Swiss mobile users tend to use their phones heavily while traveling abroad for sharing photos on Facebook or WhatsApp, using Google Maps, sending email or ordering Uber rides. But many phone users fail to inform themselves about the costs of mobile roaming before traveling.
That mistake results in a steady flow of unpleasant surprises. “Many of the standard roaming rates used by Swiss telecom service providers are still ridiculously expensive. Phone users who simply continue to use their phone when outside of Switzerland pay these standard rates,” explains telecom expert Ralf Beyeler.
Using its roaming calculator, moneyland.ch compared the rates applicable to roaming in EU member countries. Where a service provider uses different roaming rates for individual EU countries, moneyland.ch used Spain – a popular European holiday destination – as the point of reference.
Roaming options are often beneficial
Only phone users who get informed about the roaming options offered by their service provider for data and call roaming can benefit from the much more favorable rates which these options deliver. By using options, mobile users can save up to 90 percent – more in some cases – on roaming costs. But depending on the service provider, roaming charges can still be high even with roaming options, as the results of the moneyland.ch analysis show.
More and less customer-friendly conditions
One positive development is that many service providers have adopted more customer-friendly approaches with regards to data roaming cost pitfalls. Users of mobile plans from Swisscom, M-Budget, Coop Mobile and Wingo have to actively purchase a data roaming bundle before their phone can connect to the Internet outside of Switzerland (if their plan does not include data roaming allowances). This eliminates the danger of being hit with unexpected charges for mobile data transfers while traveling. Some plans and prepaid offers from Swisscom, Salt and Sunrise are much less customer friendly in that they still expose users to the risk of being charged high standard roaming rates.
Roaming price comparison 2019
For its comparison, moneyland.ch used this mobile user profile: The generic user spends 14 days in Spain during which time they use 1 gigabyte of roaming data and make 60 2-minute phone calls. Plans which include roaming allowances were not included in the comparison.
The results: A plan from Yallo or Lebara works out cheapest, at 40 Swiss francs. The most expensive solution for the profile used is ok.- at 22,605.50 francs. In practice, service providers freeze your number before you can accumulate excessive charges.
The 3 biggest and most widely used service providers fall in the mid-range. The profile user would pay 58.95 francs with a Salt plan, 59.90 francs with a Swisscom plan or prepaid service and 69 francs (plan users) or 79.90 francs (prepaid users) with Sunrise. Salt is the fourth most expensive option for prepaid users, at 273.95 francs.
Changes in 2019 from 2018
In 2018, moneyland.ch conducted the same roaming price comparison based on the same user profile. Out of a total of 20 mobile service providers, 10 have since changed their prices significantly enough to influence calculations.
What is surprising is that 3 service providers have increased prices. Customers of Coop Mobile experienced the highest price increase of 24.8 percent. Coop Mobile’s move from Salt to Swisscom as its service partner played a major role in this increase. For data roaming in particular, Coop Mobile is notably more expensive than Swisscom and M-Budget. Sunrise plan users experienced a small price increase when Sunrise increased the cost of many data roaming bundles and roaming options by 90 centimes in 2019.
On the other end of the scale, 7 service providers lowered their prices. TalkTalk, the mobile service of the Mobilezone group, had the biggest price decrease at 65.6 percent. Based on the profile used, a TalkTalk plan user would pay 62.50 francs this year – down from 181.45 francs in 2018. The reason for this massive price drop is that TalkTalk recently began using identical rates for mobile data use in Switzerland and in EU member countries.
The roaming rates of Sunrise subsidiaries Yallo and Lebara decreased by 20 percent. These service providers are currently the most affordable options for the profile used. Swisscom lowered its roaming rates by 7.7 percent, but is still around 50 percent more expensive than Yallo and Lebara.
With all the changes we’ve seen since last year, it comes as a surprise that the roaming rates of 10 of the 20 service providers included in the comparison remain unchanged since the 2018 comparison. The overall impression among consumers is that roaming prices are on a steady downward path. “heavy advertising by a handful of telecom service providers has incorrectly convinced consumers that high roaming charges are a thing of the past,” States Ralf Beyeler. The facts show that many service providers have not lowered their roaming rates. Some service providers, like Coop Mobile, have radically raised their roaming rates.
Data roaming in Europe comparison
Because an increasing number of mobile users now communicate over the Internet while traveling instead of making phone calls, moneyland.ch compared the costs of data roaming alone, without accounting for call roaming.
The result: For 1 gigabyte of data use, Swisscom’s budget subsidiary Wingo works out cheapest at 5 francs. Users pay 5 francs for 1 gigabyte of data whether they use mobile data in Switzerland or in EU member countries. Wingo’s rates for using mobile data in EU countries only differs from those for Switzerland when higher amounts of data are used.
The most expensive services for 1 gigabyte of data roaming are the prepaid service from TalkTalk (1000 francs) and the ok.- service (22,500 francs).
The most affordable service for 3 gigabytes of roaming data is also Wingo, at 15 francs. Sunrise if the most affordable service for 10 gigabytes of roaming data, thanks to its 40-gigbyte data roaming bundle for 19.90 francs.
The comparison shows that on the whole, data roaming in Europe has become much more affordable. 18 out of the 22 mobile service providers included in the data roaming comparison charge less than 100 francs for 3 gigabytes of roaming data. 7 service providers charge less than 100 francs for 10 gigabytes of roaming data.
Important: Beware of cost pitfalls
The danger of cost traps for Swiss mobile users is still very real. Roaming bundles which expire after a certain period of time (typically 30 days after activation) are one example of this. “It is high time for telecom service providers to remove expiry dates from roaming bundles,” demands telecom expert Ralf Beyeler.
So far, only Coop Mobile offers bundles which do not expire. But there has been a positive trend in the telecom market in this regard: minor service providers Mucho Mobile and Qynamic have extended the validity periods of their roaming bundles. Qynamic roaming bundles are now valid for 90 days from activataion. Mucho Mobile roaming bundles are now valid for 180 days – nearly half a year. “When will Swisscom, Sunrise and Salt finally follow suit?” asks Ralf Beyeler.
Salt has particularly customer-unfriendly condition in this regard. Its roaming options Talk Europe/World and Internet Europe/World expire on the 9th day of each month.
The automatic renewal of roaming options if they are not cancelled ahead of the expiry date presents another cost pitfall for mobile users. Users must take care to terminate unneeded options, or these will be renewed automatically at the user’s expense.
Plans with included roaming allowances are not the cheapest solution
Increasingly, telecom service providers are offering “carefree” plans with “unlimited” roaming included in their flat fees. But here too, mobile users should read the fine print before signing up. For example, when Swisscom and Sunrise advertise unlimited roaming, what they mean is that you get 40 gigabytes of high-speed roaming data, after which data is heavily throttled. Another negative is that the “Europe-wide” roaming allowances included in these plans do not actually cover all European countries. For example, many Balkan countries are excluded from the roaming allowances included in “carefree” plans.
For your typical tourist who travels abroad for up to 2 weeks per year on vacation, plans which include roaming allowances a sensible solution. The reason is that the flat fees of these plans are significantly higher than those of similar plans which do not include roaming allowances. Average customers can save money by using an affordable plan without included roaming allowances and simply purchasing roaming bundles ahead of vacations.
Compare roaming offers based on your individual needs
The practical roaming calculator on moneyland.ch makes it easy to find the best roaming option for your travel needs. The cheapest solution varies depending on your phone use and which country you are traveling to. The calculator accounts for all of these factors. If you are open to changing your mobile plan, the interactive mobile plan comparison on moneyland.ch lets you compare plans from all Swiss mobile service providers based on roaming costs.