European Commission ends mobile roaming charges

Consumers will now be charged for their regular phone plan while roaming throughout Europe, with wholesale pricing capped at 3.2 cents per minute for voice calls and 1 cent per SMS by 2017, and data €2.50 per GB by 2022.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The European Commission has announced an end to mobile roaming charges throughout the European Union as of June 15, with an agreement having been reached on how much providers are permitted to charge each other for use of their networks.

Wholesale roaming prices will be capped at 3.2 euro cents per minute for voice calls and 1 euro cent per SMS as of June 15, 2017. Data prices will slowly be reduced over the next five years: €7.70 per GB as of June 15, 2017; €6 per GB as of January 1, 2018; €4.50 per GB as of January 1, 2019; €3.50 per GB as of January 1, 2020; €3 per GB as of January 1, 2021; and €2.50 per GB as of January 1, 2022.

The regulation of wholesale pricing was agreed upon by the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council.

Andrus Ansip, vice president of the European Commission's Digital Single Market strategy project, called the agreement the "last piece of the puzzle".

"As of 15 June, Europeans will be able to travel in the EU without roaming charges," Ansip said.

"We have also made sure that operators can continue competing to provide the most attractive offers to their home markets. Today, we deliver on our promise."

Prior to the decision, consumers paid a maximum of 5 euro cents per minute for voice calls; 2 euro cents per SMS; and 5 euro cents per MB of data as of April 2016.

However, the commission's adoption of a fair use and sustainability policy in December last year will enable consumers to simply use their phone plans when travelling throughout the EU.

"As of 15 June 2017, consumers will be able to use their mobile device when travelling in the EU, paying the same prices as at home, ie to 'Roam like at Home'," the commission said last year.

"Any voice call, SMS, and data session made while travelling abroad in the EU will be deducted from the monthly package of minutes, SMS, and data in the home country with no extra charges. This means the end of roaming charges as travellers have experienced them so far."

The European Commission had been long planning to scrap global roaming fees by 2016, with the European Parliament voting in a proposal to have roaming prices dictated by local competition in the country being visited by travellers.

However, in March 2015, a majority of the 28 European Union member states in the European Council barred this from occurring by voting in favour of maintaining roaming charges until 2018.

They suggested an alternative scheme that would grant travellers a "basic roaming allowance" -- of only 5MB per day -- and calls, messaging, and data usage thereafter charged at a rate set lower than the maximum wholesale rate paid by operators to use the networks in other countries.

"This is a scandal. An end to roaming charges and the delivery of a genuine single market for telecoms was a campaign priority for all parties, many of whom are today responsible for blocking this measure," Guy Verhofstadt, President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament, said at the time.

"To say this text lacks ambition is an understatement. Certainly our group will not accept this text, as the only winner from it is national telecoms operators themselves. Member states should hang their heads in shame."

The commission is due to review the new process by 2019.

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