O2 reveals updated EU data-roaming bundle

The operator will offer its prepay customers a roaming data bundle for the first time, but says the move has nothing to do with new EU retail caps

O2 has given details of a new data-roaming package for contract and prepay customers, but it says the deal has nothing to do with retail caps that will be imposed on EU operators from July.

The data-roaming retail caps were approved on Thursday by the European Parliament, and O2 said on Friday that it would offer the 'O2 Travel' data bundle at a cost of £1.99 for up to 25MB of usage per day.

As O2's pay-as-you-go (PAYG) customers previously had no bundle available to them, this means they will no longer have to pay by the megabyte — currently, each megabyte used while travelling abroad in Europe costs £3. Rival operators such as Vodafone and Orange have offered bundled deals to their PAYG customers for the last couple of years.

"With simple charges and a generous 25MB data bundle, O2 Travel provides a great way for our customers to keep in touch and share their holiday moments with family and friends without having to worry about the costs," the company's marketing chief Sally Cowdry said in a statement.

The new bundle will be offered from the start of July, at the same time that the roaming caps come in. According to an O2 spokesperson, the move is "completely separate" from the roaming caps issue, as the operator would not have been able to turn around a new plan in a day.

Customers who do not opt into the bundle will still need to pay per-megabyte rates. The caps mean O2 and its rivals will need to cut those rates to 70 euro cents plus VAT, at most. However, O2 said it cannot set its rates that will come in from 1 July until the EU publishes the official exchange rate for the caps. That exchange rate will be set on 1 June for the subsequent year.

Connection charge

As part of the O2 Travel deal, customers who make voice calls will be charged a one-off 50p connection charge per call. Contract customers will then have minutes taken from the allowance under their existing tariff, while PAYG customers will be charged 29p per minute to make a call and 8p per min to receive a call.

The EU-set voice caps stand at 29 euro cents (23p) and 8 cents (6p) per minute for calls made and received, but those caps exclude VAT. O2's pricing includes VAT.

The use of per-call connection charges means customers making very short calls will effectively be paying more than the capped rate, because of the unregulated fees. O2 is not the only operator to do this; Vodafone, for example, levies a 75p per-call connection fee.

Orange is "on track to meet the regulations set out by the EU in time for the 1 July deadline", a company spokesperson told ZDNet UK. The operator intends to add more data-roaming bundles to its existing range, the spokesperson added, but could not say how much Orange will charge for per-megabyte use.

ZDNet UK has also asked Vodafone, T-Mobile and Three what their new per-megabyte rates will be, but had received no reply at the time of writing.


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