Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, Telecom Italia, and other operators within the European Union (EU) have secured a provisional deal that allows them to maintain charges for intra-EU calls until 2028. This agreement, reached by EU countries and lawmakers on Tuesday, signifies a temporary extension of existing regulations regarding telecommunications fees.
Under the current EU regulations set in 2019, charges for calls between EU countries are capped at 19 euro cents per minute, with text messages capped at 6 cents each. These caps, which are due to expire in May, have been subject to scrutiny by both policymakers and the telecoms industry.
Last year, European Union lawmakers proposed eliminating these charges altogether, aiming to facilitate communication and bolster connectivity across EU member states. However, the telecoms sector expressed concerns about potential revenue losses, particularly amidst substantial investments in the deployment of 5G infrastructure throughout the EU, Reuters news report said.
The development will be a major relief for telecom operators as Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) in Europe continues to trail all global peers. In 2022, mobile ARPU was EUR15.0 in Europe, as opposed to EUR42.5 in the USA, EUR26.5 in South Korea, and EUR25.9 in Japan, ETNO said in a report recently.
According to a report commissioned by the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO), the removal of intra-EU call charges could result in a revenue decline of at least 2.1 billion euros ($2.25 billion) for operators by 2029.
MEP Alin Mituta, commenting on the recent agreement, stated, “The alignment of domestic and intra-EU calls will take effect as of 2029. Meanwhile, the current caps will continue to apply,” emphasizing the gradual transition towards a unified telecommunications framework within the EU.
In addition to addressing telecommunications fees, legislators have also endorsed a European Commission proposal aimed at streamlining regulatory processes and reducing costs to facilitate the rollout of 5G infrastructure across the EU.
The Gigabit Infrastructure Act (GIA) introduces simplified procedures for obtaining infrastructure permits, including the implementation of a “tacit approval” principle, whereby permission for infrastructure installation is automatically granted if administrative authorities do not respond within a specified timeframe.
Moreover, the GIA clarifies the criteria for determining fair and reasonable conditions for infrastructure access, further facilitating the expansion of high-speed connectivity and enabling a significant portion of EU businesses to leverage cloud infrastructure and artificial intelligence technologies by 2030.