EU approves EC's fair usage plan for roaming

14 December 2016 | James Pearce

Wholesale data caps remain the last hurdle for the European Union to overcome after member states approved a fair usage policy on roaming proposals.

The member states voted to approve fair use proposals put forward by the European Commission, meaning they can be adopted in the coming days. The EC had set a deadline of 15 December to formally adopt the proposals.

The proposals mean that consumers or businesses with unlimited data packages will face restrictions on how much data they can use while travelling within Europe. It was a key concern raised by figures within the industry.

“This is an important step towards the end of roaming charges on 15 June 2017,” Vice-president Andrus Ansip and commissioner Günther Oettinger said in a joint statement. “We are convinced that our proposal strikes the right balance and bridges very different, often opposite views. 

“Today's vote means that the EU will put an end to extra charges when all travellers are calling, texting and surfing abroad from their mobile phones and devices, while ensuring that the most competitive domestic offers remain attractive.”

The EU is looking to make roaming across the bloc free by 17 June 2017, but has found disagreement on a number of issues, including the fair usage policy, limits on how many days people can roam for, and caps on the wholesale price operators can charge each other.

Member states have been divided over what the caps should be set as, with countries with high levels of tourism pushing for higher caps following pressure from operators.

Oettinger and Ansip went on to say: “Our work does not stop here. To definitively consign roaming charges to history, we now have to focus our efforts on the proposal on wholesale prices operators charge each other while consumers use their mobile phones abroad. 

“We are starting the negotiations with the European Parliament and the Member States this week. To reach this last milestone, the Commission will continue to play its role of honest broker to help find a final agreement as soon as possible. There is no time to waste.”