Good news for tablet-toting travellers: the cost of using mobile data will soon be slashed from "extortionate" to "quite extortionate". The European Union will shortly order mobile phone companies to cut their roaming data charges, which will be music to the ears of the 33 million people who intend to take their mobiles and tablets on holiday this summer.
Roaming charges are currently capped by the EU at fifty Euros (around £45) per month, but the EU proposals would cap per-megabyte charges instead. The retail price would be limited to 81p per megabyte in July 2012, falling to 63p per megabyte in 2013 and 40p in 2014. That final cap would remain in place until 2016.
That cap could make a big difference: a recent survey reported that the average Briton rings up a holiday phone bill of £149. However, the caps only apply in EU member states - so countries such as Turkey aren't included, and there's nothing to stop your phone provider charging you silly money if you're surfing in America - and so far they're only proposals, not firm legislation. The proposals need to be reviewed and approved by the European Parliament, and the resulting Directive then needs to be made law by individual member states. In particular, member states need to decide what the penalties will be for firms who don't comply with the legislation.
In the meantime, 3G roaming remains a pricey way to access data - so if you're taking your 3G tablet or smartphone abroad this summer, it makes sense to avoid expensive data roaming charges wherever you can: disabling roaming on your device and hunting for free Wi-Fi hotspots can save you a fortune. Don't expect your hotel or apartment complex to offer complimentary Wi-Fi, but have a look at Jiwire's hotspot finder before you travel to discover if there are free Wi-Fi providers near your holiday home.
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