what are roaming charges and roaming cap

What are Roaming Charges & Roaming Cap 2024?


In an age where the usage of smartphones is crucial for day-to-day life, the issue of staying connected affordably during international travel is a common concern. Roaming charges are fees imposed by mobile network operators when users make calls, send texts, or use data services outside their home network coverage area. These charges vary widely and can significantly contribute to the cost of mobile usage while travelling internationally.

The aftermath of Brexit has notably influenced data roaming charges. However, protective measures like data caps and Fair Usage Policies can help users avoid unforeseen costs.

This comprehensive article seeks to demystify the intricacies of international roaming, providing insights into roaming charges, data caps, and the diverse network plans available to mobile users. It covers various aspects, including:

  • The impact of Brexit, leading to major carriers’ reintroduction of EU roaming charges in August 2023.
  • Fair Usage Policies (FUP) governing EU roaming, with set data limits ranging from 5GB to 25GB monthly.
  • Roaming charges and plans for popular networks such as EE, O2, Three, Vodafone, Sky Mobile, iD Mobile, giffgaff, Talk Home Mobile, and Tesco Mobile.

The article concludes by offering crucial tips on monitoring and managing roaming charges, ensuring a seamless and financially predictable global travel experience.

Without further ado, let’s delve into the details.

Table of Contents

What is International Roaming?

International roaming occurs when your mobile device connects to a network in a country different from your home country.

If you answer calls using your regular SIM card while roaming, you will incur charges at a per-minute rate unless you have an international SIM that provides free roaming in that country.

When using a regular SIM card abroad, you are essentially subject to charges from two mobile network operators, contributing to the overall high cost of using your phone internationally.

Users must be mindful of data roaming as well. If not deactivated, data roaming can lead to substantial bills upon returning home, as your phone automatically connects to the internet for updates.

It’s important to note that simply turning off your phone is not a viable solution to prevent charges. Be proactive in managing your roaming settings to avoid unexpected expenses.

Recommended Read: How to Activate or Deactivate Data Roaming on Android and iPhone

What are Roaming Charges?

Roaming charges come into play when mobile users travel outside the coverage area specified in their subscribed data plans.

When you sign up for a data plan with a provider, you agree to a monthly payment for designated mobile data within a predefined geographical area.

The coverage area varies based on your specific plan:

Some plans offer “local coverage,” restricting data usage to a particular geographic region. Roaming charges apply if you go beyond this local coverage area.

Other plans provide “nationwide coverage,” allowing you to utilise data nationwide without incurring additional charges.

However, once you step outside the designated coverage area, your device must enter “roaming” mode, connecting to the nearest network. You are charged a premium since this network isn’t your home network.

Essentially, roaming charges reflect the additional costs of accessing data services outside your home network’s coverage area.

What are the Benefits of Data Roaming Plans?

Since connectivity is paramount in this era, the evolution of roaming data plans has reshaped the travel experience.

No longer tethered to the search for Wi-Fi or the hassle of international SIM cards, travellers can now seamlessly access the internet, ensuring constant connectivity, regardless of location.

Let’s discuss a few benefits of data roaming plans.

1. Uninterrupted Communication

Roaming data plans enable travellers to make calls, send text messages, and use communication apps without interruption.

This eliminates the need for expensive international calling plans or the hassle of obtaining local SIM cards.

2. Real-Time Navigation

Navigating unfamiliar territories becomes way more straightforward with roaming data plans.

Travellers can rely on navigation apps like Google Maps to find their way, locate landmarks, and discover hidden gems in real time.

3. Instant Access to Information

Having internet access on the go allows travellers to instantly gather information about local attractions, restaurants, and essential travel updates.

Informed decisions can be made, optimising travel itineraries for a more enriching experience.

4. Capture and Share Memories

Roaming data plans enable travellers to capture and share their experiences in real-time.

From capturing stunning photos to instantly sharing them on social media, there’s no need to wait for Wi-Fi hotspots to document and cherish travel memories.

5. Cost Control

Roaming data plans allow users to control costs by providing predefined data packages and transparent pricing structures.

This eliminates the uncertainty of hefty roaming charges and unexpected bills.

6. Multi-Device Connectivity

Many roaming data plans offer the flexibility to connect multiple devices simultaneously.

Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, users can stay connected on their preferred devices, ensuring convenience and adaptability while on the move.

7. Global Coverage

Roaming data plans provide extensive global coverage. This allows the users to connect virtually anywhere.

Therefore, users can rely on their roaming data plans for seamless connectivity no matter where they are.

8. High-Speed Connectivity

Roaming data plans offer high-speed connectivity.

Hence, users can stream videos, make video calls, and download large files without frustrating buffering or lagging.

9. Flexible Data Packages

Tailored to diverse travel requirements and budgets, roaming data plans come in various flexible packages.

Whether you’re a frequent traveller or on a short vacation, you can choose a plan that suits your data usage needs, ensuring both cost-efficiency and convenience.

10. Easy Activation

Activating a roaming data plan is a hassle-free process.

Most providers offer online or app-based activation, allowing users to activate their plans upon arrival at their destination seamlessly.

This user-friendly approach enhances the overall travel experience.

11. Increased Productivity

Staying productive on the go is crucial in today’s interconnected world. Roaming data plans facilitate remote work, virtual meetings, and access to essential files.

This ensures that users can maintain their workflow seamlessly, even while travelling.

12. Efficient Travel Management

Roaming data plans enable users to manage essential travel details instantly. Access flight information, hotel bookings, and travel reservations on the go, ensuring a smooth and organised travel experience from start to finish.

13. Stay Informed with Travel Updates

Continuous internet access lets travellers stay informed about travel updates, weather conditions, and any changes in their itinerary.

This real-time information enhances adaptability and helps users make informed decisions.

14. Enhanced Security

Roaming data plans enhance security by allowing users to stay connected for emergency calls, access location-based services, and keep in touch with emergency contacts.

This added layer of connectivity can be crucial in unforeseen situations.

15. Seamless Integration with Apps

Roaming data plans seamlessly integrate with various apps, ensuring users can utilise their favourite travel and communication apps without restrictions.

This includes language translation apps, currency converters, and other tools that enhance travel experience.

What is Roaming Cap?

Data roaming caps are crucial limits wireless carriers impose to manage and control the amount of data a user can consume while connected to international networks.

Once a user reaches this predefined cap, the airline takes specific actions, either blocking further data usage or implementing additional charges, depending on the user’s plan.

The primary purpose of these caps is to provide users with a protective measure against unexpected charges and to empower them with better control over their data consumption during international travel.

How Roaming Caps Affect Your Network Plan?

Roaming caps affect your network plan in the following ways.

1. Protection against Bill Shock

Roaming caps shield against “bill shock” by limiting data usage.

This protective measure ensures that travellers stay within budget. Hence, you can avoid any unexpected financial burdens upon returning home.

2. Greater Transparency

The implementation of data roaming caps enhances transparency for users.

With a transparent cap, wireless carriers give customers real-time visibility into their data usage, enabling informed decision-making and preventing unintentional overages.

3. Predictable Expenses

Travellers benefit from the predictability of expenses as data roaming caps allow for better planning and budgeting.

Knowing the maximum potential cost of data roaming empowers individuals to make conscious choices regarding their internet usage abroad.

4. Impact on Wireless Contracts

As data roaming caps become more prevalent, they bring about significant changes to wireless contracts and pricing models:

5. Shift Towards Unlimited Data Plans

Wireless carriers have introduced unlimited data plans in response to data roaming caps. These plans cater to travellers who seek uninterrupted connectivity without worrying about data consumption limits.

Although often more expensive, unlimited plans address users’ needs requiring substantial data while abroad.

6. New Partnerships and Roaming Packages

Wireless carriers have adapted by forming partnerships with international operators, offering preferential rates for data usage in specific regions.

These partnerships provide travellers with more affordable data services in selected locations.

Moreover, carriers offer specialised roaming packages with a predetermined amount of data at reduced rates, catering to those who frequently travel to specific countries or regions.

Did Brexit impact EU Roaming Charges?

mobile eu roaming charges after brexit

After the Brexit transition period ended on January 1, 2021, significant alterations in EU roaming charges for UK mobile users have emerged.

Between 2017 and 2020, major UK networks allowed free roaming in the EU, enabling customers to utilise their UK allowances abroad without extra charges.

