The European Commission has announced that EU mobile operators will have to once again lower retail prices of roaming calls in the EU. The final goal of the EU is to end mobile roaming surcharges by 2015 by boosting competition in the market, the Commission adds.
Last price cut under current regulation
The price cut in question is the last in the series of regulated price cuts under the current EU Roaming Regulation, which expires at the end of June 2012.
The maximum prices for roaming calls are to be reduced during the period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012, with the so-called ‘Eurotariff’ falling from the current 39 cents to 35 cents per minute for calls made and from 15 cents to 11 cents per minute for calls received. The cap for wholesale data roaming will fall from 80 to 50 cents per MB, however, the current Regulation does not foresee retail price caps for data roaming.
Consumers and business travellers will continue to be protected from unexpected ‘bill shocks’ for downloading data over mobile networks as monthly bills for data downloading will remain limited to 50 EUR (unless the customer explicitly agrees otherwise).
Need for a new regulatory intervention
While price cuts such as these have temporarily reduced roaming prices, the European Commission feels that current rules did not solve the underlying problem of lack of competition in roaming services, with prices remaining close to the retail caps, creating a need for a new regulatory intervention if the difference between roaming and national telecoms tariffs is to approach zero by 2015 (a goal set in the Digital Agenda for Europe).
In line with this the European Commission has presented a proposal for a long-term solution to end the high cost of roaming in the EU. The proposed new EU Roaming Regulation would introduce measures to boost competition by allowing customers from 1 July 2014, if they so wish, to sign up for a cheaper mobile roaming contract, separate from their contract for national mobile services, whilst using the same phone number. The regulation would also give mobile operators the right to use other operators’ networks in other Member States at regulated wholesale prices, and so encourage more operators to compete on the roaming market.
Lowering of price caps and a price cap for data services
To cover the period until these measures become fully effective and competition drives retail prices down, the proposal would progressively lower current retail price caps on voice and SMS services and introduce a new retail price cap for mobile data services.
By 1 July 2014, roaming consumers would pay maximum 24 cents per minute to make a call, maximum 10 cents per minute to receive a call, maximum 10 cents to send a text message and maximum 50 cents per MB to download data or browse the Internet whilst travelling abroad (charged in KB).
These caps would remain in force by mid-2016. Caps on wholesale prices between operators for all roaming services would be retained until 2022 in order to create a predictable investment environment for alternative operators, but could be removed before 2022 if competition develops sufficiently.
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