Head of Roaming on scrapping roaming in the EU

"Most customers don’t pay anything extra for roaming."

In June, the EU is to abolish roaming charges. In an interview Jérôme Wingeier, Swisscom’s Head of Roaming, explains the background and impact of the new ruling and reveals the best holiday tips. 

Roger Baur, 13 June 2017, Update 3 July 2018

Jérôme Wingeier, the EU is actually banning roaming charges. Why doesn’t Swisscom simply follow suit?

Switzerland is not part of the EU so we are not affected by this ruling. Roaming means that when abroad our customers use another provider’s network. And this provider bills us for every call, SMS and kilobyte of data usage. So this is a service which we ourselves have to purchase and can’t just give away for free. And we’re not talking about a single provider, either. Currently, we have more than 600 agreements, all of which were separately negotiated.
But of course, we are aware that roaming has long been a costly item for our customers, so five years ago we were the first provider in Switzerland to begin including roaming credit in our popular subscriptions, thus more or less eliminating roaming charges for most subscribers. This reduction in roaming charges and these roaming-inclusive services accounted for CHF 100 million on the debit side of Swisscom’s accounts in 2015 and 2016 and for CHF 70 million in 2017. The majority of our customers therefore no longer pay separate roaming costs. They virtually already enjoy “Roam like at home”.

Jérôme Wingeier, Head of Roaming, Swisscom

And do most customers manage on these included services?

Yes. Look at the first quarter and you see that we didn’t charge for 75 percent of the data volume. Most of our customers don’t pay anything extra for roaming.

Fine, but the EU has now abolished roaming in EU for everyone.

That is in theory, but not in practice: some providers in the EU recently added rates to their portfolios that limit use abroad or even exclude it completely. Many flat rates only apply in the provider’s own network and do not cover international calls in EU countries. In addition, providers can cap Internet use (fair use policy). If customers exceed the cap limit, providers can bill them for it. 

What is the reason for these limitations?

Costs have to be redistributed as a result of the ruling. Telecom providers in the EU now have to look increasingly for new sources of revenue outside the home market – it’s what we call the waterbed effect. It means that certain providers simply charge foreign partners like Swisscom more for connecting calls (termination charges) or fix higher roaming rates for their customers when they are in the USA or Switzerland. Customers from Belgium and Austria pay several times more for mobile communication when visiting Switzerland than in the EU.

Why in Switzerland? Has Swisscom also raised its charges for foreign providers?

No, just the opposite, Swiss mobile network rates have been falling annually on all three networks. The end customer prices paid by foreign tourists in Switzerland are always fixed by their foreign providers. It is entirely up to them whether they pass on the improved purchasing terms to their customers. Take the following example: Deutsche Telekom subscribers pay the same in Switzerland as they do in the EU. However, not all providers act in this way.
Due to the ruling, revenues have to be tapped elsewhere and providers in the EU can now only do so in countries like Switzerland, Monaco and non-EU destinations. If you compare how much customers from the EU and our customers pay outside the EU, then Swisscom is currently one of the least expensive providers in the whole of Europe, for instance.

On the other hand though, Swisscom’s subscription fees in Switzerland are high in international terms.

Yes, because the bulk of our actual costs are incurred in Switzerland. A country with very low radiation thresholds, high wages, lots of mountains and valleys…countless factors influence these costs. If you take purchasing power into account, Swiss mobile costs are mid-table worldwide.

Let’s come back to roaming. How much can we expect to pay on holiday this summer?

In normal cases, Swisscom customers with a flat rate subscription like the older Natel infinity or new inOne mobile will not incur any additional costs within Europe. Depending on their subscription, calls, texting and data volumes of 1 to 24 GB spread over 30, 60 and 365 days of the year are included, and we let customers know as soon as their credit is used up. The new inOne mobile subscriptions even include 100 MB of data and texts outside Europe.
Customers with very inexpensive subscriptions or Natel easy pay CHF 9.90 for 200 MB in Europe and CHF 14.90 in the USA, Brazil or Thailand, which easily covers lots of holiday messages to the folks at home or a few posts on Facebook. If you need more, we have another two packages lined up for you. If you call home conventionally, you pay CHF 0.45 per minute from Europe without the travel option, and CHF 0.25 with the travel option.

How can I be sure that I stay under this cost cap?

We’ve summarised the main tips for you (see below). 

Roaming: Top 7 saving tips

1. How to find the right data package

You can access cockpit.swisscom.ch and launch the Swisscom roaming app for free abroad and obtain information on prices and how much data you have used up. You can of course buy the package you need at home before you go on holiday. Depending on the price plan, inOne mobile flat rate subscriptions include Internet, SMS and calls within Europe for at least 30 days per year. Depending on the price plan, 100 or 1000 MB annually, and 1000 SMS monthly, are included outside Europe.

2. Use up your data allowance first.

As well as carefree surfing in Europe, Swisscom’s inOne mobile subscriptions also include an international roaming allowance – you can use 100 MB outside Europe. Use up this allowance before purchasing an additional package. If you are travelling to a country that is not covered by the data allowance or you have already used up your allowance for the year, the best option is to purchase a data package at cockpit.swisscom.ch before you travel. It’s also worth knowing that you can access the Swisscom Cockpit for free from anywhere in the world and check how much credit is still available within your subscription.

3. Use maps and navigation offline

They contribute hugely to high data use on holiday. However, most systems can also be used offline; you just have to download them first to your smartphone.

4. Deactivate automatic background updates:

In the basic settings. Users can thus prevent unexpected background data usage.

5. Block automatic starts and automatic updates

Lots of apps start with scrolling videos or animations – including Netflix, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. If possible, switch off this autostart function in the app yourself or reduce your use of such apps. You should also switch off automatic app updates (where apps automatically install new versions) and background updates.

6. Install updates before you go or when you return

Before you travel, check if a system update is planned. to make sure that you are not forced to run an update during your trip. If there is an update during your trip, wait until you return home to install it.

7. Don’t automatically upload large data quantities, such as pictures and videos, to the cloud while you are abroad

Automatic uploads are practical and make sense while you are in Switzerland. However, you should deactivate them while you are on holiday – or just manually activate them when you have access to secure WLAN. Most smartphones offer you the option of limiting synchronisation to WLAN in the basic device or app settings. Tip: Swisscom offers customers free unlimited access to its own cloud, called myCloud. Otherwise 15 GB is included for free.