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Roaming with more choice and lower prices - 06/07/2011

Hand holding mobile phone © EU

"Bill shock" from roaming with your mobile phone within the EU could come to an end with measures to make the market more competitive.

New rules proposed for Europe's mobile telephone operators aim to dramatically lower roaming costs.

They would help achieve the 2015 target set by the EU's digital agenda for a seamless communications market - to eliminate the large differences between domestic and roaming rates.

The proposal tackles the root cause of high roaming prices - the lack of competition - by opening up the market to more operators and by giving consumers more choice.

"It would also immediately bring down prices for data roaming, where operators currently enjoy outrageous profit margins," says digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes.

The rules would require domestic operators to allow other providers access to their networks at regulated wholesale prices.

Consumers would also be able to switch from their domestic operator to another roaming provider. The switch would be automatic - without a change of phone number or SIM card.

Data price cap

Easier access and more choice would foster competition and bring down prices, but that could take time.

Until then, a price cap for data roaming would reduce charges to no more than 90 cents per megabyte (MB) from July 2012, falling to 50 cents by July 2014.

In 2010 consumers paid an average of €1.06 per MB to download data in another EU country, with prices going up to €12 per MB in some cases.

The data cap complements an existing one for calls and text roaming - 35 cents per minute for calls made, and 11 cents for calls received. That cap ends in June 2012 and would be extended until mid-2016.

Consumers would continue to be protected by a "bill shock" rule, which limits charges while abroad to €50 unless they explicitly agree to a different level.

A current cap on wholesale prices - the charges operators bill for use of their networks by competitors - would remain in place until 2022.

The Commission expects the rules to encourage innovative cross-border offers and prices significantly below the safeguard caps.

Next steps

The proposal now goes before the European Parliament and EU governments for consideration.

More on roaming
More on the EU's digital agenda

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