European parliament votes for data roaming cap

The European parliament has voted to limit the price of data roaming. The restrictions will come into force in July. Operators had lobbied hard against the move, stressing the double pressures of the economic downturn and the investments they need to make in upgrading their networks for provide faster data transmission.

Wholesale prices of data will be capped at €0.50 per megabyte, half the €1 price the industry had been pushing for as a compromise. At the moment, consumers are charged around €4 per megabyte for data roaming, although operators had also claimed that competition was bringing prices down rapidly.

The new regulation will also restrict the cost of cross-border texts to a maximum of €0.11.

The agreement, which has been approved already by other European bodies.

Viviane Reding, the telecoms commissioner expressed her satisfaction at the parliamentary vote. She will leave the role at the end of the year, but her tenure will have long lasting effects. She will have radically reduced roaming charges for voice, texts and data. The cap on roaming phone calls within the EU is estimated to have cost operators something like €8.5 billion annually.

The voice price caps imposed in 2007 are to reduced to €0.40 per minute by 2010, as planned. Roaming voice revenues are also likely to be hit by an addition to the regulation that will come into effect in July. It looks like operators will be obliged to stop the practice of charging a minimum call fee equivalent to a half minute phone call.

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