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By Michael Scaturro
Jan. 8 — The European Commission (EC) will lower mobile phone roaming rates by as much as 77 percent this spring before finally cutting all roaming fees in the EU by summer 2017.
“The EU has recently agreed that, as of mid-June 2017, Europeans will pay the same price to use their mobile devices when travelling in the EU as they do at home,” Nathalie Vandystadt, an EC spokeswoman, told Bloomberg. “The new rules to end roaming charges and to enshrine net neutrality in EU law are known as Regulation 2015/2120, which entered into force on Nov. 29, 2015.”
Starting April 30, EU roaming rates for outgoing voice calls are to drop from 0.19 EUR to 0.05 EUR, plus the domestic call price, per minute. Mobile termination rates for incoming calls will be reduced from 0.05 EUR to 0.0114 EUR per minute. Prices for outgoing texts will drop from 0.06 EUR to 0.02 EUR, plus the domestic call price, per SMS, and data per megabyte will fall from 0.20 EUR to 0.05 EUR, plus the domestic price, per megabyte.
All of these rates will fall to zero on June 15, 2017, when the EC's plan to cut all roaming fees across the 28-EU member states goes into effect.
The implementing regulation setting the transitional roaming rates that will go into force in April 30 was issued Dec. 16, 2015.
“The implementing regulation is directly enforceable law,” Julian Cunningham-Day, a partner in the technology, media & telecommunications department at Linklaters LLP in London, told Bloomberg BNA. “There's no need for EU countries to draft their own laws. The EU is telling the telecom providers to get on with it and implement this.”
Cunningham-Day said the major impact of the EC's plan to push down roaming rates will be on telecom operators, which have seen call termination revenues fall in recent years. EU consumers and business will benefit from lower prices when they use their mobile devices in other EU member states.
“People used to be nervous about the prospect of making an international call,” Cunningham-Day said. “Now they will enjoy greater certainty about the cost of their communications activities between different EU member states.”
Unlike the U.S. and Canada, the EU uses a mobile-calling scheme known as calling party pays (CPP), which charges the dialer for the cost of a call.
As the cost of placing calls to mobile phones—known as mobile termination rates for incoming calls—has fallen, EU mobile providers have seen their revenues drop.
“CPP has been extremely beneficial to providers in the past,” Martin Cave, a UK Competition Commission deputy chair, told Bloomberg BNA.
Cave said mobile termination costs have fallen drastically since the 1990s, when they stood at about 0.40 EUR per minute in the UK, and at 0.40-0.50 EUR per minute in the EU.
Cave thinks the mobile termination rate of 0.0114 EUR per minute set by the EC is fair.
“The price of terminating a call probably isn't zero,” he said. “The other basis on which the Commission operates is that it is trying to propose the implementation of a regulation which makes sense across 28 different member states.”
It wasn't surprising that the EC saw the need to step in and end high mobile termination rates, Calvin Monson, senior vice president for telecommunications at Castalia Advisors, told Bloomberg BNA.
“The old pricing system was unsustainable,” Monson told Bloomberg BNA. “Some rates were overpriced to subsidize others; calls were overpriced to subsidize access. The thinking was that, to keep the monthly price low, prices would need to be high.”
Monson said that after June 2017, when EU roaming rates are eliminated, he expects roaming rates between EU and non-EU countries to fall as well.
“There's no authority comparable to the EU that can regulate roaming between the EU and the U.S., or the EU and China, or the EU and Africa,” Monson said. “But just as we have seen the mobile marketplace become quite integrated between Canada and the U.S., or Mexico and the U.S., we will see more and more integration between the U.S. and the EU.”
Monson said limits on what can be carried on fiber optic cable and mobile networks are far from being reached. This, and the EU's stated desire to cut prices, could mean an end to high fees for mobile roaming rates and other kinds of international long distance charges between the EU and third party states.
“What you're seeing, essentially, is the gasping, dying breath of the old pricing system,” Monson said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Scaturro in Brussels at email@example.com
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UK telecoms regulator Ofcom's mobile call termination market review 2015-18 available at
Body of European Regulators for Electric Communications report on fixed and mobile termination rates in the EU available at
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