Vodafone readies LTE roaming push with coverage in 18 countries

LTE is faster and simpler to use than Wi-Fi connections when travelling, according to the operator

Vodafone's subscribers will soon be able to roam using their smartphones and tablets via LTE networks in 18 countries, including the U.K., Germany and France.

Between now and the summer, the operator will add roaming in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the U.K.  Subscribers will also be able to communicate via the networks of other mobile operators in Austria, Belgium, France, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland, the company said on Tuesday.

Vodafone already offers LTE roaming on its own networks in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain. The cost is the same as roaming using 3G networks, according to Vodafone. LTE is faster, simpler to use and often less expensive than typical, hotel Wi-Fi connections in Europe, the operator said.

Roaming continues to be a hot issue in Europe as the European Commission plans to get rid of roaming fees altogether. On Monday, the Commission said Europe's mobile operators are losing out on business from 300 million customers by charging premiums within the EU.

Vodafone has fast-tracked its LTE roaming plans to ensure that big holiday destinations are covered in time for the summer break, as part of a £7 billion (US$11.7 billion) investment program. The push is also good news for subscribers of other operators as Vodafone will let them roam onto its LTE networks under existing agreements, it said.

As the number of LTE networks and subscribers have increased, operators such as AT&T, Swisscom, Telstra and TeliaSonera and have started offering 4G roaming on a smaller scale. More are waiting in the wings. Last month, Orange said 4G roaming will be fully available across its European networks as well as "major destinations outside of Europe" by the end of year.

Vodafone's 18 countries is a good start, but there are now commercial LTE networks in 101 countries, according to industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association), so there is room to grow.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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