EU data roaming charges to be cut by 36% on July 1

As of July 1 new European Union roaming regulations will cut the fees operators can charge for data roaming  by 36 per cent across the EU, bringing the charges down by up to 91 per cent compared to their 2007 levels.

The new prices for downloading data or browsing the Internet are 45-euro cents ($0.59) for 1 MB of data, down by 36 per cent compared to 2012. The rate will be further lowered to 20-euro cents per MB on July 1, 2014.

Meanwhile, voice roaming charges will also be 17 per cent lower than last year at 24-euro cents per minute for making a call and 7-euro cents for receiving a call, and texts will cost 8-euro cents per SMS, down 11 per cent on 2012.

"The latest price cuts put more money in your pocket for summer, and are a critical step towards getting rid of these premiums once and for all," the EU's digital commissioner, Neelie Kroes said in a statement. "This is good for both consumers and companies, because it takes fear out of the market, and it grows the market," she added.

Kroes targeting a complete elimination of roaming charges from next year as part of a wider plan to create a single market for telecoms. Roaming retail prices have been reduced by 80 per cent since 2007, the EU said in a statement.

The European Commission noted that the lower price caps will particularly benefit visitors to Croatia, which joins the EU starting July 1.

"This year visitors to Croatia will enjoy spectacular savings as the cost for data decreases almost 15 times and sending a SMS or making a phone call elsewhere in the EU will be 10 times cheaper," the EC said in the statement.

Operators, already frustrated by existing cuts in roaming charges and mobile termination rates (MTR) that are impacting their revenue, are unlikely to be as happy as consumers about the changes, although many have already reduced roaming premiums and some include free roaming bundles within their price plans.

Bloomberg noted that leading European CEOs Franco Bernabe of Telecom Italia, Cesar Alierta of Telefónica and KPN's Eelco Blok sent a letter to EU heads of state and European Commission President Jose Barroso on June 14 asking the EU to ease restrictions on pricing to help operators increase revenue and fund investments in their network.

Meanwhile, the EC has also thwarted attempts by Germany to introduce measures that would make MTRs in the country more than 80 per cent higher than in other EU member states.

In a statement, the EC said the German telecoms regulator, Bundesnetzagentur or BNetzA, failed to provide convincing reasons during a three-month investigation earlier this year as to why it should be granted special treatment and be exempted from following the method for calculating MTRs set out in the Commission's 2009 recommendation on termination rates.

"Creating a single market for telecoms and protecting consumers is top of the bill," Kroes said in a statement. "The vast majority of Member States are now setting mobile rates in a coordinated way that brings maximum benefit to consumers and to competition, so there should be no exception elsewhere."

The Commission said it will consider appropriate legal steps if the German regulator does not withdraw its proposals or amend them in line with the approach recommended by the Commission.

A spokeswoman for BNetzA told Reuters it has until July 27 to submit its final decision to the Commission. "We will now carefully examine the Commission's recommendation and we'll make a final decision," she told the news agency.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article
- see this separate Reuters article
- see this EU release
- see this separate EU release

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