EU telco chief to propose data roaming cap
The European Union's top telecoms regulator will propose a cap on the cost of downloading data using a mobile phone or laptop while travelling which could cut charges sharply, an EU official said on Wednesday.
Last year the EU executive European Commission introduced a three-year cap on the cost of roamed voice calls, one of Brussels' most popular policies ever.
EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said on July 15 she will propose capping the cost of sending text messages while outside a home state in the 27-nation bloc.
Since then Reding has decided the draft law should also extend to capping the prices of roamed data downloading.
"She is favouring this on data roaming though the final decision will be with the Commission as a whole," the EU Commission official said on condition of anonymity.
Reding expects Commission backing for adopting a draft law on capping roamed text prices but it is unclear if she will also get backing for including a cap on roamed data.
The European Parliament and EU states will have final say on Reding's draft law on roamed telecom services.
The average cost of roamed data for consumers is about 3.5 euros per megabyte, excluding sales tax. The Commission's impact assessment will test a cap of around 1 euro, the official said.
The effect on operators may not be heavy, however.
"We see this cap as a safety net to cut out exorbitant tariffs as by the time this regulation comes into effect around next July, many data roaming tariffs will have come down to these levels anyway," the official added.
National telecoms regulators in the EU states back Reding's plans on capping roamed texts and a three-year extension on roamed voice call caps but they are split over whether data roaming tariffs should also be capped.
Operators say the data roaming market is young and regulation would kill innovative, cheaper packages.
Reding has been spurred on by a Danish study which says a pan-EU cap of 1.18 euros per megabyte, including sales tax, would still give operators a fair profit.
Reding visits Copenhagen in September to study the Danish report before finalising her proposal for the Commission which will take a decision late September or early October.