EU to cap price of calls and texts across Europe in landmark deal

6 Jun 2018

Image: RomanR/Shutterstock

Major telecoms package of regulations devised to prepare EU for roll-out of 5G and next-generation networks.

European Union MEPs have provisionally agreed to cap the cost of calls between EU countries at 19 cents a minute.

In the landmark agreement, text messages are to be capped at six cents each.

‘We are laying the groundwork for the deployment of 5G across Europe’

The deal comes after the EU succeeded last year in eliminating roaming surcharges.

The new caps were agreed in the early hours of this morning (6 June) following 12 hours of negotiations as part of a wider overhaul of the EU’s 15-year-old telecoms laws to pave the way for a new generation of services powered by 5G.

Next-generation telecoms in Europe

The aim is to provide 5G radio spectrum to operators with predictability for at least 20 years in terms of licensing.

The new package of rules includes better tariff transparency, better protection for consumers subscribing to bundled packages and more.

“This agreement is essential to meet Europeans’ growing connectivity needs and boost Europe’s competitiveness,” said Andrus Ansip, vice-president in charge of the Digital Single Market.

“We are laying the groundwork for the deployment of 5G across Europe.”

The new deal has yet to be endorsed by the various member states and the Parliament before becoming law.

The plan to introduce a price cap is seen as a pragmatic step in a telecoms world where citizens are increasingly using services like WhatsApp to make calls when they are travelling.

“Cheaper phone calls are a victory for all EU citizens,” said Dita Charanzova, the Czech Liberal MEP who spearheaded the plan to cap calls, according to Euractiv.

“We want an EU where country codes are obsolete, where we can call or text anyone in Europe without having to think about how much it is going to cost and I think we have finally achieved this,” Charanzova added.

However, there is a clause whereby national telecoms regulators have the ability to exempt companies from applying the price cap if they can prove it would cripple their business.

The price cap is part of an overhaul of European telecoms, to address an anomaly whereby there is a shortfall of some €500bn worth of investment needed to bring the EU’s networks up to speed.

Operators seen to be investing in new infrastructure may see some of the regulations relaxed.

“The new telecoms rules are an essential building block for Europe’s digital future,” the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, said.

“After several months of tough negotiations, we have agreed on bold and balanced rules to provide faster access to radio spectrum, better services and more protection for consumers, as well as greater investment in very high-speed networks.”

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