However, due to Brexit, this practice has been discontinued.

Notably, networks like EE, Sky Mobile, Three, Vodafone, and VOXI have reintroduced roaming charges in the EU as of August 2023. This change requires customers to pay additional daily fees to access UK allowances for data, calls, and texts in Europe.

On a positive note, budget networks such as Talk Home Mobile still offer inclusive EU roaming at no extra cost.

Nevertheless, these networks typically enforce a fair usage policy that limits the amount of data usable abroad. O2 allows users to use their plans in Europe without incurring additional charges.

It’s crucial to recognise that network policies may change. Even if a network asserts no intentions of reinstating EU roaming charges, there’s no guarantee against future adjustments.

Therefore, checking with your network before travelling is advisable to stay informed about the latest roaming policies.

What is the Difference between Data Roaming charges and data caps?

Data Roaming Charges are fees incurred when using mobile data abroad, covering the additional costs of utilising a foreign network.

In contrast, Data Caps represent predetermined limits on data usage, aiming to prevent bill shock and control data consumption within a billing cycle, applicable to local and roaming data. Users receive alerts when approaching or reaching these limits, with usage restrictions applied upon reaching the cap for both scenarios.

Roaming charges reset based on thresholds or billing cycles, while data caps reset at the beginning of each billing cycle.

Aspect Data Roaming Charges Data Caps
Definition Fees for using mobile data abroad. Predetermined limit on data usage.
Applicability When using mobile data in a foreign network. Applies to both local and roaming data.
Purpose Covers additional costs of foreign network use. Prevents bill shock and controls data usage.
Notification and Management Alerts on approaching or reaching roaming caps. Alerts on approaching or reaching data caps.
Reset and Billing Cycle Charges may reset based on thresholds or cycles. Resets at the beginning of each billing cycle.
Usage Restrictions Restricted from data activities at the cap. Exceeding the cap may result in charges or reduced speed.

How do Fair Usage Policies Affect Roaming Charges?

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs) establish Fair Usage Policies (FUPs) as guidelines to promote fair and efficient use of their network resources.

These policies aim to prevent a few users from dominating network bandwidth, which could adversely affect the internet experience for others. Moreover, they are crucial in regulating roaming charges within the EU.

Implemented under the “Roam-Like-At-Home” initiative on June 15, 2017, these policies prevent misuse of roaming services. The 2023 review indicates their success, ensuring Roam-like-at-home benefits for users while safeguarding against abuse.

Moreover, sustainability derogations have proven effective, and most Union residents are aware of and benefit from these regulations.

Fair usage policies prevent distortions in domestic markets, maintaining tariff structures and plan availability. Ongoing reviews and commitments demonstrate a commitment to transparent and adaptable roaming policies.

Roaming often comes with fair usage policies, limiting data usage between 5GB to 25GB monthly, including call and text restrictions.

For example, if your UK plan boasts 25GB, but the fair usage cap is 10GB, surpassing it results in additional charges.

Conversely, if your UK plan offers 8GB, exceeding the 10GB cap incurs extra fees. Networks typically notify you at 80% and 100% data usage to prevent surpassing these limits.

These policies primarily discourage non-UK residents from utilising UK networks, with one in four Brits experiencing an average unexpected charge of £262 in 2022.

To avoid surprises, confirm your fair usage cap with your network before travelling and exercise caution to stay within limits and prevent extra charges.

Here is a table that shows the Fair Usage Policy of various roaming schemes.

Roaming Scheme Fair Usage Policy (if data tariff above specified amount)
Three Feel at Home 12GB. Can spend up to 2 months in roaming zone over a 12-month rolling contract period
Vodafone Roam Free None. Can spend up to 2 months in roaming zone over four months
Vodafone Roam Further 25GB. Can spend up to 2 months in roaming zone over four months
EE Max Plan Roaming 15GB. Can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone over 120 days
O2 Europe Zone Usage 10GB. Can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone over 120 days
O2 Full Travel Bolt-On 10GB. Can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone over 120 days
Tesco Mobile Home from Home 12GB. Can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone over 120 days
Sky Roaming Passport None
BT Roam Like at Home 15GB. Can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone over 120 days
iD Mobile Roam Like at Home This only applies to some SIM-only customers. Can spend up to 60 days in a roaming zone over 120 days

Comparing EU Roaming Charges of Various Mobile Network

1. EE Roaming Charges in the EU

Since July 7, 2021, EE customers have incurred a £15 monthly fee for the Roam Abroad Pass, allowing usage in EE’s European roaming zone.

