Telecom News

Mobile Roaming Pitfalls in 2020

June 15, 2020 - Ralf Beyeler

The borders are finally being opened, and many Swiss holidaymakers are setting their sights on foreign destinations. A comparison of mobile roaming rates by telecom expert Ralf Beyeler of independent online comparison service shows that there are still pitfalls, even in neighboring countries. Depending on your mobile service provider, mobile roaming costs in Europe are still very high.

The Coronavirus pandemic has temporarily made leaving Switzerland impossible for most residents. From June 15, 2020, the borders between Switzerland and France, Austria and Germany will be fully open and travel to many European countries will be possible again.

Residents of Switzerland are sure to begin traveling abroad again – with neighboring countries being the most likely initial destinations. “If you plan to holiday outside of Switzerland, you should make sure to get informed about roaming costs,” recommends Ralf Beyeler, telecom expert at independent online comparison service “Using your Swiss mobile plan outside of Switzerland without taking the time to get informed can lead to unpleasant cost pitfalls.”

Always use roaming options or bundles

The most important tip for holidaymakers: “Avoid using your mobile plan outside of Switzerland without making necessary preparations first. Simply using your phone at the standard roaming rates will result in very high telephone bills,” explains Ralf Beyeler.

“Adding a roaming option or bundle ahead of using your phone to make calls or access the Internet abroad is recommend.” This is particularly true if you use a mobile plan which does not include mobile roaming allowances.

Swisscom has not lowered mobile roaming prices

2020 is the first year in many years in which Swisscom has not lowered its data roaming fees. Previously, Switzerland’s largest telecom service provider consistently lowered the prices of its data roaming bundles in March or April of each year.

“It is surprising that Swisscom has is not taking a more active approach to mobile roaming at this point in time,” evaluates Ralf Beyeler. “By not adjusting its pricing, Swisscom is allowing its competitors to offer much more attractive rates for many roaming cases,” adds Beyeler.

In the past, Swisscom’s active approach to pricing drover other mobile service providers to adjust their mobile roaming pricing as well. Swisscom’s abstaining from lowering roaming rates this year has resulted in the Swiss telecom market stagnating in this respect. “Of course, that may also be due to the Coronavirus crisis,” says Beyeler.

However, Sunrise announced changes to its data roaming bundles several days ago. In addition to slashing prices for some bundles, Sunrise also increased the size of some bundles without raising price tags and also raised the prices of some services.

Roaming costs compared

For the second consecutive year, compared current prices for mobile roaming in EU countries using its mobile roaming calculator. The comparison is based on the following user profile: The mobile user spends 14 days in Europe (Spain was used as the destination country in cases where rates differ between countries); they use 1000 megabytes of roaming data and make 60 roaming calls with an average length of 2 minutes each. The comparison does not account for mobile plans or prepaid offers which include roaming allowances.

The results show that there are major differences between individual plans and prepaid offers. The most affordable services for this user profile are mobile plans from Lebara and Yallo: The user would pay 40 Swiss francs for the 60 roaming calls and 1000 megabytes of roaming data. Swype from Yallo comes in third. Curiously, the 60 minutes of roaming calls and 1000 megabytes of roaming data would cost the user roughly the same amount (around 60 francs) whether they used Swisscom, Sunrise, Salt mobile plans, Lidl mobile plans, ALDI or Wingo.

But there are mobile service providers which do not fit the pricing mold. The most expensive services for the profile are: Digitec Connect (152.40 francs); prepaid services from Lidl and Salt (both 274.95 francs); TalkTalk (1151.50 francs); and ok.- from Valora (22,605.50 francs). Because these are prepaid offers, users do not have to worry about getting enormous phone bills.

Mobile roaming costs more than last year

There have been a number of price increases since June 2019. Five mobile service providers have raised prices over the past year. Only two service providers have lowered prices. It is also noteworthy that the prices charged by the most affordable service providers have not changed, while mid-priced mobile service providers have raised their prices.

