EU moves to cut roaming fees

By Kevin J. O’Brien
New York Times / July 6, 2011

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NEW YORK - The European Commission was planning today to extend a four-year price control on cellphone service to mobile data, limiting for the first time the fees that consumers pay to browse the Internet with smartphones and laptops while traveling in the European Union.

According to an advance copy of the plan, the commission will propose that mobile data roaming fees, which according to the commission average $3.22 a megabyte in the 27-nation bloc, be capped at $1.30 starting July 1, 2012. The cap would fall to $1 a year later, and to 72 cents by July 1, 2014.

The charges to make a voice call while traveling, at present 51 cents a minute, would fall to 35 cents by July 1, 2014.

The proposal, prepared by Neelie Kroes, EU commissioner for telecommunications, will require approval by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in a process likely to conclude next spring.

Operators criticized the plan, saying that the reduced retail price caps on voice calling and new retail price controls on data would discourage investment in faster mobile networks.

Consumer advocates were supportive but said that the caps were not set low enough to spur competition.

Besides lowering the retail caps and introducing new controls, the commission is proposing that consumers be given the option of buying a roaming package separately from their regular mobile operator.