The cost of mobile roaming within the European Union is to fall dramatically over the next two years, due to a new regulation passed by the European Parliament on Thursday.
Data roaming in particular is set to become significantly cheaper, with the first retail price caps being imposed on operators for that service. The 'roaming regulation' was passed by 578 to 10 votes.
Apart from the new caps, the regulation will in two years' time also allow consumers to choose roaming packages from different operators to the ones they use at home.
This decoupling from domestic deals is intended to introduce competition to the market for roaming services, as is a measure that will let smaller virtual operators such as Tesco Mobile get better rates when they buy connectivity from overseas operators.
"From 1 July 2012, the European Union's mobile roaming regulation will be extended to include price caps for data downloads which will mean significant savings for those using maps, email and social networks when travelling," the Commission said in a statement. "For a typical businessperson travelling in the EU this will mean savings of over €1000 [£803] per year. A family taking an annual holiday in another EU country can expect to save at least €200."
Data roaming charges will be capped at 70 euro cents per megabyte this July, and that limit will gradually fall to 50c per megabyte in July 2014. Retail voice caps will drop from the current 35c per minute to 32c in July, down to 24c in 2014, for calls made.
The costs of calls received, and the charges for sending and receiving text messages, will come down from today's 11c cap to a 10c maximum.
ZDNet UK's investigations last year uncovered the fact that the actual cost of providing data-roaming services is between 1-3p per megabyte. Mark-ups have been as high as 80,000 percent — more than twice the mark-up on cocaine.
The regulation approved on Thursday by the Parliament will not, of course, affect the charges levied on those travelling outside the EU. However, it will force EU operators to institute default €50 limits on the bills that can result from such trips — previously, this anti-bill-shock measure was only in place for intra-EU roaming.