Kroes stands firm in roaming charges fight

Commissioner defends far-reaching reforms

EU commissioner Neelie Kroes: “Telecom companies need to start thinking in an innovative way, outside the box,” Ms Kroes said. “The days of roaming are over, they need to accept that we live in a new digital era.”

EU commissioner Neelie Kroes: “Telecom companies need to start thinking in an innovative way, outside the box,” Ms Kroes said. “The days of roaming are over, they need to accept that we live in a new digital era.”

 


EU telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes is set for a battle with Europe’s former monopolist operators this week, as she vows to stand by her far-reaching reforms, including cutting mobile roaming fees.

Ahead of an important industry meeting in Brussels tomorrow, the Dutch politician said roaming charges were outrageous and that mobile operators had to seek new business models to survive.

“Telecom companies need to start thinking in an innovative way, outside the box,” Ms Kroes said. “The days of roaming are over, they need to accept that we live in a new digital era.”

Ms Kroes will tell the industry at the FT-ETNO conference that the investor community, including large banks in the City of London, had backed her single telecom market legislation, which aims to boost investment and economic growth by knocking down national barriers across the EU.

Europe’s ailing telecom operators have criticised the European Commission’s plan for doing too little to help them lift their wafer-thin margins and easing mergers and acquisitions in a very fragmented market.

Ms Kroes’s eagerness to slash roaming fees has alarmed the sector, which views the extra charge on cross-border calls as one of its last solid profit generators. A study commissioned by ETNO, the European telecoms industry body, showed that such a move would cut up to €7 billion in the cash flow of mobile operators by 2020.

Ms Kroes stressed that her legislation contained more than just cutting roaming fees, touching on issues such as red tape and consumer protection too.

She said a lot had been done for the telecom industry in other areas – such as the uniform regional allocation of radio frequency bands – but added that they could not have it all.

Her proposal reflected the needs of a rapidly changing digital economy, she added, which went beyond the telecom sector and included technology companies as well the auto and pharmaceutical industries. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013