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Europe Moots Restrictions on High Roaming Mobile Broadband Data Charges

Posted: 24th Sep, 2010 By: MarkJ
europe 3g mobile broadbandThe European Commission (EC) has slammed the high price of roaming Mobile Broadband data usage within the EU, describing it as both an "exorbitant cost" and "outdated concept". The comments signal the start of a process that the EC hopes will eventually lead to cheaper data / internet roaming within the EU.

The crux of this push has been made by Neelie Kroes, EC Vice-President for the Digital Agenda telecoms markets, as part of yesterdays address at the Annual Conference of European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO).

EC Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, said:

"The roaming debate rarely rests. Most recently, Acting Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne and Paul Rubig MEP declared support for a ban on roaming charges within Europe on 4G mobile networks from the outset. Minister Q, as I like to call him, has noted that mobile downloading abroad costs a Belgian subscriber almost 30 times more than at home.

I think we can all agree that such pricing examples bear little relation to the true cost of supplying the service.

The message I take from that is that the Commission's review of the Roaming Regulation must look at the source of the problem and potential solutions in their full context. The relevant context is the lack of a really competitive single market for all aspects of telecoms services in Europe."

Kroes continued on to say that the best solution would be to encourage effective competition between operators. This would ensure that consumers, while surfing the internet from their mobile or laptop, do not experience substantially different services or costs when they pass a border.

In addition, Kroes added that she was not afraid to propose tough new measures that would help to foster such an environment. However new barriers and price capping arrangements do not appear to be part of her thinking.

Neelie Kroes concluded:

"I retain an open mind for a while longer about exactly what our next steps should be. But whatever step we take, it will be part of a broader, more long-term commitment to creating a true Digital Single Market in which no service is artificially sheltered from competition.

We will not be proposing another barrier, and nor will we propose endless tweaking of the current price capping arrangement without adding anything new.

I want the gap between roaming and domestic prices to approach zero. The sooner the better. Significant differences between roaming charges and national tariffs cannot be justified in a true Single Market.

The present financial and economic situation in the EU does not give us much room and time to postpone the creation of a well functioning telecom and digital internal market. We simply cannot afford not having it."

Last year saw Europe adopt new restrictions on mobile charges, which many felt did not go far enough (here). The measures included a new wholesale cap of 1Euro per MB downloaded (falling each year - 0.80Euro in 2010 and 0.50Euro in 2011), a requirement for operators to keep customers informed about data fees and a 50Euros cut-off limit to stop "bill shocks".

As it stands, Mobile Broadband usage outside of the UK (admittedly, one of Europe's cheapest markets for mobile data) remains prohibitively expensive. Improving this area would be a significant step forward and aid both businesses and consumers.
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