EU plans to slash cost of texting, mobile data

Europeans are paying high prices to send cell-phone text messages or use mobile internet services outside their own country, the EU's telecoms chief said, just months after the EU capped roaming charges for calls, according to an Associated Press report.

The Associated Press report said charges that tourists and traveling executives pay for making mobile phone calls outside their home countries have dropped by as much as 60% since the European Commission capped fees last September.

But no such price limit exists for the 202 billion text messages that were sent in western Europe last year, according to research firm Gartner, nor for business travelers who check email on a BlackBerry from a foreign airport.

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding was quoted by the report as saying that said she was concerned about the high level and wide range of prices for text messages and data roaming listed in a report from the European Regulators Group which collected data from 150 European operators from April to September last year.

'We will watch developments very closely and respond appropriately by the end of 2008,' she said.

These words are similar to the early warnings she gave phone companies to reduce their call fees, saying their roaming charges for voice calls were unjustifiably high and discouraged people from using their phones when they crossed the border.

Citing telecom firms' refusal to budge, she eventually won EU government and European Parliament backing to introduce a September 1 ban on charging more than 49 euro cents ($0.67) a minute for making calls, and 24 euro cents ($0.32) for receiving calls, outside travelers' home countries.

The EU price ceilings will drop further by 2009.