European Commission reveals plans to slash data charges

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Commission wants to ensure users are charged no more than 10 cents per MB when travelling abroad

The European Commission (EC) has presented a proposal to combat what its says is the “continued high cost” of using mobile services when travelling throughout the EU.

The proposal calls for a “directly binding regulation” that would introduce structural measures to boost competition by allowing customers to sign up for cheaper roaming contracts from July 1 2014.

This means that consumers travelling throughout the EU would be charged no more than 10 cents per 1MB of data, 5 cents per minute for voice calls and 2 cents per text sent.

Current roaming charges sit at 50 cents per MB for data, 18 cents per minute for voice calls and 10 cents per text message.

One pence is currently worth 1.1 Euro cent.

This contract would be separate from any existing contract consumers have with their current home operators but will still allow them to use the same number.

The proposal would also give MVNOs the right to use other operators networks in other EU member states at regulated wholesale prices.

This, the EC says would encourage more operators to compete on the roaming market.

In order to bring prices down the EC has proposed to slowly bring down the costs of mobile usage from July 1 2012.

The proposal suggests the charge per MB of data should be 30 cents by July 1 2012, 20 cents by July 1 2013 before eventually falling to 10 cents the following year.

Voice calls would fall to 14 cents per minute in 2012, 10 cents in 2013 before reaching the 6 cents per minute target in 2014.

Texts would fall to 3 cents in 2012 before falling to 2 cents in 2014.

EC vice president for the digital agenda Neelie Kroes said: “This proposal tackles the root cause of the problem – the lack of competition on roaming markets – by giving customers more choice and by giving alternative operators easier access to the roaming market.

“It would also immediately bring down prices for data roaming, where operators currently enjoy outrageous profit margins.”

Three chief executive David Dyson says the operator supports the proposals, but says even more must be done to ensure consumers can use their devices abroad “without fear of cost”.

“High wholesale data rates are the problem, but the proposed caps will still leave these charges equivalent to €100 a gigabyte of data by 2014, a hundred-times greater than the current rate enjoyed today by UK consumers,” Dyson says.

“If the Commission wants to deliver on its objectives to provide a consistent experience for Europe’s consumers it should focus on driving the wholesale rates down to 3 cents a megabyte or less.”

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