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EE Outrage Shows Roaming Is No Longer An Optional Luxury

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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ANALYSIS: Few can travel without a smartphone in 2016, which is why EE roaming outage was such an issue for business travellers, tourists and even rockstars

The first thing many travellers do when their plane hits the runway in a foreign land is switch on their mobile phone (or at least switch flight mode off) to read messages, access emails or just to see the sports scores.

Although many choose to stick to Wi-Fi or not use their phone abroad entirely because of the high cost, cheaper rates (especially within the EU) and add-ons have made roaming more popular. And for business travellers, especially those on company contracts, it’s essential.

Smartphones have become important travel companions. Google Maps helps you navigate a foreign city, airlines let you check-in and store boarding passes on your mobile and hotel reservations can be saved to an app.

EE roaming

barcelonaImagine having none of that information to hand and being unable to arrange a taxi, or tell friends or family back home you were safe.

So when EE customers found they were unable to use their phone abroad this week, it was hardly surprising there was such an outcry. Social media was awash with complaints, and these are only from those who could find a Wi-Fi connection.

EE has now fixed the issues but it’s unclear at this stage what caused the problems and EE customers will be concerned – especially since many pay high rates or have splashed out on add-ons.

The importance of smartphones to everyday life means roaming isn’t optional, it’s essential for increasing numbers of people. That’s why the European Union (EU) is abolishing the charges by 2017 and why EE, Vodafone, Three and Tesco Mobile all offer some form of inclusive roaming or offer.

One third of mobile users don’t use their phone abroad at all, according to uSwitch, so that’s a lot of lost potential revenue.

Being left without connectivity is unacceptable for business travellers, inconvenient for others, and downright scary for some, and the problems are indiscriminate.

When professional boxers and the lead singer from Bastille are complaining, you know it’s serious.

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