End to EU roaming charges moves a step closer after European Parliament group rules in favour ahead of MEP vote
The abolition of roaming charges within the European Union moved a step closer wit the European Parliament’s industry committee blessing the Telecoms Single Market Regulation, which is due to be voted on by MEPs on 3 April.
The regulation must be approved by parliament, and the European Council, but it is anticipated that final agreement will be achieved by the end of the year, with a view to banning romaing charges by 15 December 2015.
“This vote is great news,” declared European Commissioner Neelie Kroes. “This is about ensuring a dynamic, healthy, competitive telecoms sector, fit to face the future. It’s about arming every European business with the tools and networks they need to innovate and grow. And giving every European citizen the seamless connectivity they have come to demand – without unfair practices like blocked services or roaming charges.”
Kroes and the EU have been campaigning to eliminate roaming charges across the 28 member states for some time, claiming that nearly half of European smartphone owners don’t use mobile Internet outside their home country because of prohibitive costs.
The EU estimates that operators are missing out on huge potential revenues from a market of 300 million mobile phone users, while roaming charges are hindering mobile commerce, health, education and automotive development, and negatively affecting app developers.
Despite the doom and gloom, the EC says price caps and other regulations limiting the cost of using mobiles abroad have seen data roaming increase by 1,500 percent since 2008. Roaming charges for calls and SMS have come down by 80 percent in the last six years, while the cost of mobile data has fallen by up to 91 percent.
Last year, Kroes told European operators to prepare for an end to roaming and to take advantage of new business models and opportunities, rather than stick with their outdated revenue streams. She pointed out that the widespread elimination of roaming charges in France has been successful and is evidence that the EU’s package of proposals can be implemented on a continent-wide basis.
In the UK, Three has abolished some roaming charges in 11 countries, including the US, while some EE plans include calls and texts from abroad but not mobile data, which still cost extra.
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