Last week, I had some family from the U.S. visiting me here in Europe.  The weather was amazing, and we took loads of pictures. We wanted to instantly share these moments with others back in the US, however, in order to avoid “data shock” (e.g. a 1,000 Eur/$ charge) we only used our phones upon returning to the hotel room (where we had WiFi access).

Affordable mobile data access is not just an international (e.g. USA -> Europe) problem; it is a cross-border issue in Europe.  To get a sense for European frustration on this issue, just visit the “Experiences” section of FairRoaming.org.  Below is one of the many quotes from people in support of the fair roaming movement.

Martin, Germany:
In Germany, 1GB of Data costs me 5 Euros. When I’m in Austria, 1 MB would cost me – 5 Euros. So, just because I’m in another European state, it costs more than 1000 (!) times the normal price. This is crazy, this can’t be justified in any way!

Clearly, mobile telecom operators can no longer justify insane up-charges on consumers–just for roaming.  That is why 150,000 Europeans have joined the FairRoaming.org movement and why one of the first-ever citizen led initiatives at the European Commission was a request for an all-inclusive, monthly flat-rate communication tariff within the boundaries of the European Union.

Ending the roaming rip-off

Pretty soon, I predict that (finally) a mobile operator or a gutsy MVNO will step up and make a Europe-wide flat rate happen…if not, European regulators (at the request of increasingly frustrated voters) will put an even deeper squeeze on mobile operators.  In fact, the European Parliament recently voted for new price reductions.  In addition to price reductions, the new initiative enables the following:

* From 2014 on, you will be enabled to choose another, cheaper operator when abroad – without having to change your phone number
* When outside of the EU, you will be warned if your bill approaches 50€ of data usage.
* Operators will not be allowed to block traffic and apps like Skype

Mobile operators have unfortunately dropped the ball with consumers over the past few years.  Given the massive mobile data revolution and consumer demand for affordable smartphone data plans, some smart company needs to disrupt this space.

Who will it be?

Photo courtesy of Fairroaming.orgNote:  FairRoaming.org & the EuroCommission initiative I mentioned in this post are not (yet) connected