The pass works on a 30-day rolling basis, but ‘All Rounder’ or ‘Full Works’ plans integrate it at no extra cost. A fair usage policy of 50GB applies.

2. O2 Roaming Charges in the EU

O2 didn’t reintroduce roaming charges. UK allowances are usable in O2’s ‘Europe Zone,’ with a 25GB monthly roaming limit and a £3.50 charge for exceeding it.

3. Three Roaming Charges in the EU

Pay Monthly Three customers since October 1, 2021, pay £2 daily for ‘Go Roam in Europe,’ offering 24-hour usage as in the UK.

4. Vodafone Roaming Charges in the EU

Vodafone’s EU roaming rules vary based on sign-up dates and destinations.

Zone A (Ireland, Isle of Man, Iceland, Norway) incurs no charges, while Zone B (47 EU destinations) requires a £2.25 daily charge. Pass options for extended stays are available.

5. Sky Mobile Roaming Charges in the EU

Sky Mobile users pay £2/day for the Roaming Passport Plus pass, enabling plan access in 55+ destinations.

6. iD Mobile Roaming Charges in the EU

All iD Mobile plans include free roaming in 50 European destinations, with a 30GB fair usage policy.

7. Giffgaff Roaming Charges in the EU

Giffgaff allows usage in the EU with a 5GB monthly cap; exceeding it incurs a charge of 10p per MB.

8. Talk Home Mobile Roaming Charges in the EU

Talk Home Mobile provides free European roaming without data caps or throttling.

9. Tesco Mobile Roaming Charges in the EU

Tesco Mobile’s Home From Home scheme permits UK data, minutes, and text usage in 48 European locations at no extra cost, with standard rates after plan exhaustion. A fair usage policy is in place to deter extended stays abroad.

Network Roaming Charges Roaming Limits
EE £15/month for Roam Abroad Pass 50GB limit
O2 No reintroduced roaming charges 25GB limit
Three £2/day for ‘Go Roam in Europe’ (24-hour usage) No specified limit
Vodafone Zone A (No charge), Zone B (£2.25/day, pass options) No specified limit
Sky Mobile £2/day for Roaming Passport Plus (55+ destinations) No specified limit
giffgaff Usage in the EU is capped at 5GB Exceeding the cap: 10p/MB
Talk Home Free roaming in Europe without data caps or throttling No specified limit


SIM Deals for EU Roaming

If you’re in search of a SIM-only plan suitable for use during your travels in Europe, here’s an overview of available SIM options, all featuring inclusive EU roaming:

When roaming outside the EU, using your phone often incurs additional charges. Paying for each megabyte of data, minute, and text used abroad can lead to a substantial bill.

However, several significant networks offer solutions to help manage international roaming expenses.

These solutions may include add-ons that can be incorporated into your existing plan, enabling you to utilise your phone abroad like home. Additionally, data packages are available, providing a set amount of megabytes for a daily fee.

In cases where your network doesn’t offer specific roaming add-ons for worldwide use, the alternative is usually to purchase credit outside of your regular plan and utilise your phone on a pay-as-you-go basis. Standard international roaming rates apply and vary based on the country you’re visiting.

Your destination heavily influences the optimal network for data roaming. Some networks provide inclusive roaming within the EU, while others excel in global roaming. It’s important to note that roaming policies can vary significantly among different networks.

Regardless of your network choice, there is typically an option to purchase add-ons to reduce the expenses associated with roaming outside Europe.

Activation of your travel add-on is typically required, either through a text message to your network or by adding it through a dedicated app.

Therefore, confirming that you have activated the add-on before embarking on your journey is crucial.

Below, we delve into the offerings of each prominent network to provide a comprehensive overview.

Here’s a brief overview of significant networks:

1. Three Data Roaming

  • Go Roam covers 71 countries.
  • ‘Go Roam in Europe’ on all plans, ‘Roam Around the World’ on non-essential Plans.
  • Data Passport add-on for £5 a day in 89 locations, allowing unlimited data until midnight UK time.

