Industry proffers advice to operators after roaming fees are slashed

Industry experts say operators must do more to offset the effect of European Commission mandated cuts to consumer roaming charges for mobile data usage, texts and calls that came into effect on July 1.

Neelie Kroes - EC vice president

Data costs have been cut by more than half, from €45 cents ($61 cents) per megabyte to €20 cents. "It will become even cheaper to use maps, watch videos, check mails and update social networks while travelling across the EU," the Commission said. "To put it into context: football fans travelling in the EU during this World Cup season will pay 25 times less for data roaming as compared to during 2010 World Cup."

After vociferously opposing moves to cut and eventually eliminate roaming fees in the EU, operators are now more resigned to the situation and instead have been looking at ways of mitigating the effects on their bottom lines, including pre-emptive cuts in roaming charges ahead of the July 1 deadline, and the introduction of new plans that include roaming data and international calls and texts.

However, industry experts said there is a lot more operators could and should be doing to address the drop in fees, such as being more innovative in future service creation.

"EU roaming premiums are on their way out and taking a further 5 per cent of mobile operator's revenues with them," commented Mark Windle, head of marketing at OpenCloud, which provides next-generation software products for telecoms networks.

To reduce some of this impact, Windle said operators should look at offering consumers "something new, something they value, and something unique to, and owned by, the operator's brand".

In Windle's view, operators have become too dependent on vendors to deliver technological innovation. "The operators need to regain the ability to innovate and leverage it, rather than continue the current path of relying on others to do it for them," he said.

Raphael Glatt, head of signalling at international wholesale provider BICS, said operators should be looking at providing tiered packages and value-added services for incoming and outgoing roamers, in order to continue to make revenue from roaming services.

Glatt added that there are two options for operators: accept the erosion of roaming revenues or introduce innovative services and compete for an increased market share.

Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, said she hopes to see agreement on the end of roaming charges altogether. "The Parliament has done their part, now it is up to Member States to seal the deal!" Kroes said.

According to the Commission, roaming charges have dropped by 80-90 per cent since 2007.

For more:
- see this European Commission release

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