Reports: EU could delay end to mobile roaming charges

Plans to eliminate mobile roaming fees across the European Union could be delayed or watered down, according to interpretations of a draft proposal by the European Commission seen by some media outlets.

Neelie Kroes, the outgoing EC vice president who has been responsible for the EU Digital Agenda in recent years, created a package to overhaul mobile roaming that included the plan to abolish roaming fees by 2016--a proposal that was supported by EU lawmakers in April.

However, The Financial Times and Reuters reported that they have seen a copy of a draft proposal from Italy--the current presidential seat of the European Council--that makes no mention of the proposed deadline date of Dec. 15.

Reuters noted that while the draft is likely to be further revised, it suggests only a gradual reduction in roaming fees towards the goal of "roam like at home" (RLAH), when EU mobile users would pay the same mobile charges no matter where they were in the region.

"The legislative date for the initial introduction of RLAH, subject to transitional measures and fair use limits, needs to be defined and is a significant political question," the draft document states, according to Reuters.

The FT said the draft indicates there will be no change in wholesale roaming rates proposed. The paper also reported that while retail roaming fees will still be reduced, a loophole may be in place to allow a "fair use" limit for customers before they would be liable to pay extra to roam abroad.

In a statement emailed to FierceWireless:Europe, Kroes said: "We feel the Italian Presidency text has all the essential building blocks needed to push the telecoms market forward: ending roaming, a net neutrality guarantee, more cooperation on spectrum and consumer protection. It lacks some of the ambition of the Commission text but it's a good basis for further negotiations."

Mobile operators in the EU would be the winners if the rumours are true, as they would be able to keep charging high fees to end-users and to each other for allowing travellers to use their networks. Consumers would be the losers, however.

EU officials will be discussing the draft proposal in Brussels this Thursday.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Financial Times article (sub. req.)

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