Tag: global roaming

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.

EU roaming charge agreement crucial

Europe with flags - Wikimedia CommonsThe European Union’s digital chief has said that failure to solve the last remaining barrier to abolishing mobile roaming charges across the bloc would lead people to question its ability to deliver on promises.

EU lawmakers and member states are set to hold a third round of talks today on where to set caps for the wholesale roaming charges telecom operators pay each other when their customers call, send texts or surf the web abroad.

It has taken Brussels a decade to reach the point where its citizens will be able to use their phones abroad without paying extra.

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip said that it was important to get the agreement sorted out because Brussels has sought to show it works for ordinary citizens.

He called on the negotiators to start showing some “significant flexibility” to achieve a final agreement

The two sides remain far apart on where the wholesale caps for data should be set, with the European Parliament pushing for an initial cap of 4 euros ($4) per gigabyte while member states want it to start at 8.5 euros per gigabyte.

Ansip wrote that if no political compromise can be achieved, people will rightly question its common will and ability to deliver on its promises.

“That is a risk we should not run,” Ansip wrote.

The split on wholesale roaming caps stems from wide differences in domestic prices and travel patterns across the bloc.

Countries in northern and eastern Europe with low domestic prices and generous packages favour lower wholesale caps to avoid companies raising prices in their home markets, effectively making poorer customers subsidize frequent travellers.

Countries in the tourist-magnet south worry that their operators could be forced to hike domestic prices to accommodate the seasonal tourist traffic. They also fear operators will put off investment in networks if foreign operators can gain cheap access to their infrastructure and undercut them domestically.

EU figures out global roaming charges

All roads lead to RomeThe death of mobile roaming charges came closer in the EU after member states at the Permanent Representatives Committee yesterday approved the deal with the European Parliament.

Under the agreement, roaming surcharges in the European Union will be abolished on 15 June 2017. But, roaming providers can apply a ‘fair use policy’ to prevent abusive use of roaming. This will include using roaming services for purposes other than periodic travel.

For roaming that goes beyond fair use, a small fee may be charged. This fee cannot be higher than the maximum wholesale rate that operators pay for using the networks of other EU countries. The limit for fair use will be defined by the Commission by 15 December 2016.

This change in the law will mean that current wholesale rates need to be brought down. To do this, the Commission will have to review the wholesale roaming market and propose a new law by 15 June 2016. Safeguards will be introduced to address the recovery of costs by operators.

Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister and Minister for Communications and the Media and President of the Council, which still includes Greece, said: “The agreement on abolishing roaming by June 2017 shows that the European Union can bring concrete benefits to European citizens. Europe can deliver.” Including to Greeks.

Roaming fees will start to come down on 30 April 2016. The maximum surcharge will then be €0.05 per minute for calls, €0.02 for texts and €0.05 per megabyte for data. These amounts correspond to the current maximum wholesale rates. For calls received, the maximum surcharge will be the weighted average of maximum mobile termination rates across the EU, to be set out by the Commission by the end of 2015. That applies to Greece, too.

After 30 April 2016, the sum of the domestic price and any surcharge cannot in any case be higher than the current retail caps (€0.19 per minute for calls, €0.06 for texts and €0.20 per megabyte of data). Greece will benefit too.

The agreed text still has to undergo a technical finalisation and be formally approved by the Council and the Parliament. The Council is expected to formally adopt it in the autumn of this year.

Vice-President Andrus Ansip said that the announcement was the culmination of a decade of hard work by previous Commission Vice-Presidents Viviane Reding and Neelie Kroes to bring down roaming charges in the EU.

“ Since we took action in 2007, prices for roaming calls, SMS and data have fallen by more than 80 percent. Today, data roaming is now up to 91 per centcheaper than it was then,” he said. And “God bless Greece!”  He didn’t say that.