EU Reaches Preliminary Deal on Roaming Solutions

MEPs and representatives of the Council and the European Commission have reached a preliminary deal on new EU Roaming rules, following the commission's proposal from last year.

The rules will lead to a structural and durable solution to the high cost of using mobile phones and other smart devices while traveling in the EU, according to the press release. The European Parliament is expected to approve the agreement in May and the Council in June, paving the way for the new rules to enter into force on 1st July 2012.

The rules will create more competition in the roaming market. In the meantime they impose new safeguard limits on consumer prices, including a new price cap for data roaming, which will progressively bring prices down from current high levels until the benefits of competition have fully kicked in.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda, said:

“Consumers are fed up with being ripped off by high roaming charges. The new roaming deal gives us a long-term structural solution, with lower prices, more choice and a new smart approach for data and Internet browsing."

From 1 July 2014, customers will have the option to shop around for the best deal and sign up for a separate mobile contract for roaming, which may be different from their domestic mobile provider, while keeping the same phone number.

Each time someone crosses a border, his or her phone will switch to the network of the roaming provider they have chosen, without any further action on their part. Customers will also have the option to directly select a local mobile network for data roaming in the country they are visiting.

As from 1 July 2012, virtual mobile operators and resellers, who do not have their own networks, will immediately have the right to access other operators' networks at regulated wholesale prices in order to provide roaming services (together with national services) to their customers.

This will create more competition between operators, and so increase the incentives for them to offer customers more attractive roaming prices and services, according to the press release.

Competitive data roaming offers will also be opened up by introducing new ways of using mobile devices while traveling abroad. From July 2014, mobile operators in visited countries will have the possibility to directly offer data roaming services on their own networks to travelers, which they can select either in advance or on the spot.

Mobile network operators in visited countries will have an incentive to offer such services at rates close to national prices, on the basis of their own low national network costs.

Until competition has driven retail prices down, the EU's Roaming rules will progressively lower current retail price caps on voice and texting services and introduce a new retail price cap for mobile data services. These caps will operate as a safeguard for consumers until 30 June 2017.

Under the new rules, which will enter into force on 1st July 2012, consumers will pay no more than:

  • 29 cents per minute to make a call
  • 8 cents per minute to receive a call
  • 9 cents to send a text message
  • 70 cents per MB to download data or browse the Internet while traveling abroad (charged per Kilobyte used).

These regulated price caps will progressively go down, so that by 1 July 2014 users will be paying no more than 19 cents per minute to make calls, a maximum of 5 cents per minute to receive calls, maximum 6 cents to send a text message and a maximum of 20 cents per MB to download data or browse the Internet (charged per Kilobyte).

These new price levels have been based on new data about the industry cost of providing roaming services, provided by BEREC, the body of European telecoms regulators, in February of this year.

The wholesale caps are based on an estimate of the basic cost of provision, while the safeguard retail caps are set at a level which should make investment in alternative roaming services and entry of new players attractive – which is key to develop effective, durable competition on this market in the interests of consumers.

Under the new rules, consumers would also receive information about roaming charges when they travel to countries outside the EU. The new rules will provide for the extension of the alert system currently in place within the EU.

INTUG welcomes the newly agreed rules. Chairman Danielle Jacobs said,

We welcome the EU decision to make further progress towards eliminating roaming charges. We urge governments and regulators throughout the world to follow this example, so that the consequent economic benefits for international trade can be enjoyed by business users not just within the EU but worldwide.

In the meantime, as businesses need worldwide solutions, INTUG continues to discuss roaming with the World Trade Organization and the OECD. We will also offer the knowledge we gain through events in the EU to our sister organisations in other parts of the world, as they lobby their own regulators and support their user groups.

Read the full press release.

Source: EC

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