1. What is the difference between international roaming and international communications?

Roaming is a paid service offered by your service provider which allows you to use your mobile device abroad to:

  • make and receive voice calls;
  • send and receive text messages (SMS) and multimedia messages (MMS);
  • use the Internet;
  • access voicemail;
  • have access to other features associated with this service.

Voice communications and roaming messages should not, however, be confused with voice communications and international messages, which are voice communications or messages that, when in Portugal, use the numbers of other countries or are sent from abroad. They may be established using, inter alia, mobile or fixed equipment.

Find out about the prices charged and rules applicable for international communications at: 

The costs of communications made or received through roaming outside the European Economic Area (EEA)1 are usually higher than the costs of communications in national territory, because the foreign operator charges a certain amount to the national operator for using their network. This also used to be the case for roaming communications between EEA countries.

However, as from 2007, as a result of EU rules, the prices charged for roaming communications, especially among EEA countries, started to decline, culminating in the entry into force of new rules as from 15 June 2017. According to these new rules, the tariffs charged for roaming communications (voice, SMS and data) between EEA countries have, in the most part, been brought into line with the tariffs paid by customers for communications in their home country; however, operators may apply a Fair Use Policy to roaming communications, with the aim, in particular, of preventing abusive or anomalous usage of the roaming service.

A summary of how tariff rules and legislation applicable to roaming between EEA countries has changed is given below:

Initially, following publication of Regulation (EC) no. 717/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2007https://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1025874, each EEA operator was required to implement at least one Eurotariff (a roaming tariff subject to certain price caps) for voice communications and for sending SMS messages in roaming between EEA countries, but could also offer other additional tariffs for these same communications (alternative tariffs). The Eurotariff price caps have been variously revised, with the last revision occurring upon the entry into force of Regulation (EU) no. 531/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 June 2012https://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1132567, which also established maximum roaming prices for data Eurotariffs.

Subsequently, Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015https://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1373317 amended some of the provisions of Regulation (EU) no. 531/2012 (see above), advancing towards the elimination, as from 15 June 2017, of differences between domestic tariffs and roaming between EEA countries. However, it also allowed operators to define a Fair Use Policy for the roaming service, whose rules were detailed in Regulation (EU) 2016/2286 of 15 December 2016https://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1401619.

Following publication of Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015, the previous obligation requiring operators to make Eurotariffs available was replaced. A new obligation was brought in, requiring operators to offer each customer the possibility of making or receiving roaming communications between EEA countries at prices no higher than those payable in the context of national communications; however, during a transitional period from 30 April 2016 to 14 June 2017, providers could still apply certain surcharges to these prices.

This Regulation also established an obligation to eliminate the application of these surcharges as from 15 June 2017, except in certain specified situations. These include cases where customers exceed the roaming service's Fair Use Policy, where defined by the operator (the detailed rules of the Fair Use Policy are set out by Regulation (EU) 2016/2286 of 15 December 2016), or if ANACOM grants authorisation, upon request of the operator, for continued application of the surcharge to their customers (such requests may only be granted in exceptional circumstances where the operator demonstrates that it is unable to recover the costs incurred).

For more information, see answers to the questions “Do my communications in roaming have the same price as my national communications from 15 June 2017?" and "What are the conditions for the implementation of Fair Use Policy (FUP) in roaming between countries of the European Economic Area (EEA)?".

1 European Union countries and Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.