Domestic 4G coverage is gradually growing, but the availability of high speed mobile internet access abroad will vary. It depends not only on whether the country you are visiting has 4G networking on offer, but whether your network provider has struck a deal with a local carrier to reduce the data roaming costs on 4G. Since EE is still the only UK network provider to offer 4G, you will need to consider the solutions that it offers for roaming.
People who are regularly going to be travelling abroad will probably be better off with a tariff that includes roaming costs and reduces rates as standard, but holidaymakers will also need to work out how much they will need to pay when using mobile abroad on 4G for even the shortest of trips.
European Coverage & Costs
The good news in terms of 4G coverage is that the majority of nations within the EU have now implemented this type of networking, although the availability of high speed connectivity in the area you are planning to visit will obviously vary. The list of European countries with 4G includes bigger nations like France, Germany, Spain and Italy as well as smaller places like Sweden, Monaco, Luxembourg and Malta.
Those who pick an EE roaming package for their 4G phone will be able to enjoy unlimited roaming minutes and texts in the selected European countries, which is good news. You will need to pay for data usage if you are out of the UK, even if you have a monthly allowance, but on the roaming tariff the cost of doing so will be cheaper. For those without the roaming plan, you might want to buy a roaming add-on to bulk up your tariff and ultimately save you money. These add-ons operate on a monthly basis and are rolling, so you will not have to commit to a lengthy contract if you want to use them for a short period.
International 4G Coverage & Costs
4G networking is not limited to European nations, but has also made itself known in other regions including North America, Australia, Brazil, India and Japan. As soon as you go outside the boundaries of the EU, you will find that the price of making and receiving calls, sending texts and accessing the internet will become significantly more expensive, even if you have a roaming data plan. Part of the problem is that local network providers can impose their own charges and so the bill you receive when you get home could be fairly large if you decide to keep your usage levels identical when you are overseas.
When it comes to the cost of 4G overseas usage when compared to 3G, these two should be fairly comparable, although again there are plenty of variables involved which make it difficult to put an exact figure on how much you will have to pay. Using 4G in the EU is going to be comparably cheap because of emerging continental regulations which are being put in place to stop providers overcharging for data. But again, if you venture further afield, there are no guarantees that you will get a good deal.
If you are supremely budget conscious, then the best way to access the internet from your smartphone while you are abroad is from a Wi-Fi hotspot. Plenty of destinations will have near blanket Wi-Fi coverage and this standardised form of connectivity is compatible with almost every device, so the limits on access will only come down to the venue which is hosting the hotspot.
It may be tempting to use 4G networking overseas if you have a compatible handset and tariff, although until this standard is a little better established and regulators have pushed through further price control measures, it might be more sensible to avoid this type of data connection until you are back on home turf once more.