EU strikes provisional deal on wholesale roaming caps

The European Commission has struck a provisional deal with the European Parliament over caps to wholesale roaming charges.

The agreement would bring the European Union a step closer to enact its plans to make using a phone across Europe for no extra cost a reality.

The deal determines what operators will pay each other when a customer uses their network, and must be passed by the full parliament, along with all EU member states.

The EC had promised to enact the policy by 17 June, but had hit a roadblock as member states and the parliament struggled to agree on the new caps. 

Negotiators agreed on wholesale caps of 3.2c per minute of voice call, 1c per SMS, and a more complex step guide to data caps. These will decrease over five years, from €7.7 per GB as of 15 June 2017 to €6 per GB (as of 1 January 2018), €4.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2019), €3.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2020), €3 per GB (as of 1 January 2021) and €2.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2022).

EC VP for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip welcomed the agreement, adding: "This was the last piece of the puzzle. As of 15 June, Europeans will be able to travel in the EU without roaming charges. 

“We have also made sure that operators can continue competing to provide the most attractive offers to their home markets. Today we deliver on our promise. I warmly thank the European Parliament rapporteur Miapetra Kumpula-Natri and all the negotiators from the European Parliament as well as the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU and all those involved in achieving this milestone. Their efforts made it happen.”

The agreement must be approved by both the Parliament and the European Council, made up of member states, before the 15 June deadline when the rules become applicable.

Chris Haddock, head of marketing for OpenCloud, said operators will now need to add tangible value to their services to make up for the potential lost revenue from the roaming charges.

He said: “EU roaming premiums are on their way out and reducing mobile operators’ revenues with them. This is on top of the fiercely competitive market conditions that have arisen over the last few years that have already squeezed the operators’ revenue streams.

“Internet companies and OTT players like WhatsApp and Facebook have been offering free, value-added services to their customers continuously, providing incremental updates at no extra cost. Operators must replicate this model and put more effort into innovation to increase and strengthen customer loyalty. Adding further value to their communication services could be the differentiator that operators need to win market share and offset the loss of their roaming charges.”