Three recently added the U.S. to its “Feel at Home” roaming plan, allowing its U.K. customers to use their normal calling and data plans when traveling to the United States. In doing so, the relatively small carrier—it’s the fourth largest behind EE, O2 and Vodafone in the U.K.—made a move many larger telecoms have yet to attempt.
“We want customers to get the most out of their devices at home or abroad,” said Dave Dyson, CEO of Three. “High roaming charges stop people enjoying their phones while they’re away and Feel At Home is the antidote to that.”
The cost of mobile roaming is a huge issue for many consumers and particularly for businesses that have employees who frequently travel. According to a recent iPass report, even just determining the real cost of mobile data roaming can be difficult.
Limiting excessive roaming charges has been on the regulatory agenda in Europe for some time now. Measures already enacted have curtailed charges in the region by 91% since 2007, according to the EU. The latest round of legislation, proposed in September 2013, calls for ending roaming premiums within the EU by 2016. The plan is to use a “carrot and stick” approach: carriers can be free from regulation if they extend their plans to allow their users to travel to other EU countries; otherwise, customers will be allowed to leave their operator when traveling to take cheaper roaming services from another company, without changing their SIM card.
Three has gone further to eliminate roaming charges, without any carrots or sticks. According to Gordon Kelly of Forbes, by extending its reach to the U.S., little Three has changed the giant global mobile market. The move will not only force Three’s rivals in the U.K. to change or lose customers, but also set a precedent for the entire industry.
Three has also outdone telecom giant T-Mobile US. The Deutsche Telekom controlled company has its own ambitious “uncarrier” strategy, allowing users access to unlimited data and messaging services in more than 100 countries at no extra charge, but T-Mobile’s plan is only for 2G.
Three is offering its “Feel at Home” service for 3G and 4G. The recent announcement adds the U.S., Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Macau to Three’s previously covered areas of the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Italy, Austria, Hong Kong, Sweden and Denmark. Not quite 100 countries yet, but the carrier is planning to add more.