Huge price differences for data roaming in Europe

Increasingly, mobile users are making less roaming phone calls and are using the Internet to communicate. In keeping with this trend, also compared the costs of data roaming in Europe separately from call roaming.

Differences between service providers are huge. The user would pay just 10 francs for 1 gigabyte of data roaming in Europe with a TalkTalk mobile plan. Mucho Mobile takes second place with 14 francs per 1 gigabyte of roaming data. and Swisscom is the third most affordable at 14.90 francs. Quickline and Qynamic are next (both 15 francs). The user would pay around 20 francs using Sunrise plans, ALDI SUISSE mobile, M-Budget Mobile plans, Salt, Yallo or Lebara.

More expensive services include Coop Mobile (40 francs for 1 gigabyte) and UPC (60 francs). The most expensive services are TalkTalk prepaid and ok.- Mobile (from Kiosk operator Valora), which theoretically charge 1000 francs and 22,500 francs respectively.

The list looks different when you compare offers based on 3 gigabytes of data roaming. In this case, Sunrise plans are the most affordable at 19.90 francs for 3 gigabytes of roaming data. Yallo and Lebara – both budget subsidiaries of Sunrise – take second place at 25 francs for 3 gigabytes.

Swisscom (39.90 francs) and Salt (59.85 francs) are significantly more expensive. If you used 3 gigabytes of data via mobile roaming while traveling abroad, you would pay twice as much using Swisscom as you would using Sunrise. If you used Salt, you would pay three times what Swisscom charges. Those are shocking differences in pricing for the same service.

You get similar results when you compare data roaming based on 10 gigabytes of roaming data. Sunrise plans are the most affordable at 29.90 francs for 10 gigabytes. Yallo and Lebara plans are next at 35 francs. All three of these price tags include 40 gigabytes of roaming data – a substantial amount. Swisscom is notably more expensive at 135 francs, as is Salt at 140 francs for 10 gigabytes.

Beware of standard roaming rates

Swiss mobile service providers have long used a very customer-unfriendly roaming strategy. On the one hand, there are excessively expensive standard roaming rates which automatically apply when you use your phone abroad, if you do not have any active roaming bundles or allowances. On the other hand, they offer affordable roaming bundles and options, but you have to actively seek these out and add them to your plan or prepaid service.

According to official 2018 statistics from the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), 84% of all roaming customers used mobile roaming at standard roaming rates. Even though this statistic may include mobile plans which include roaming allowances, it clearly shows that many mobile users do not purchase roaming options before traveling abroad – potentially a very expensive mistake.

Example: Salt customers who purchase roaming options before traveling pay 20 centimes per minute for roaming calls in Europe. Without adding the option, the same Salt user would pay 1.99 francs per minute. Differences are even bigger outside of Europe. Salt customers pay 40 centimes per minute with a relevant roaming option, and 4.99 francs per minute without one.

But roaming options too are not free from cost traps. In many cases, you have to actively deactivate roaming options when you return to Switzerland. Until you deactivate the option, the service provider automatically adds the same option each month and charges you for it – even if you do not use the roaming allowance.

Mobile plans with included roaming allowances do not always pay off

Swiss telecom service providers are increasingly offering mobile plans which include roaming allowances in their flat fees. These plans are practical because you can use your phone outside of Switzerland (at least in Europe) without having to worry about adding an option or bundle first.

But these plans are generally not a good deal for mobile users who only travel abroad occasionally on vacations. If you only travel abroad once a year, your roaming needs hardly justify the relatively high monthly flat fees you pay for these plans.

Find the best deal with the roaming calculator

The independent online comparison service offers a free, practical mobile roaming calculator. You can use this to calculate roaming costs based on your specific roaming needs. The calculator automatically shows which roaming model is the most affordable for your specific mobile plan or prepaid offer.

The interactive mobile plan comparison on also accounts for the exact roaming costs for all offers in price comparisons.
Roaming tips

What should you pay attention to when using your smartphone outside of Switzerland? Get informed in the guide to data roaming and the guide to call roaming.

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Expert Ralf Beyeler
Ralf Beyeler is the telecom expert at and also covers other areas of personal finance.