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I'm currently in Germany roaming with my Czech Vodafone card. In some areas the 3G/LTE Vodafone.de signal is really bad, so I've thought it might be worth a try to switch to a different network since EU roaming is supposed to work anywhere for free. Unfortunately my phone was unable to register on a non-Vodafone network so I couldn't fully test the theory.

So, is EU roaming supposed to allow you to connect to any phone operator within a given country? Or can your home operator restrict your choice to a single network of their liking? The official roaming FAQ fails to mention anything relevant.

  • My general impression is that when using roaming the network is terribly bad. It applies even for the so-called internal roaming, used by cheap operators like ALDI. – Rg7x gW6a cQ3g Jul 6 '17 at 6:50
  • @9ilsdx9rvj0lo that really does depend - whenever I have roamed, I have ended up on a main local provider and had just as good speeds and coverage. I'm currently in New Zealand, roaming on Spark, and it's great. – Moo Jul 6 '17 at 6:53
  • @9ilsdx9rvj0lo it's usually more than satisfactory in city centers, but sucks in the rural areas – JonathanReez Jul 6 '17 at 7:30
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    I believe most providers have a list of their roaming partners in specific countries on their website. I know for sure O2 had it, but not able to find the link. Why not try manual selection of network and see how it goes ? – DumbCoder Jul 6 '17 at 7:45
  • I bet you get a SMS after crossing the border; which informs you about everything you need to know. Dont understand? Call hotline. (As I did, its confusing - I am on Telecom). – Kyslik Jul 6 '17 at 9:48
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No, the EU roaming directive doesn't require providers to allow roaming with any network provider, so agreements between providers are still in force - the directive does include provisions for managing wholesale prices between providers but does not go as far as mandating open roaming.

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From my personal experience while travelling in Western Europe (Czech, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria,Slovakia, Slovenia, Swiss and Italy) if I recall correctly, they all have around 3 or 4 networks in their country but Vodafone is more common among them. I use O2-de, and when I roam I observe that I usually can connect to only one (if the other country also has o2) and can connect to two networks( if the country doesn't have an o2 network). But I could never connect to a Vodafone network with my o2 sim in any country though, only the other options if o2 is not available.

So I assume, if the country has the provider same as yours you are forced to use the same, but if not you may be able to connect to more than one.(in your case Vodafone is present in both DE and CZ)

EU- Regulation only makes the roaming free. To provide you good roaming services it is upto each provider and their agreements with other roaming partners for each country.

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For you to roam in a foreign network, your Home operator and the Visited operator must already have a roaming agreement in place (or both have such an agreement with the same roaming hub). So if your operator has agreements with two local operators, you will be able to choose from any one of the two or your SIM will choose one based on its preferred network list (eg. first try A and then B).

What was a commonplace situation is that the Home operator used 'steering'; a technique to force you to register to a specific network (most commonly by rejecting MAP_SendAuthenticationInfo from operator B and allowing it for operator A), however this is limited nowadays.

So what happened most likely in your situation is that Vodafone CZ just didn't have any roaming agreements with other German operators. Same happened for me (Vodafone GR) both in Germany and Ireland last week, Vodafone DE and Vodafone IE respectively.

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