Vodafone on Tuesday unveiled plans to roll out 4G roaming in no fewer than 18 countries by this summer, laying claim to the world's largest 4G roaming footprint.
The operator already offers 4G roaming on its networks in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. By this summer, it will extend 4G roaming to its networks in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the U.K. Vodafone customers will also be able to access the 4G networks of other operators in Austria, Belgium, France, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland.
Vodafone said 4G roaming will be charged at the same rates as 3G roaming.
In the U.K., that means postpaid customers travelling within Europe can pay £3 per day on top of their tariff to use the same voice, SMS and data allowances they get when they are in the U.K. Outside Europe, customers can get a modest 25 MB of data for the princely sum of £5 per day. When prepaid customers on Vodafone World rates travel in Europe they pay £2 per day for the first 25 MB, then £0.45 per megabyte. When they go outside Europe, the cost rises to £5 for the first 25 MB, then £3 per megabyte.
Prices of course vary for Vodafone customers in other markets.
"Much faster, simpler to use and often less expensive than typical, hotel WiFi connections anywhere in Europe, 4G roaming will give our customers high-speed connections for video, music streaming, Web surfing, working and much more," said Paolo Bertoluzzo, chief commercial and operations officer at Vodafone, in a statement.
Customers who stay within these limits are unlikely to encounter the dreaded bill shock; however, the prevailing perception of a typical subscriber is that roaming is expensive, and the reality is that many people still avoid accessing mobile services when they go abroad.
According to a survey published by the European Commission on Monday, 300 million people limit their mobile use when travelling within Europe due to roaming charges.
Abolishing roaming charges in the EU is one of the major reforms proposed by Digital Agenda chief Neelie Kroes as part of her Connected Continent package.
"Roaming makes no sense in a single market – it's economic madness," said Kroes on Monday.