Brussels backs mobile data roaming cap

Last week the European Union telecoms ministers agreed to cap* mobile phone roaming charges for SMS and data usage. Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner in charge of telecoms, has been pushing hard for agreement since the beginning of the year in the face of stiff opposition from the mobile industry and its representative body the GSM Association.

But the more far-reaching news is that national regulators are to have the power to impose functional separation - that is, force network operators to separate infrastructure and services - thereby allowing new market entrants  to use existing networks and to be charged for doing so transparently.

The regulators will also be empowered to stop infrastructure owners charging alternative broadband suppliers prohibitively high fees (so-called risk-sharing prices).

National regulators will also be obliged to take the Commission's opinion into account when shaping regulation, which falls far short of the original proposals put forward by the Commissioner who wanted the right to veto the actions of national regulators.

The UK, Sweden and the Netherlands abstained from the vote, apparently on the grounds that they wanted greater powers for their national regulators to enable them to foster greater competition and innovation in their home markets.

* The Commission's recommended retail price cap of €0.11 per intra EU text (the average is €0.29) and a wholesale maximum of €1 per megabyte of roaming mobile data.