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.