EC Slams ‘Ridiculous’ European Roaming

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It’s time business travellers in Europe stopped having to juggle SIMs and paying through the nose, the EC has said

The European Commission has criticised the damaging effect of mobile roaming charges on business in Europe, continuing its attack on artificial barriers to a single digital market in the region.

It is still prohibitively difficult for a small business to stay connected as staff travelling across Europe have to juggle SIM cards and pay extortionate prices, said European vice-president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes in a speech this week to the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Union in Brussels this week.

Ridiculous Roaming

“Even at the practical day-to-day level the lack of the telecoms single market is a nightmare for many SMEs,” said Kroes. “Why should they have to travel around Europe juggling SIM cards and paying a fortune to communicate? A modern entrepreneur wants to have continuous access to all his or her business information travelling around the world with a smart-phone and laptop.”

The EC commissioner said she is working hard to address the issue of mobile roaming, and hopes to have made some progress on the issue in 2011. “As you know I am working on that issue very seriously and am confident that a structural solution will be presented next year,” said Kroes.

The EC introduced a new framework for telecoms in the region late last year including the formation of a single telecoms regulator the European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).

The EC is keen to tackle the issue of roaming directly, according to Kroes. “Over the medium to long term the whole concept of roaming is simply ridiculous in a single market,” she said.

Roaming has been a target of the EC’s wrath for several years, as telecoms companies are charging extra, when providing international calls does not cost them significantly more than national ones. In June last year, EC introduced rules on roaming designed to cut call costs cut by up to 60 percent.

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The next step in creating a more comprehensive market for digital services in Europe is the publication of a study next year on the cost of a non-European telecoms market, which will be Kroes will combine an ICT-competitiveness report.

Talking about the importance of broadband and tech to small businesses generally, Kroes said that the internet was vitally important for SMEs. “The Internet is the best news for SMEs since the beginning of capitalism,” she said. “In this I am serious. For most SMEs the current internet can shatter virtually every entry barrier, distance barrier and information barrier that exists to global success. As the Internet of Things develops in the future even more options will open up.”

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