Thursday, February 14, 2008

Europe - roaming

Any EU roaming action would be wholesale: Reding

Any mandatory EU intervention to cut the price of sending text messages or using the Internet while traveling abroad would be limited to the wholesale level, the European Union's top telecoms regulator said on Thursday.

Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding has given the mobile phone industry until July 1 to cut the price charged to people for sending text messages or surfing the Web on their laptop while outside their home state in the 27-nation EU.

"One should not go for a consumer price directive but one should stay at the level of wholesale prices," Reding told the European Parliament.

Several operators, including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and KPN have announced cuts in their data roaming prices in a bid to fend off mandatory cuts.

"It's a very good step in the right direction, but it's not enough that only one or two or three companies do it. It has to be Europe-wide. That seems to me to very important but it shows the way," Reding later told reporters.

Reding said she would check data roaming price levels on July 1 to decide whether to intervene or not.

"The moment parliament asks me to put a regulation on the table, I will be ready to do it," Reding said.

She said there was a need to distinguish between SMS text messages, which she described as a mature retail market, and data roaming, which was still developing.

"You should never try to over-regulate a new market. What is important is to have a basis they then build their competing business models on. This is the wholesale tariff and there the differences are quite enormous, crazy, and should be brought down to a level on which competition can work on services," Reding said.

Some operators have cut their wholesale data roaming prices to 25 euro cents per megabyte, she said.

"SMS is different as it's a mature market and in mature markets you can speak about consumer prices," Reding said.

However, the difference between consumer prices at national level and for roaming texts is unjustified, she said.

"I would like to have acceptable consumer prices on SMS that are linked to the national prices and ... a strong reduction on wholesale prices on data roaming per megabyte," Reding said.

SMS consumer prices currently vary from 5 to 10 euro cents per text message nationally, rising to 29-50 cents per text to or from outside a home state, she said.

Wholesale data roaming prices range from 1 euro cent to 1 euro per megabyte on domestic markets, rising to between 5.24 euros and 11 euros according to data from regulators.

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