EU acts to cap mobile roaming rates by 2014

7 Jul 2011

Responding to what it considers outrageously high and uncompetitive roaming rates still being foisted on consumers by mobile operators, the European Commission has proposed capping roaming calls at 24 cents a minute and data downloads at 50 cents per megabyte by 2014.

By 1 July 2014, roaming consumers in Europe will pay no more than 24 cents per minute to make a call, a maximum 10 cents per minute to receive a call, maximum 10 cents to send a text message and maximum 50 cents per megabyte to download data or browse the internet while travelling abroad (charged per Kilobyte used) under a new regulation.

Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, said: “This proposal tackles the root cause of the problem – the lack of competition on roaming markets – by giving customers more choice and by giving alternative operators easier access to the roaming market. It would also immediately bring down prices for data roaming, where operators currently enjoy outrageous profit margins.”

Consumers will shop around for roaming deals

The directly binding regulation proposed would for the first time introduce structural measures to boost competition by allowing customers from 1 July 2014, if they so wish, to sign up for a cheaper mobile roaming contract, separate from their contract for national mobile services, while using the same phone number.

The proposal would also give mobile operators (including so-called virtual mobile operators, who do not have their own network) the right to use other operators’ networks in other Member States at regulated wholesale prices, and so encourage more operators to compete on the roaming market.

Consumers’ and business travellers’ monthly bills for data access over mobile networks when abroad would continue to be limited to €50 unless the customer explicitly agreed otherwise.

Kroes said the proposal would tackle the current lack of competition and consumer choice by making it easier for alternative operators like MVNOs to enter roaming markets at regulated wholesale prices.

Also, by letting consumers choose an alternative provider for roaming services irrespective of their national provider and keeping their number consumers could shop around for the best roaming offers – thereby driving further competition.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years