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27-03-2012

Data roaming and phone calls abroad should be much cheaper this summer

Data roaming and phone calls abroad should be much cheaper this summer thanks to a deal provisionally agreed by MEPs and the Danish Presidency of the Council of Ministers on Tuesday evening. The deal still needs to be approved by Parliament as a whole, but if approved, the new rules would take effect on 1 July 2012.

New cuts on roaming charges

According to the deal, a downloaded megabyte would cost no more than 70 cents as of 1 July 2012, 45 cents in 2013 and 20 cents as of 1 July 2014 to consumers, as requested by the Industry Committee. There is currently no price ceiling for mobile data services charged to consumers.

The cost of a one-minute call would not exceed 29 cents as of 1 July 2012 and 19 cents as of July 2014, down from 35 cents under the current legislation. An SMS would cost no more than 9 cents as of 1 July 2012 and 6 cents as of 1 July 2014, down from 11 cents under the current legislation.

The new proposals aim to meet the Digital Agenda for Europe pledge to bring roaming tariffs into line with domestic prices by 2015, in line with Parliament's requests.

Structural measures to boost competition

Operators would have to enable customers to buy roaming services separately from 1 July 2014, so that they could chose alternative service suppliers for roaming whilst retaining their national operators for domestic use and keeping their national phone numbers. Home country providers would have to inform their customers of this right and any switch to an alternative roaming service provider would have to be free of charge.

Domestic mobile service suppliers would also have to enable their customers to access mobile local data services while abroad without having to unsubscribe from their existing data roaming contract or arrangement, and while keeping their mobile number.

To boost competition, the agreement also proposes facilitating access to the wholesale market for new alternative operators (known as mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs).

Improving transparency and consumer protection

The deal also takes on board MEPs' amendments to improve price transparency and information on charges to users of roaming services, both within and outside the EU.

New price caps

The current legislation capping roaming charges for phone calls, SMS messaging expires in 30 June 2012.

Retail ceilings (charged to consumers) excluding VAT

Current
1 July 2012
1 July 2013
1 July 2014

Data (per megabyte)
None
70 cents
45 cents
20 cents

Phone calls made (per minute)
35 cents
29 cents
24 cents
19 cents

Phone calls received (per minute)
11 cents
8 cents
7 cents
5 cents

SMS (per SMS)
11 cents
9 cents
8 cents
6 cents

Wholesale ceilings (charged between operators) excluding VAT

Current
1 July 2012
1 July 2013
1 July 2014

Data (per megabyte)
50 cents
25 cents
15 cents
5 cents

Phone calls (per minute)
18 cents
14 cents
10 cents
5 cents

SMS (per SMS)
4 cents
3 cents
2 cents
2 cents

Next steps: Formal agreement in Council of MInisters and European Parliament  vote scheduled for May Plenary session. If approved, the new rules would take effect on 1 July 2012.