EC proposes caps on wholesale roaming charges

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to set caps on regulated wholesale roaming charges in order to prepare the ground for the abolition of retail roaming charges from Jun. 15, 2017.

The commission is proposing maximum wholesale roaming charges at €0.04 ($0.045) per minute, €0.01 per SMS and €0.0085 per MB in the European Union. Günther Oettinger, the commissioner for the digital economy and society, said the EC is now counting on the European Parliament and European Council "to keep the pace and adopt [the proposal] swiftly."

The EC said national wholesale roaming markets must be competitive if the abolition of retail roaming charges is to be sustainable throughout the EU, enabling operators to offer retail roaming services without any charges in addition to the domestic price.

"We want to make sure that the end of roaming charges works properly for consumers and market players," added Oettinger.

The EC is also addressing concerns from other industry players that it had focused too much on retail roaming charges and had not paid sufficient attention to the wholesale roaming market.

In May MVNO Europe, a coalition of MVNOs and "progressive" MNOs, said regulated wholesale roaming caps also needed to be reduced to allow all operators to compete on the market.

"Without any further steep reduction of these caps, a large number of mobile operators may decide or be forced to impose restrictions to users when roaming abroad through complex and unfriendly contractual clauses," MVNO Europe said at the time.

The coalition also warned that a great deal of work still needs to be done by the European Commission, parliament and council to deliver on the political promise to achieve roam-like-at-home across Europe by mid-June next year.

The EC has been gradually reducing the caps on roaming fees across the EU. The latest reduction took effect from the end of April 2016, with the prices that mobile operators can charge on top of their domestic offerings capped at €0.05 per minute on outgoing calls, €0.02 per SMS sent, and €0.05 per MB of data.

In the meantime, operators across the EU have been introducing "worry-free" roaming or "roam-like-home" services ahead of the June 2017 deadline. One of the latest offers came from Three Austria, which introduced the "3FeelLikeHome" option that essentially enables domestic minutes, text and data packages to be used abroad.

For more:
- see this EC statement

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Three Austria overhauls mobile plans with a focus on roaming
Vodafone UK now includes roaming in domestic plans
Despite the cut in fees, Europe is still far from done with mobile roaming
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