The ending of European Union roaming charges for people using mobile phones abroad moved closer after a provisional deal in the European Parliament.
The plan to cap wholesale charges that telecoms operators pay each other is the final piece of a long-running plan to end roaming fees so people can use phones abroad at no additional cost. It decides how much operators must pay for using other companies’ networks.
The full European Parliament and EU member states must confirm the deal. Consumers pay roaming charges whenever they connect to an operator based abroad. The charges are in addition to the cost of the call itself, and for short calls they can make up a large proportion of the overall fee. The new caps have to be low enough for operators to be able to offer fee-free roaming to customers without putting up domestic prices, but high enough so they can recover their costs. There should also be enough money in the system for continuing maintenance and upgrading of networks.
‘Roam like at home’
“This decision is the final step in a process that started 10 years ago,” said Dr Emmanuel Mallia, the Maltese Minister for Competitiveness and Digital, Maritime and Services Economy. “From next summer, wherever they are travelling in Europe, citizens will be able to make calls, send texts, surf and stay connected. Roam like at home is now a reality.” Under the agreement, the wholesale charge for data will drop from the current cap of 50 euros (£43) per gigabyte (gb) to 7.7 euros (£6.60) per gb on 15 June. The price will drop again on 1 January every year until January 2022 when it will be 2.5 euros (£2) per gb.
Calls will fall from 0.05 euros (4p) per minute to 0.032 euros (3p) on 15 June, and text messages will go down from 0.02 euros (2p) to 0.01 euros (1p) per message. The charges will be reviewed every two years and new caps proposed if necessary. The first report is due out at the end of 2019.