EU's Neelie Kroes to urge telcos cooperate on roaming packages

EU telco head honcho Neelie Kroes’ office is set to tell operators they should take advantage of upcoming roaming restrictions, by forming alliances to offer call, text, and data packages across all of Europe.

The Wall Street Journal has seen draft papers which encourage companies to pal up with international peers so customers can use allowances on the same tarrif, rather than incur hefty roaming charges. Kroes is expected to tell companies if they don’t take this approach, they’ll be left with roaming price caps made under EU legislation.

A roaming agreement will need participating networks in a minimum of 21 EU states, or 85 percent of the EU, as well as making at least one retail package available where roaming rates cost the same as the home country. 

But encouraging voluntary alliances may not be enough. The industry – like any – doesn’t enjoy being bound by restrictions, and it will be argued these proposals will hand a monopoly to often previously state owned companies that tend to be the largest. 

Any traveller will tell you phoning home from abroad is a costly business. Some companies have tried to capitalise on this by offering customers their normal rates for a fee per day.

Existing legislation says businesses are no longer allowed to charge roaming fees for received calls in the EU. But wholesale price caps have now been removed.

A spokesperson from Kroes’ office told the Wall Street Journal that there is no running commentary, but a method for ending roaming charges will be proposed.

However, it is perfectly possible for companies to form such inter-country alliances right now – though none have. It’s currently easier and more profitable to offer daily deals to travellers, suggesting Europe will need to show its teeth if it hopes to get the ball rolling on ending excessive roaming costs.