Cut data roaming charges, says European Commission

05 July 2011 | Kavit Majithia


European mobile operators were dealt a blow after the European Commission announced the average cost of using data in the European Union (EU) will be more than halved from current rates.

Ultimately, the decision means mobile operators across the EU will have to implement new pricing caps from next year on data downloads, voice calls and SMS. New regulation could also give the consumer the license to choose a different network while overseas.

For data roaming, pricing caps have been extended to 2016. Receiving an email or using data in the EU will cost up to 90 Euro cents per megabyte by July 2012, and it will decrease to 50 cents by 2014. Mobile operators have until now lobbied against such regulation considering the lucrative nature of the roaming market, in which it can cost up to €2 for one megabyte of data presently.

The business model of the mobile operators could suffer the most. When travellers are able to choose a different network it gives customers the ability to find a better roaming rate than offered by their domestic provider. This change, still subject to approval from national governments and European parliament, will come in to effect in 2014, in a move to promote competition in the roaming market. Operators had attempted to offer ‘day passes’ or ‘passport deals’ to consumers in an attempt to avoid such regulation, but the Financial Times reports regulators want to move away from a retail price tariff model to a more market-based approach.

Much of the reforms are largely down to Neelie Kroes, EU telecoms commissioner, as part of her aim to completely eliminate roaming charges by 2015.