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EC backs plans to cut voice and data roaming rates

Wants operators to offer separate roaming deals
Tue Feb 28 2012, 15:08

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) has backed a plan to force mobile operators to cut roaming prices.

The EC favours imposing deeper cuts on wholesale roaming charges, which should translate into lower consumer roaming charges. This is the EC's third proposed cut in wholesale roaming charges. While mobile operators had reduced charges, "customers are still not being offered roaming tariffs that are markedly lower than the caps, because the roaming market has not developed sufficiently and structural problems persist," said the European Commission report.

Arguably the biggest change the EC supported was the ability for consumers to purchase roaming services separately from their domestic provider and keep the same telephone number. According to the EC, mobile operators will have to offer separate roaming services from 1 March 2014 and will have to inform their customers that they can get roaming services from other operators.

The EC has also proposed pricing caps on data roaming charges. Should the plan get the green light, from July 2012 consumers will be charged €0.50/MB while in 2013 that will drop to €0.30/MB and then to €0.20/MB from July 2014.

For consumers, the ability to buy roaming packages from other vendors is likely to result in greater competition between operators, which presently operate with cushy inter-network deals. Even though the charges proposed by the EC seem to be significantly lower than what is being extorted from consumers now, don't feel too sorry for the mobile operators because wholesale prices are significantly lower, meaning there's plenty of room for profit.

Nevertheless it didn't take Vodafone long to start moaning about regulation and its bottom line. Vodafone's group CEO, Vittorio Colao said, "Regulators should stop cutting mobile termination rates, pushing down roaming prices, building funny auctions which are designed to extract more money from existing operators, and resisting industry consolidation." Perhaps Colao shouldn't moan too much, after all any drop in profits should make it easier for the firm to avoid billions in tax.

The EC Industry Committee's proposed plans will be put to a vote by the European Union Parliament in April. µ


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