Wholesale bottleneck could delay EU’s abolition of roaming charges

15 Jun 2016

The abolition of roaming across Europe by June 2017 could be held up by operators claiming that wholesale charges are too high

The European Commission has proposed cutting the wholesale roaming rates that telecoms companies charge each other in a key move that will pave the way for the abolition of roaming charges by June 2017.

The decision to abolish roaming charges across the 28 states of Europe by June 2017 hinges on wholesale prices being competitive enough for operators to provide free roaming.

However, there are fears that the end of roaming in June 2017 could be delayed if key decisions around wholesale rates aren’t made.

‘In a year from now, we’ll say goodbye to roaming charges’

It is also feared that opposition could emerge from operators who enjoy large amounts of tourist traffic in their geographies.

“In a year from now, we’ll say goodbye to roaming charges,” European Commission vice president Andrus Ansip said

“Our ambition is to abolish unjustified geoblocking on the same occasion. We also want the cross-border portability of content to be a reality in 2017 so that Europeans can travel with their films, music, sports broadcasts, e-books across the EU. This will clearly be a triple win for European consumers,” he added.

Regulatory roadblocks could delay end of roaming

MVNO Europe, an organisation representing mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) has warned that current regulated wholesale caps are too high and some operators may use regulatory protections to avoid ending roaming.

For example, they can ask to be exempted from the obligation to provide free roaming if they can prove they would not be able to recover their costs.

“Without any further steep reduction of the regulated wholesale caps, a large number of mobile operators may decide or be forced to impose restrictions on users when roaming abroad through complex and unfriendly contractual clauses,” the organisation said a month ago.

“This would be a disappointing outcome for European users, and it should be avoided at all costs. It would also go against the European Parliament’s repeated calls to end roaming surcharges once and for all.”

European Commission image via Shutterstock

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