3 is hoping to take the sting out of international roaming with a new policy that lets customers make and receive calls overseas while paying the same as if they were on their home network.
The policy applies only to countries where 3 operates, including the UK, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland and Sweden. Customers in the UK can now benefit from the policy, which will be rolled out in the other markets in the near future.
UK contract customers can use their included minutes while travelling to call UK numbers. There is no charge for incoming calls.
Pre-pay customers or contract customers who have run out of included minutes, pay 20p per minute for voice calls and 10p for a text message.
Because the policy means that customers in essence take their calling plans with them, subscribers who make a call overseas to a local landline will be charged international rates. For example, if a 3 UK customer is in Austria, a call to an Austrian number would cost the same as a long-distance call from the UK to Austria.
The policy is somewhat similar to Vodafone's Passport offering. Passport customers pay according to their home pricing plan while roaming in certain markets but they also must pay an additional connection fee for every call. For example, a UK customer pays 75p per call in addition to their domestic rate while roaming. Vodafone also charges customers to receive calls while roaming, often a flat fee of around 75p, while 3 doesn't.
Operators have begun offering such services since the European Commission began examining ways to force operators to lower their international roaming rates, which often amount to more than €1.50 (£1) per minute. Last year, the Commission proposed regulation that would require operators to lower their charges.
Some operators have made other moves to cut roaming fees in the hope of encouraging the Commission not to go through with the proposal. For instance, most operators have eliminated roaming across the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland and some have also eliminated roaming charges between Ireland and all of the UK.