Europe still hasn’t discovered the joy of text

29 Aug 2008

The European Commission has said it is now much cheaper to make or receive calls while travelling across the EU. But when it comes to lower-cost cross-border text messaging and data usage, Europeans still can’t get any satisfaction.

As a result, European telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding has called for a single market for text and data usage.

From 30 August it will be cheaper to make or receive calls while travelling in the EU.

The price ceiling for roaming calls – the Eurotariff – will fall from 49c to 46c per minute (ex VAT) for making a call, and from 24c to 22c per minute to receive a call in another EU country.

These prices are a result of the EU Roaming Regulation imposed by the European Commission in 2006.

However, an analysis by various telecoms regulators reveals that competition within the EU telecoms market is still very limited and that price caps in the current EU Roaming Regulation – up for review in 2010 – are still too high.

The EU reckons these price caps are currently 8c per minute too high at both wholesale and retail levels.

As a result consumers are paying 24pc more than the minutes they actually use to make calls and 19pc more for the calls they receive.

Regulators have also recommended including wholesale and retail regulation on roamed SMS in a revised Roaming Regulation, leading to a maximum consumer retail price of between 11 and 15c per roamed SMS.

A recent report by the European Regulators Group said the cost of roaming is still too high for many consumers.

In the first quarter of 2008, a customer using data services paid on average €2.05 per megabyte while roaming with companies from their operators group and €5.40 per megabyte for roaming with non-group companies.

Italian and Slovak consumers who roam with a non-group company can even pay over €12 per megabyte.

A decision on the matter by the European Commission is expected in coming weeks.

“The EU Roaming Regulation was introduced so that Europeans could exercise freedom of speech with their mobile phones without fear of excessive bills when travelling in the Single Market,” said Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner.

“As a result over 400 million consumers across Europe have benefited from significant savings of around 60pc when making and receiving calls during travel, holiday or business.”

Reding said the further reduction of the Eurotariff on 30 August will reaffirm the trend for lower roaming prices.

“The next challenge is now to bring about a Single Market for roaming text messages and data services. I count on the French Presidency and on the European Parliament to help the Commission solve this problem very soon,” Reding said.

By John Kennedy

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