Prices for international roaming services

For the swiss users, the average prices for international voice roaming within Europe have tended to rise in 2018, while prices in the rest of the world have fallen slightly. The average prices for international data roaming within Europe and in the rest of the world have remained stable in 2018. The development of average standard prices for SMS in 2018 shows a slight downward trend compared to the previous year only in the EU and only for postpaid subscribers, otherwise the price level remains stable.  


Four times a year, OFCOM surveys the volumes (voice, SMS and data) consumed abroad and the corresponding revenues directly from the three mobile telecommunication providers. From this, OFCOM calculates the average prices paid for voice and data roaming and for roaming SMS. What is referred to below as "price" is actually revenues divided by volume and should not be confused with the tariffs which actually apply. The more attractive the roaming prices are the more people consume abroad. For this reason, the aggregated prices in the OFCOM survey tend to be rather low, as they reflect the volumes actually consumed, which are more likely to be caused by consumers benefiting from low tariffs.

The Swiss mobile operators offer their mobile telephony services in bundles with other services. Some of them state that they are unable to break down the revenues which are attributable solely to roaming. Furthermore, all three providers have mobile telephony offers with roaming inclusive minutes. This trend also makes it more difficult to dispatch the revenue generated by roaming, as the volumes consumed are no longer charged per unit but as a flat rate with the monthly basic charge. For this reason, OFCOM is working for the time being only with figures (revenue and corresponding volumes) which do not come from bundled products.


Average prices of Swiss providers for international voice roaming services

Average prices, roaming calls

For outgoing calls, it is noticeable that calls back to Switzerland are the cheapest. The corresponding average price per minute in 2018 was CHF 0.68. Somewhat more (CHF 0.81 ) is paid for calls within the UE/EEA area. Outgoing calls made while in other countries of the world cost Swiss roaming customers an average of CHF 1.76 per minute actually charged, which is about twice more expensive than outgoing calls from the EU/EEA area.

Incoming roaming calls in foreign European countries are about half as expensive as outgoing calls (CHF 0.38 per minute actually charged). In the fourth quarter of 2018, incoming roaming calls received in other parts of the world cost an average of CHF 1.45 per minute (see figure below).

Price developments for calls (billed minutes), in CHF excl. VAT

The chart below shows the price development by region and price plan (postpaid or prepaid). Voice roaming services with a subscription (but without included roaming minutes) within the EU tend to become more expensive, while the price development over the last two years in the rest of the world for subscription and prepaid customers has tended to decrease.

Price devolopments for transmitted Data, Subscription vs Prepaid, in CHF per MB excl. VAT

The price difference between postpaid and prepaid subscriptions is striking. Since 2016, prepaid customers seem to pay a lower per-minute rate than subscription customers. This unexpected result can certainly be attributed, on one hand, to the ever-narrower database. The proportion of roaming volume caused by consumers with a bundled product is growing all the time. However, this part cannot be shown in OFCOM statistics because some providers do not break down their revenue from bundled products by service. For this reason, OFCOM statistics concentrate on non-bundled consumers, who account for a fraction of the total volume in terms of consumption.

On the other hand, the trend towards rising prices for the remaining non-bundle subscription consumers has been apparent since 2015. Since that date, the volumes of data and voice consumed by customers of bundled products have grown much faster than those of other customers.

The share of prepaid volume has continued to decline in 2018 and is lower than ever before at 2.7% of total volume. This is due to the declining number of prepaid customers.

Wahl des Vertragsart für Sprachkommunikation, Abo vs Prepaid

In the case of medium or high roaming usage, it may be useful to activate an option in order to optimize expenditure. Within Europe, the purchase of an option allows to save around 60% of the rate per minute (see the following figure). In the rest of the world, an option allows to save around 31% of the rate per minute (see figure below).

Price developments for outgoing calls (billed minutes) Standard vs Option, in CHF excl. VAT

The billing of roaming calls made at minute intervals has a direct impact on the cost of these services. The difference between the number of roaming minutes actually consumed and the minutes billed by the mobile mobile operators (due to billing on a per-minute basis) will continue to be important for Swiss consumers in 2018. For outgoing calls within the EU / rest of the world, 23% / 27% more minutes are charged than actually consumed. For incoming calls within the EU / rest of the world in 2018, 25% / 31 % more minutes are charged than were actually consumed.


Average prices of Swiss providers for international data roaming services

The average price for data roaming in the EU/EEA countries fell again in 2018, averaging CHF 0.20 per MB (0.23 in 2017). Data usage in the rest of the world also tended to become cheaper in 2018, at CHF 0.12 per MB. The fact that the prices for the EU are more expensive than in the rest of the world is atypical and can be attributed to the ever smaller data base (see above).

Price developments for transmitted Data, in CHF per MB excl. VAT

Compared to the EU/EEA, Swiss prices for data roaming are still high. This can partly be explained by the fact that Swiss providers have to negotiate their wholesale roaming tariffs with their European partners. On average, these amount to around CHF 0.02 per MB in 2018. By contrast, wholesale prices in the EU are regulated and set much lower, which may partly explain the price difference.

The graph below shows the price development within the EU and the rest of the world depending on the price plan. The difference between postpaid and prepaid subscriptions is still significant (see figures below). In 2018 an MB with a postpaid plan will cost on average CHF 0.20 (EU) or CHF 0.12 (RoW), whereas with a prepaid offer it will cost CHF 0.34 (EU/RoW).

Price developments for transmitted Data, Subscription vs Prepaid, in CHF per MB excl. VAT

However, the above-mentioned average subscription prices reflect only part of the reality, as consumers increasingly have subscriptions that include roaming services. This means that roaming is partly or fully charged at a flat rate and no longer according to consumption. As these revenues are not reported by the providers, they cannot be included in the statistics.


Average prices of Swiss providers for international SMS roaming services

The development of average prices for sending an SMS abroad shows a downward trend in 2018. Average prices for SMS roaming within the EU are going down, while prices in the rest of the world (rest of the world) remain relatively stable. In 2018, sending an SMS message from abroad will cost an average of around CHF 0.28 in the EU, and CHF 0.10 more in the rest of the world. Prices vary greatly depending on the type of contract (postpaid/prepaid).

For the year 2018, an SMS with prepaid is 70% (EU, standard rate), or 66% (rest of the world, standard rate) more expensive than with postpaid subscription. However, the above-mentioned average prices of prepaid and postpaid subscriptions reflect only part of the reality, because roaming services are increasingly included in the basic charge. This means that mobile phone providers no longer charge according to consumption, but with a flat rate (monthly basic charge). The providers do not specify what part of the monthly fee is charged for any roaming, which is why OFCOM can only calculate the average values for "normal users". The cost of a roaming SMS for consumers with a roaming inclusive product cannot be calculated.


Specialist staff
Last modification 13.02.2020

Top of page