One of the EU’s great recent achievements is abolishing mobile roaming charges.

It used to be that when crossing a border within the EU, you’d see the savvy travelers swapping their PAYG SIM cards, while the not-so-astute contract customers would absorb horrendous roaming charges (which they’d only notice on their bills at the end of the month).

Now the difference between Mobile Contract and Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) is that the Mobile Contract is written under a particular (national) sovereign jurisdiction (there is usually a clause saying: “disputes will be resolved under the courts of ….”, and “we don’t jet have an EU jurisdiction for this sort of business”); whereas, PAYG, is more of a bearer instrument. – Now I’ve been banging on with Nokia Customer Support for decades asking why they don’t provide a properly functioning dual-SIM mobile ‘phone; but the answer boils down to their policy of developing mobile ‘phones for the benefit of the network providers, not for the benefit of the end-user customers. Samsung on the other hand has provided a dual-SIM mobile in their product range, but only available in Europe, where it has never really taken off. (I have never seen these models of Samsung available in the UK.) – This tells me that the UK is more in hock to big business than much of the EU!

Imagine my surprise when recently I was really in need of a new mobile ‘phone (SIM unlocked) and I found a Chinese model right here in Sevenoaks for £30.

Needless to say, I snapped it up immediately. I’m told it was flying off the shelves, and a week later Nokia had a fully functioning dual-SIM model on the shelves at the same shop. – I though this was interesting. – But, on my travels, I met a man from Burkina Faso who had an almost identical Chinese 3-SIM ‘phone which he purchased back home for €10.

So I got chatting to ‘phone shops in the Netherlands where they too had a small range of Chinese dual-SIM ‘phones and a Samsung dual-SIM smart-phone. Then I heard that in India you can even get a 5-SIM ‘phone!! But then I was warned that Indian products (and many Asian products are illegal in the EU). Of course, there may be the question of counterfeit and the infringement of copyright trade agreements; but more importantly, many Asian products have crime enabling features (such as programmable IMEI numbers) built into them.

Now, what is happening here? Why do Burkina Faso and India have better products than we can get here in the UK? – I believe that roaming charges have been a nice little earner for Network Operators; and that they have used every means possible to protect their market position by going against PAYG, SIM swapping and muti-SIM ‘phones. But since the EU has banned roaming charges, roaming has become a cost to Network Operators and they need to find a new business model. – Maybe it’s now in the Network Operators best interest to allow us to swap network providers when we cross national boundaries; and all that that implies. – I believe we are on the cusp of a significant market shift.

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