3s 3 Like Home service, which effectively extends its network to other 3 networks worldwide, charging customers as though they are at home when they are roaming on 3 networks abroad, seems to be generating quite a bit of interest among industry commentators. Two have been in touch with us to share their thoughts, so we are happy to give them a platform here.
Pure Pricing, which offers independent analysis of UK and European mobile pricing, believes that 3 Like Home s one of the most competitive roaming offers in the UK. Analysis by the company shows 3 saving customers up to 6.50 on two short calls compared to the other UK networks.
We are seeing an increasing number of roaming propositions in the market, such as 3 Like Home, O2s Chosen Country Spain, O2 My Europe and Vodafones Passport, which are reducing the uncertainty and the overall costs associated with roaming says Pure Pricing Director, Jo Lynch. However, there still tends to be restrictions applied to such offers, for example the country and/or networks where the offers are available, which may continue to cause some confusion for customers.
Pure Pricing also notes some disadvantages with the 3 offer - the limited 3 footprint means that customers roaming to other key holiday destinations such as Spain and France will find 3s standard pricing one of the more expensive options available. And, like the Vodafone Passport offer, customers must remain on the preferred network for the discounted pricing to apply.
Stefan Zehle, a consultant at Coleago Consulting, describes the move as: a small revolution. He points out that 3s Austrian operation already had on offer a no additional fee roaming tariff for its data service, promoted as 3 like home.Laptop wireless data users pay as little as 0.8 Euro cents (0.5 pence) per Mbyte says Zehle. By comparison, Vodafone UK charges customers who roam on Vodafone preferred networks abroad between 2 and 4.11 per Mbyte i.e. between 400 and 800 times as much as an Austrian Three customer pays. One does not often see price differences on this enormous scale!
The price pressure exerted by Three becomes even stronger when one takes into account that Three already offers Skype on some of its handsets, says Zehle.
Skype traffic, if not free (as with 3s X-Series), is simply charged as data traffic and not by the minute he points out. While some operators may currently restrict the use of Skype on their cheapest data tariffs, it is only a matter of time before these restrictions will crumble away.
And Zehle says 3s move will be welcomed by EU commissioner Viviane Reding, who is trying to regulate down the cost of international mobile roaming.
The defence of European operators citing high costs looks shaky in the light of 3s no-roaming fee move says Zehle. Costs are of course only high because wholesale prices, which the operators charge to each other, are hugely inflated and well above the lowest retail prices. The days of paying more than 50 pence a minute when roaming in Europe are numbered. Soon paying for mobile usage will be more like paying for broadband, i.e. a simple monthly charge, regardless of where and when the phone is used.