Another region has made roaming easier; this time it’s the Western Balkans. In fact, the Roam Like at Home regime in the Western Balkans has just entered into force.
Since 1 July, all roaming costs within the region have been eliminated. That means no roaming charges for end users travelling between or in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.
This is described as a historic achievement of cooperation among the telecom ministries and independent regulators of the region, supported by the European Commission. It is also, according to the European Neighbourhood Policy And Enlargement Negotiations website of the EU, a stepping stone in the digital transformation of the region.
It’s been a fairly long time coming, it seems. In 2019, the Western Balkan leaders signed the Regional Roaming Agreement in Belgrade and committed to eliminating roaming charges within the region. The aim was to improve connectivity and bring the tangible benefits of the regional agenda to citizens and businesses alike.
The first phase of the implementation, introduced on 1 July 2019, gradually reduced roaming charges by over 80 percent, and has already led to a significant increase in data traffic in the entire Western Balkan region. The next step is the preparation of a roadmap for the reduction of roaming charges between the EU and the Western Balkans.
The European Commission has fully supported this process, which was facilitated by the Regional Cooperation Council, with the assistance of the Body of European Regulators, BEREC. Setting up a roaming free zone is also a significant step for the Western Balkans in aligning with EU Digital Single Market principles and practices.
According to TeleGeography's CommsUpdate, this Roam Like at Home system features appropriate or fair use conditions; consumers may not be entitled to use their full data allowance while roaming. In fact they will have to consult their tariffs to see how much data they are allowed to use in other countries in the Western Balkans.
As we noted earlier, this is a continuing trend. Earlier this year we reported that Azerbaijan had joined an initiative to create a single roaming space between the countries of the Eastern Partnership. Similar agreements have either been mooted or put in place in recent years in areas as diverse as Andean community member states, the Central African Economic and Monetary Community and the Economic Community of West African States.