EU to put an end to mobile roaming charges next year

June 14, 2013

Europe flag

Image source: The Independent

If you’ve travelled abroad at any point you’re likely to have incurred a roaming charge whilst using your mobile phone. Over recent years there’s been a concerted effort to bring these costs down across Europe, and after a new European proposal it looks like we could be rid of them for good come next year.

A group of 27 European Commissioners voted in Brussels on Tuesday to push through plans to remove roaming charges before the European elections in May, meaning that the rules could come into force as early as July 1st 2014. However, it’s worth noting there are no plans to impose further restrictions on mobile termination rates, the charges operators make to each other for connecting calls.

But there are also additional motives for the decision, other than just trying to bring down the price of roaming for consumers. The EU also seems concerned that a fragmented European market is stifling investment in new technologies due to a lack of co-operation between companies operating in the 27 different member countries. One source close to the discussion said:

There are around 100 operators in Europe and only four in the US. That’s not sustainable if we’re going to have a single market and investment.

Consolidation is not the aim. The aim is a single market, but if it means we get fewer, stronger operators, that’s good.

Well hold your horses there EU, there’s certainly the counter argument to be made that the US is actually worse off in some respects for having such a small number of competing companies. Many of the tariff offers available in Europe are considerably cheaper than some in the US due to the extra competition, and I’ve heard quite a few complaints regarding the lack of carrier choice in some parts of the US.

Anyway, the EU also has plans to synchronise national sales of airwaves and to make it easier for companies to do business across the whole of Europe based on authorisation from a single national regulator. However, the trade off is that the rules will reduce the power of nation states to auction their own airwaves and regulate their own businesses.

Of course, the important thing is that consumers are left better off, and this idea looks like it will finally alleviate the extra costs encountered by European customers, at least for those who travel around the continent a lot anyway. We’ll know a little bit more about the finer details once the proposals are finalised in the next six weeks.

Comments

  • milksop held

    Good on them

  • Gigi87

    it depends on the market. In italy we have 4 main carriers and some virtual ones (relying on other carriers network), but the prices are constantly getting smaller. A lot of people use pre paid cards and can have something like 500mins, 1000 sms and 2gb of internet for 10 euros/month. Way cheaper than US :)

    • Willie D

      They also dont pay for incoming calls, the calling party pays for the set up, maintenance and tear down of the call, so that in itself can be rather expensive. Only recently some companies have determined like we have in the USA that they can use their landline business to supplement the wireless by routing calls over their own network vs other carriers trunks. But also they can bounce the calls off their own microwave repeaters all the way back to the network. This will change once VoLTE gets into play and everything goes over the internet. My point is, in Europe, the mobile termination per minute charge is higher than any long distance charge we paid in the 80s and 90s to call across the nation for a 5 minute call. But like I said, some companies are seeing ways to lower this rate and fee, and offer unlimited any carrier calling in order to compete. Sprint did it, AT&T did it, and now T-Mobile does it

  • Willie D

    One of the reasons having MORE competition in Europe has kept the charges lower, even if they seem high, is because that many companies cant collude with each other and determine a set pricing scheme across the board. Also being many small countries, like our states, there is just too many to go continent wide to say “Okay, we all set pricing at 1 euro”. Lets be honest here however, T-Mobile, Orange, O2, Voda and Telia are the biggest in Europe and all operate in more than one country, some operate in 90% of Europe, and to charge roaming fees across countries there is like moving money from one pocket to another, or like Sprint, Verizon or AT&T charging you to roam into another state (a practice we stopped 10 years ago). If the European UNION is to be treated as such, then ultimately the ENTIRE union needs to unify and not allow companies that are multinational like these telecommunications companies to think their company and customers are different based on the state they live.