Vodafone U.K. has done something astonishing, something very uncharacteristic of a cellphone operator–it made things much cheaper for its users. Specifically, the mobile network operator is experimenting with totally abolishing international roaming charges for calls.
Yes, you read that correctly. Customers will pay the same for calls they make while out trotting the globe, as they do for making calls in their home country. As an enhancement to Vodafone’s existing Passport service, which lets you pay to receive cheaper calls abroad–in its early incarnation you were merely charged a one-off connection fee, and then roaming calls were charged as per normal for your payment plan. Joining Passport is free to Vodafone users, and until September, Vodafone plans to abolish the roaming connection fee.
The move is an attempt at garnering good PR, but was also likely impacted by European legislation that will come into effect in July. The new legislation will limit the cost of sending SMSs and downloading data while roaming. Vodafone’s clearly hoping to win some new customers by behaving nicely, in the fiercely competitive carrier market.
Though it’s just a single company’s action, and a trial that could become standard for the company, it will most definitely set an important precedent–Vodafone’s the largest mobile phone network operator in the World, by turnover figures, and operates directly in 25 countries. If this idea catches on, then perhaps a vision of the future Arthur C. Clarke wrote about in 2010 may come true: In his story telephone operators abolished the different fees for calling overseas versus local calls, and thereby transformed the world into one large and very chatty family.
As part of the trial, Vodafone’s pay-as-you-go and pay monthly customers won’t have to pay roaming charges in 35 European countries from June 1, to the end of August. Countries covered in the three-month deal include France, Italy, Cyprus and Spain.
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