Price cap drives EU operators to hike non-EU roaming fees
Voice and SMS roaming rates in Europe have halved over the last three years, largely due to an EU roaming price cap.
However, European operators have rebalanced their prices for roaming to regions outside the EU, according to a new report from Tariff Consultancy (TCL).
It says EU mobile roaming data rates are on average €5.4, five times the €1 per MB wholesale rate, though individual operator data roaming rates vary from below the wholesale cap to more than ten times the cap rate.
TCL said some 90% of European mobile operators have chosen to position their EU voice roaming tariff close to the cap, which is acting as the de facto price standard.
The introduction of the EU roaming cap appears to have impacted pricing in other regions. "The user can end up paying ten times more for communication when outside the EU," said TCL MD Margrit Sessions.
She said a major constraint was “lack of awareness” on the part of customers. “In our survey over the three-year period since 2007, it is striking how little unregulated roaming services pricing has declined.”
The report found that some operators have altered the geographical zones, resulting in higher prices for roamers, in particular countries such as Norway, Switzerland, the USA and Asia Pacific.
The effect of the rebalancing has been to make roaming to the US or other countries relatively expensive by comparison with the EU.
This results in scenarios such as the price of a roaming voice call from the EU zone to the next geographical tariff zone having an average mark-up of 200%.
While the price of SMS roaming outside the EU zone to the next geographical zone has an average mark-up of 160% and in the case mobile data roaming outside the EU, an average mark-up of 270%.