UK mobile operator Three has made the bold move of scrapping the additional fees that customers pay to use phone services when travelling in a number of foreign countries.
Through its new ‘Feel at Home’ service, customers will be able to use voice, messaging and data services at their normal monthly rates when travelling to seven countries, including the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Italy, Austria, Hong Kong, Sweden and Denmark.
Subscribers will only start to incur additional ‘roaming’ fees in those countries if they exceed their monthly usage limits.
“We want to make sure our customers have the best possible mobile experience,” said Thomas Malleschitz, Three’s (Maidenhead, UK) marketing director. “By abolishing expensive roaming charges in select countries we are allowing our customers to get even more value from their minutes, texts and data abroad by removing the fear associated with staying in touch while travelling.”
Three happens to operate networks in all of the seven countries where it is providing the ‘Feel at Home’ service, but customers will apparently not face roaming charges even if their device uses the network of a rival operator.
Although operators in Africa have launched similar services, European operators have appeared unwilling to follow suit because of concern about the impact on financial performance.
That Three has become the first operator to scrap roaming fees is perhaps unsurprising given its reputation as a small and disruptive player.
The operator has made similarly daring moves in the field of internet telephony – striking a deal with Skype that allowed customers to use web-based voice services at no extra charge, despite the apparent threat to revenues from traditional telephony services.
Many mobile subscribers avoid using services when abroad, and Three may hope ‘Feel at Home’ lures customers from other operators that are still charging for overseas usage.
Indeed, the operator may have felt it had nothing to lose and everything to gain from the move, with European Union authorities ultimately hoping to abolish roaming fees across the region.