EU broadband roaming cap: a victory for consumers?

24 Mar 2009

Bill shocks could be a thing of the past in Europe. The European Union (EU) today reached a draft deal to slash the cost of texting from abroad, as well as setting the wholesale cost of internet surfing using mobile broadband.

The compromise sets ceiling limits on the prices telecom operators can charge for making and receiving calls while outside the subscribers’ home country.

From July 1 this year, the ceiling will be €0.43 per minute, excluding VAT, for calling, and €0.19 per minute for receiving a call.

A year later, the maximum roaming costs will drop to €0.39 and €0.15, respectively, and in 2011 they will drop to €0.35 and €0.1.

The deal means steeper price cuts than had been suggested by EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding, and brings their implementation forward by two months.

The wholesale price of data roaming will be capped at €1 per megabyte from 1 July, 2009, falling to 80 cents from 1 July, 2010, and to 50 cents from 1 July, 2011.

To prevent bill shocks, from March 2010 there would be an automatic cut-off point for data after €50-worth or corresponding volume is used up.

However, 3 Ireland’s director of communications Rachel Channing believes the data cap could go further. “If agreed next month, this could be the fastest-ever piece of legislation to pass through the EU, and shows the urgent action needed to be taken to stop bill shock for consumers.

“However, data roaming continues to suffer from a clear lack of competitive pressure due to the activity of the incumbent operators. Greatly assisting business and personal communications, low-cost data roaming can play a vital role in the EU.

“In Ireland, 3 has seen mobile internet use growing at a phenomenal rate, but charging consumers exorbitant rates for simply crossing a border will prevent a pan-European market in data from taking off in the same way it has at national level,” Channing said.

“3 believes a wholesale cap of 25 cents per megabyte, as 3 has already agreed with several operators across Europe, is a level that would allow European consumers to use the internet on their mobiles the way they want to, at prices they can afford.”

By John Kennedy

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