in revenue from roaming cost regulation, though further reduction can broadly expand their customer base).
The Smart Traveller
One of the first benefits that comes to mind is a smoother, easier travel experience. We’ll no longer have to rely on previously downloaded content, offline-enabled apps or – god forbid – paper. Rather than searching for a café with WiFi (not so easy in some parts, even in Europe, but we wonder how this will affect Starbucks sales?), we’ll have immediate access to practical information just as we do at home. Figure out how to get back to your hotel after a party, find a vegetarian restaurant or check out recommendations for what to do tomorrow – it’s all about to get much easier. Additionally, the change is projected to save families €200 a year.
Beyond offering greater convenience in finding information, the death of roaming presents new opportunities for both travellers and the tourism industry. For example, increased availability means we’re free to search for and book hotels (or apartments) on the go, even after we’ve arrived at our destination. Services such as TripAdvisor and Yelp could offer real-time, location-based recommendations. Important alerts about flights, traffic or other events will reach you as fast as possible – no more last-minute airport surprises. To take advantage of this increased connectivity (and to match consumers’ expectations), the service industry must adapt its current mobile offerings.
Just don’t forget to disconnect every now and then.
The Truly International Businessperson
Of course, the benefits of cheaper intra-EU communications are not limited to your holidays. Working abroad, or with distributed teams, is also about to get easier. Here we can also expect interesting new developments in the mobile field. The reduced cost of communication will allow us to stay closer to our colleagues and clients while better leveraging office tools with strong mobile integration (e.g. Slack, Hipchat, Trello, and others). Factoring in direct costs and indirect benefits, business travellers can expect savings of up to €1000 a year.
An even greater opportunity lies in creating new mobile platforms that take advantage of freer communication across the continent.
Like many things in the EU, the reduction in roaming charges will take a while, and is subject to some conditions and exceptions. Nevertheless, the final goal is clear: open communication to mirror ever-deepening economic and political integration. Other than making the lives of European travellers and businesspeople a little more convenient, the elimination of roaming opens up diverse opportunities to enhance existing services and create completely new ones. It also makes your smartphone and the mobile channel just that little bit MORE important.
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