EU clears final global roaming hurdle

EU and country flags - Wikimedia CommonsThe European Union sorted out a preliminary deal early to cap wholesale charges telecom operators pay each other when their customers use their mobile phones abroad, paving the way for the abolition of roaming fees in June.

The caps were the last sticking point to abolish retail roaming charges as of June 15, 2017, crowning a decade of efforts by Brussels to allow citizens to use their phones abroad without paying extra.

Wholesale charges for data – which were the most controversial given the exponential use of mobile internet – will be capped at 7.7 euros per gigabyte from June 2017, going down to 2.5 euro per gigabyte in 2022.

Caps for making calls will decrease from five euro cents per minute to 3.2 euro cents per minute, while those for sending text messages will halve to one euro cent from two euro cents on June.

“Goodbye roaming,” tweeted Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, the EU lawmaker who steered the law on behalf of the European parliament.

The European Commission – the EU executive – will look at the wholesale caps every two years and propose new ones if necessary.

Wednesday’s deal still needs to be confirmed by the full European Parliament and member states but it is likely to be accepted.

The move was being important to show the great unwashed, er ordinary EU citizens, that it looked after their interests and not just those of French and German businesses.

After the agreement to abolish retail roaming charges in June this year, policymakers grappled with the challenge of who would foot the bill as telecom operators still need to pay each other to keep their customers connected abroad.

Countries in northern and eastern Europe where consumers gobble up mobile data at low prices favoured lower wholesale caps to avoid companies raising prices in their home markets, effectively making poorer customers subsidize frequent travellers.

However, places which depend on tourists such as the south, were worried that their operators could be forced to hike domestic prices to recover the costs of accommodating the extra tourist traffic.