Telephony abroad and data roaming

Telephony abroad and data roaming

What is roaming?

Phone roaming works when you use your phone while traveling outside the country where you live. International Roaming is the agreement stipulated between telephone companies that allows the customers of an operator, who are in a foreign state where their operator's network is not present, to use another one.

This means that when you go abroad you can continue to use the services of your SIM by relying on the network of operators present in the country you are in: it therefore allows you to use your Smartphone with your SIM in another country. In fact, you can continue to make and receive calls, send and receive SMS, surf the Internet abroad simply by using one of the telephone operators of the country that hosts you.

How are the usage limits abroad applied?

When you are roaming, there are no limits on the volume of voice calls and text messages (SMS). Any calls or SMS not included in your contract will be charged at the same amount as you would pay in your home country. However, rules and limits apply to the amount of data you can pay at your national rate. The limits depend on the type of contract.

In some specific cases (see below), a surcharge equal to the wholesale data cap across the EU may apply (for 2020 - € 3.50 per GB of data, excluding VAT).

Rechargeable contracts

If you have a prepaid card (and therefore buy a credit in advance to use your mobile), you can use your mobile in EU countries without paying additional fees. However, your mobile operator can apply a data limit for roaming at home rate if you pay per unit and the national price per unit of data is less than € 3.50 per GB.

If your mobile operator applies a limit on the volume of data for roaming at national rate, the limit should at least correspond to the volume obtained by dividing the remaining credit on the prepaid card by 3.50 euros as soon as you start using roaming services data. You will get the same volume for which you made the prepayment. Of course, you can increase your credit while using your card while roaming.

Example: roaming with prepaid card: data limits

Jana lives in Slovakia and bought a prepaid 20 euro (VAT included) card for her mobile phone which includes calls, SMS and data services. When she goes on holiday to Spain she has a credit of 12 euros (excluding VAT). This means that during the holidays Jana will be able to have a volume of data equal to the value of the remaining credit on the prepaid card. That is, it will have at least 3.4 GB for data roaming (12 / 3.50 euros = 3.4).

My contract includes limited data

If you have a mobile phone contract that includes limited data traffic, you can use your data store in the EU at no additional cost. The data limit contained in the contract is the one you can use when roaming.

However, if you pay a very low unit price for mobile data (less than € 1.75 / GB in 2020), your operator may apply a "fair use" limit for roaming data which may be less than your data pool. national.

The limit is based on the price of your national mobile phone contract. The operator is required to inform you in advance of the limit and notify you when you reach it. You can continue to use data roaming once you have reached the limit, but your operator will charge you additional costs, which however cannot exceed the wholesale data cap (3.50 euros / GB + VAT in 2020).

My contract includes unlimited data

If your mobile phone contract provides for the payment of a fixed monthly fee and a package with an unlimited data volume, the operator is required to provide you with a substantial volume of roaming data at the national rate. The exact volume depends on the package price. However, it must be at least double the volume obtained by dividing the price by the wholesale data ceiling (3.50 euros in 2020, excluding VAT) by the price of the mobile phone service package.

The operator must inform you about the volume of data available for roaming. If you exceed it while roaming, you have to pay a surcharge, which however cannot exceed the wholesale data cap (3.50 euros / GB + VAT in 2020).


Example: contract with unlimited data - roaming

Paulina from Luxembourg pays 40 euros (excluding VAT) for her mobile phone contract, which includes calls, SMS and data. When she uses her mobile phone during holidays in Italy, she has unlimited calls and SMS and at least 22.8 GB of data (2 x (40 euros / 3.50 euros) = 22.8).

Other types of contracts

Operators can also offer contracts without roaming services, or specific alternative roaming contracts with rates that go beyond European legislation, for example for non-EU countries. However, you have to specifically choose these types of options.

Monitor roaming use

As part of the fair use policy, your operator has the ability to monitor and verify your roaming activity for the past 4 months. If, during this period, you have spent more time abroad than in your home country and roaming use exceeds domestic use, the operator can contact you and ask you to clarify your situation. You have 14 days to do this.

If you continue to spend more time abroad and to rely more on roaming than on domestic traffic, the operator may start to charge a surcharge on roaming consumption. Surcharges are subject to the following ceilings (excluding VAT):

  • 3.2 cents per minute for each voice call made
  • 1 cent per SMS
  • € 3.50 per GB of data (in 2020)

⚠️ Roaming outside EU

Roaming (especially data roaming) outside the EU can be expensive. Before going abroad, check the prices charged by your operator to avoid nasty surprises on your bill.


For more details, we recommend that you contact your operator before departure.European Roaming FAQ:

https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/internet-telecoms/mobile-roaming-costs/faq/index_it.htm