European Union reaches pact to lower mobile roaming fees

Telecom Lead Europe: The European Commission, European
lawmakers and governments have agreed to reduce mobile roaming fees. The deal
is expected to be approved by the European Parliament in May and would take effect
in July.


The reform will allow consumers to pay less for calls,
texts and mobile Web services when travelling abroad, in a measure that could
hit telecom industry profits.


Vodafone supported the deal and creation of a more
competitive market for roaming instead of price caps even as some of its peers
lobbied against it.


“We welcome the attempt to move away from price cap
regulation after 2014. We have always said that competition, not regulation,
will serve customers better,” Vodafone said in a statement.


Opposed by many of Europe’s biggest telecom groups such
as Telecom Italia and Telefonica, the reform includes caps on the prices
charged to consumers that will decline annually until 2014.


But possibly, it also aims to augment competition by
allowing consumers to prefer their mobile operator when they cross borders.


In order to do so, they have slashed by 50-90 percent the
wholesale rates that operators charge each other to rent network access in the
hope that this spurs some to create mobile voice and data offers aimed at
customers travelling across borders.


Under the new deal, starting in mid-2012, charges on
calls made while travelling in other EU countries cannot exceed 29 cents per
minute, and calls received while abroad should cost no more than 8 cents per
minute. Sending a text message while away will be capped at 9 cents. 
These price caps will be ratcheted down by almost another third by 2014.


European officials will also limit for the first time the
prices operators can charge consumers surfing the Internet on smartphones and
tablet computers to 70 cents per megabyte in 2012 and 20 cents in 2014.


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