The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

European Union gets breakthrough in cutting roaming costs; government reacts

Associated Press Wednesday, 1 February 2017, 09:15 Last update: about 6 years ago

The European Union has clinched a breakthrough in cutting costly mobile-phone roaming costs in the bloc ahead of the summer holidays.

The EU presidency announced Wednesday that officials from the 28 EU nations and the European parliament reached a deal on how much operators may charge each other for using their networks to provide roaming services, which should cut costs substantially.

Up to now, EU citizens have to pay hefty costs to use roaming facilities when they visit or work in other member states. It was long seen as an impediment to creating a seamless market among the member states.

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The measure still needs to be approved by the full legislature and the EU member states but the common stance agreed is seen as a vital breakthrough.

In a statement, the government said the abolition of mobile roaming fees for consumers by summer will be secured by a steep drop in maximum wholesale roaming prices. On 31 January 2017, the Council presidency reached a provisional agreement with the European Parliament on new wholesale caps, which will be around 90% lower than current ones. Wholesale roaming reform is the last piece of legislation required before retail roaming fees can be abolished on 15 June 2017. This informal agreement still has to be confirmed by EU member states and the full Parliament.

The reform determines how much operators may charge each other for using their networks to provide roaming services. The new caps must be low enough to make it possible for operators to offer surcharge-free roaming to their customers without increasing domestic prices. At the same time, they need to be high enough so that operators in visited countries are able to recover their costs without increasing their domestic retail prices. In addition, the caps should allow for continuing maintenance and upgrading of networks, so that people can enjoy smooth connectivity everywhere - from the most crowded holiday spots, to the most remote regions in Europe.

As the use of data has been increasing exponentially in recent years and is expected to continue to do so, the most crucial part of the reform is the new cap for data. With the end of roaming fees, data usage abroad is also expected to soar, since consumers will not need to search for wifi hotspots to make surfing affordable. 

 

Minister for Competitiveness and Digital, Maritime and Services Economy  Emmanuel Mallia said: "Reaching a quick agreement on wholesale roaming prices was a top priority for the Maltese presidency. Today's decision is the final step in a process that started ten years ago. From next summer, wherever they are travelling in Europe, our citizens will be able to make calls, send texts, surf and stay connected. Roam like at home is now a reality."

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