Kroes Tells Operators To Prepare For The End Of EU Roaming Charges

European mobile operators cannot continue to rely on dated business models and declining revenue streams if they are going to survive, warned Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, who added it was only a matter of time before roaming in the EU was abolished.

Speaking for the first time since unveiling her ‘Connected Continent’ package of proposals last month, Kroes said the establishment of a single European telecoms market would allow operators to take advantage of the opportunities presented by new digital services that would also bring a range of economic and social benefits to the EU.

“I’ll be honest. I think the telecoms sector will ultimately benefit from this package. But that’s not why I’m doing it,” said Kroes. “I’m doing it for European growth and European jobs: the 1 percent of GDP we could gain with a true telecoms single market.  I’m doing it for every business in every sector that depends on connectivity for its competitiveness.”

EC roaming

The EU has already gone some way to reducing roaming charges within its borders and is committed to removing them entirely. Kroes said a business model that charged customers extortionate rates for intra-European calls and texts was “unsustainable” and would only serve to alienate customers already flocking to over-the-top services such as Skype and WhatsApp.

Kroes said it was much better for service providers to adapt voluntarily rather than be forced through regulatory changes.

“But ultimately roaming is on its way out one way or the other. It’s time to surrender the unsustainable – and face the great opportunities of the future,” she said. “Don’t think for a moment that connected cars are going to pay roaming surcharges.”

Single European market

A single European telecoms market would enable a more co-ordinated system of spectrum allocation that would allow operators to bid for bandwidth in different countries and establish cross-border services, she said, while the rise of cloud computing, smart city, eHealth, and eGovernment applications will produce new revenue streams. This would allow pan-European networks to operate at scale, while also create room for smaller operators to innovate.

Last month, Kroes denied that plans to end roaming charges had been shelved, with a number of UK operators already reducing the amount they charge customers for using their phones abroad to comply with EU regulations.

Who are Britain’s mobile operators? Try our quiz!

Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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