2. Vodafone Data Roaming

  • Roaming is split into four zones with varying charges.
  • Some plans offer free roaming in specific zones, while others may incur daily charges.
  • Vodafone offers complex rules but extensive coverage in worldwide destinations.

3. O2 Data Roaming

  • Inclusive roaming is available on all plans in 48 European locations.
  • O2 Travel Bolt On for £6 per day in 63 destinations outside Europe.
  • O2 Travel Inclusive Zone Bolt On on selected plans for free roaming in 27 international destinations.

4. EE Data Roaming

  • Roaming charges for plans starting after July 7, 2021.
  • Roam Abroad Pass for everyday plan use, covering 47 European destinations and five international countries.
  • Inclusive Extras on some plans allow Roam Abroad without an additional £15 charge.

5. Talk Home Mobile

Talk Home Mobile introduces the concept of Roam Like Home. They offer the convenience of utilising their plans within the EU and selected destinations at no extra cost.

With support for over 45 countries, including popular European destinations, users can seamlessly access their data, minutes, and SMS allowances without worrying about additional charges.

Moreover, Talk Home Mobile ensures a seamless connectivity experience while travelling abroad. Users need to add credit to their accounts and can stay connected without disruptions. This flexibility caters to travellers travelling to regions beyond European borders.

One standout feature of Talk Home Mobile’s roaming plans is the absence of data caps or throttling. Unlike some providers, Talk Home Mobile allows users to enjoy their allowances without restrictions, providing a liberating roaming experience.

Talk Home Mobile SIM Only Deals

New User Offer

Gold Plus Offer







EU Roaming

in 35+ countries


No Contracts



New User Offer

Blue Plus Offer







EU Roaming

in 35+ countries


No Contracts




Network Global Roaming EU Roaming Add-ons/Options
Three ‘Go Roam Around the World’ ‘Go Roam in Europe’ on all plans – Data Passport: £5/day for unlimited data in 89 locations
Vodafone Four Roaming Zones with Charges Free roaming in select plans – Some plans offer free roaming in specific zones
O2 O2 Travel Bolt On Inclusive in 48 European locations – O2 Travel Bolt On: £6/day for unlimited data, texts, and minutes
EE Roam Abroad Pass – Roam Abroad Pass for plan use outside Europe

Should I Leave Data Roaming Switched on in the UK?

Certainly, since all networks offer 4G coverage throughout most of the UK, your device will typically connect only to your designated mobile network. Therefore, keeping your data roaming enabled in the UK allows you to access 4G and 5G networks while on the go.

Roaming Scheme Applicability Destinations Covered
Three Feel at Home All Advanced plans 71
Vodafone Roam Free All customers on new monthly plans 48
Vodafone Roam Further All customers on new pay monthly plans (except Basics) 104
EE Max Plan Roaming All 4GEE Max Plan 53
O2 Europe Zone Usage All customers on pay monthly plans (not PAYG) 47 Europe Zone destinations
O2 Full Travel Bolt-On Select phone-and-tariff plans on 4GB or 15GB or above 75
Tesco Mobile Home from Home All customers on pay monthly or PAYG plans 48 Europe Zone destinations + 6
Sky Roaming Passport All customers on pay monthly plans 36 Europe Zone destinations
BT Roam Like at Home All customers on pay monthly plans 47
iD Mobile Roam Like at Home All customers on pay monthly plans 50
SMARTY Roaming All customers 35


Bottom Line

Roaming charges are an essential consideration in international communications. Other aspects, such as data caps and network plans, require comprehensive explanation. Brexit has affected EU roaming charges, emphasising the importance of staying informed about data caps and Fair Usage Policies.

This article explains various data roaming complexities, revealing policies from significant networks like EE, O2, Three, Vodafone, and more. Moreover, it highlights the need to be aware of Fair Usage Policies and the possible return of roaming charges.

We have also discussed the benefits of roaming data plans, impacting communication, navigation, information access, and cost control. A comparison between data roaming charges and data caps clarifies their distinct roles in managing expenses during international travel.

All in all, User vigilance is crucial. The insights provided and a breakdown of roaming schemes empower users to make informed decisions. Stay informed, stay in control.


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