Roaming caps finally agreed as outright ban date nears

1 Feb 2017

Image: Osabee/Shutterstock

The EU’s gradual move towards a full abolition of mobile roaming charges has taken another step forward, as officials have agreed on how to regulate wholesale roaming markets.

The prices that operators can charge when customers travel throughout the EU and use various networks have been revised and agreed, in what is considered the “last step” towards the end of roaming charges.

Becoming applicable on 15 June 2017, voice call charges between operators will be 3.2 cent per minute, while it will be 1 cent for an SMS.

For data, there will be a step-by-step reduction over five years, decreasing from €7.70 per GB (15 June 2017) to €6 (1 January 2018), €4.50 (1 January 2019), €3.50 (1 January 2020), €3 (1 January 2021) and €2.50 (1 January 2022).

This all means that from June onwards, customers will be able to travel throughout the EU and call, text or surf on their mobile at pretty much the same price they pay at home.

Considering the widely reported evidence of the contrary being true in the past, the EU is hoping this will provide welcome relief to a citizenry with the freedom to travel from country to country.

Calling this the “last piece of the puzzle”, Andrus Ansip, VP of the Digital Single Market, welcomed the agreement.

“We have also made sure that operators can continue competing to provide the most attractive offers to their home markets.

“I warmly thank the European Parliament rapporteur Miapetra Kumpula-Natri and all the negotiators from the European Parliament, as well as the Maltese presidency of the Council of the EU and all those involved in achieving this milestone. Their efforts made it happen.”

The push for a removal of roaming charges has been ongoing for around a decade now, though recent political events have added greater significance to proceedings.

For example, politicians are busy positioning their arguments ahead of the UK’s impending exit from the EU. Portraying more and more benefits to staying within the EU is, thus, in their interest.

However, not everybody is happy, which is obvious when considering the disparate approaches that companies take in different parts of the EU.

While the north and east of the EU operate at a lower price, southern countries, where companies are reliant on tourists spending fortunes to communicate with friends and family back home, prefer the higher price points.

“European citizens expect the end of the roaming surcharges to happen without losing competitive tariffs and innovative offers. By contrast, with the present deal on wholesale caps, they will be heavily disappointed,” said MVNO Europe VP, Innocenzo Genna.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic