Roaming partners

Harry asked about our roaming partners on Monzo’s forum and @ben seconded this last year, so… we don’t have that list (it’s ever-changing, and the agreements are managed by our host network), but I thought I’d shed some light on how the whole roaming negotiation thing works.

Twice a year, operators meet at the Wholesale Agreements and Solutions (WAS) conference* to discuss exactly this. In speed dating-like sessions, they agree on what they’ll charge each other for roaming – data access, calls to mobiles, calls to landlines, text messages, etc., etc. Having said that, I think the bigger deals are done directly.

And when you roam…

Your home network prioritises which operator you connect with, and depends on a few things – cost, connection quality, who sends them traffic, 4G availability, whether they’re part of the same group (e.g. Vodafone, Three…), etc.

You can manually override this (depending on the handset), but only to the operators your network has a roaming agreement with. Your SIM card stores a list of those operators (called a PLMN list; we don’t have access to it) which they can update remotely, and if you go into the network settings on your phone and disable automatic selection you can see them. :slight_smile:

*The next one’s in April with 280+ operators; we’re still waiting for an invite… :sweat_smile:

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Interesting stuff, the transparency and insights are appreciated!

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For me roaming is the reason I stick with the worlds worst customer service, in the package of Vodafone… to be able to have free roaming in most places and £6 in others as far as South Africa is a game changer… Realise this won’t be a driver for most people and a lower monthly would be…

I assume Vodafone are able to do this as they are an international business with a lot of weight, and I believe own some networks across the world?

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Yep! I think they own/operate networks in 25 countries, and partner with others in 47 more…

We’ll do our best with what’s available to start with; our roaming rates (particularly data) outside of the EEA are too damn high. It’s been our goal from day 1 to create a global, borderless mobile network, but that’s 10+ years away… watch this space! :wink:

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I found this pdf of EEs 4g partners on their site (site is down for maintenance so can’t direct link)

Doesn’t have all their partners but may be helpful to some

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For me personally, the majority of my travel abroad is within the EU, and only a few times a year. It’s much rarer to go to the rest of the world, so a lower monthly fee is much more important. Picking up a temporary sim with 3 for international roaming or a local sim is an option, if my own provider is too expensive. With voip and other social media having a single number is slowly becoming less important (though I’d still like to keep my mobile number I’ve had since university).

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Perhaps a bit late, but I wanted to share my experience with Zevvle roaming in Spain, that I visited between 12 and 15 July 2019.

My phone has generally worked fine with Zevvle. I did a little testing here and there, mostly data. I tried outgoing calls too which worked fine. Data speeds were also quite good, scoring near 60Mbps downlink. (although not as high as my EE contract SIM or local SIMs could go)

I do have to point out a couple of things that could improve the overall experience.
I could manually connect to Orange ES, Yoigo and Movistar. The default network was Orange, however only with Yoigo and Movistar I could connect to 4G. Getting the Orange as default meant that my phone would stay on 3G for almost all the time.
I stayed in Alicante where Orange 4G is mostly strong and I had tested with my EE contract SIM which happily stayed on 4G with Orange (Movistar/Yoigo too).
On manual selecting Yoigo or Movistar with Zevvle, I was able to get 4G, but for a user that doesn’t know or doesn’t care to know, the experience will definitely be degraded.

One more thing that could improve the experience is a welcome message. The usual Welcome to COUNTRY, with the basic charges info. I received that from my EE contract SIM, but not from Zevvle.

I will soon travel to Greece for about two weeks, so that should be a longer trip to test out roaming behaviour.

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Eurgh that’s annoying, and I hate to say there’s nothing we can do directly, but I’ve made a note for a travelling abroad help page to make it clearer (we’re overhauling that next month). The default network is up to our host (EE).

Agreed! Our supplier did offer us a generic SMS, but it was hardly useful so we’ll do something ourselves instead…

When do you leave? :slight_smile: Might be able to get a basic notification done in time…

Thank you for the feedback!

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Thanks for the reply @nick.
It is rather strange that EE have Orange ES as a default (even for themselves with a contract SIM) and with 4G, but do not allow Zevvle on Orange ES 4G.
I will be travelling to Greece on 24 August 2019.

[Off topic]

As a side note, I do want to say that EE roaming is a mess really and very inconsistent depending on the country. They will always try to blame the local network, even when you have proof with a local SIM. I have stories about this, that I could share one day.

Long story short, for their contracts SIMs, they still send an AMBR of 60/60 Mbps down/up and leave it up to the local network to decide whether to enforce a data speed cap or not. Obviously this may be different for Zevvle as an MVNO. I did not have an Android to test it in Spain and I probably will not have one with me in Greece.

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I’ll get the notifications done before you leave. :slight_smile: It’d be good to know how you get on, and the 3/4G situation as well!

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Sure @nick. I’ll post back here with more feedback.
I love breaks in Europe :smiley:

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Please offer an option to make the notifications in-app only so it respects people’s notification preferences (some may wish to disable them). I hate getting my texts flooded by useless automated messages that I have to delete manually across devices (a text deleted on iPhone still remains on the Mac’s and Apple Watch texts app).

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That’s what we’re going to do for now anyway, saves integrating with an SMS service :slight_smile:

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How is that going to work for places where calls and texts are available but data isn’t? Many people turn off mobile data when travelling so would only get the notification on connecting to wifi, or turning mobile data when arriving back in the UK.

Consider it version 1 for Europe – we’ll integrate SMS afterwards for that reason! We could do them both at once but it’d mean delays…

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A bit of a late update, but as promised, I tried Zevvle roaming in Greece, early September 2019.
I only tried it for a couple of days, as I was having a tiny bit too many cocktails and didn’t care much to play with the phone settings.

Zevvles roams with Cosmote and Wind in Greece. Both are on 4G. Manual selection is possible, as it seems there is no hard steering. Data and calls worked fine. I did not try SMS. I do have to mention that I did not receive a welcome text, just as I didn’t when I visited Spain in mid-July 2019.

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Do you have push notifications turned on? Those are enabled now, which we use instead of the texts to avoid bombarding you with messages…

Hi @nick
The SIM was in a Windows phone. The app was installed in a different Android phone. I don’t know if this would create any issues.

Ah, then the app on the Android should have got the notification… that’s a good point actually; hopefully that’s an issue at the moment.

Next trip is in November :wink:

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