EU plans to abolish roaming charges
Proposals aim to create a single market for European telecoms industry
European commissioner for digital affairs Neelie Kroes said yesterday that the reforms were “essential for Europe’s strategic interests and for Europe’s economic progress”. Photograph: Alan Betson
The European Commission has confirmed plans to abolish Europe-wide roaming charges as part of a shake-up of regulation in the telecoms sector. The changes aim to create a single market for the European telecoms industry by dismantling the 28 national markets which exist within the individual member states.
European commissioner for digital affairs Neelie Kroes said in Brussels yesterday that the reforms were “essential for Europe’s strategic interests and for Europe’s economic progress”. She said the EU’s fragmented telecoms market hurts customers, the economy and “our strategic future”.
Any delays in implementing the package would see the European telecoms industry shrink in the face of competition from Asia and the US. “This package is the single biggest thing that the European institution could finalise in 2014 to boost growth and jobs,” she told reporters.
Incoming call charges
Ms Kroes hopes to eventually put and end to roaming charges. Starting next year the plan will seek to ban incoming call charges because “it’s so crazy to say that with an incoming call there is a charge for you”, Ms Kroes said. The package also contains a measure which would minimise the disparity between international and domestic call rates.
In addition it seeks to introduce a “net neutrality” policy – the idea that all types of content, whether voice, video or data, are treated equally by telecoms carriers. Ms Kroes said this would allow users to “enjoy the full internet no matter what internet subscription you have”. Telecom operators have been lobbying strongly against some of the measures, arguing they will increase rather than cut costs, and will fail to attract more investment.
Irish telecommunications operators yesterday gave the plan a mixed reception. Eircom welcomed some of the proposals, particularly measures that would allow lighter regulation of retail prices in return for greater transparency on the fees telcos charge other operators for access to their networks.
“We need further discussions with Comreg [the Irish regulator] on this issue,” said Pat Galvin, Eircom’s head of regulatory affairs. But he added that some of the measures, particularly the plan to eliminate roaming charges, risked discouraging investment: “If you take value out of the market like that, if affects the investment case.”
Eircom, which is in the middle of a €1.5 billion investment programme, said the industry needed certainty on the final make-up of the new regime.