EU considers relaxing roaming regulations

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Long-fought proposals on roaming regulations could be watered down if draft proposal is passed

The EU could remove regulations on operators across Europe that limits the amount they can charge smaller operators for accessing their networks.

Reports from inside the European Union suggested that member states had approved the measure on September 23, with the deregulation expected to be adopted by mid-October.

The industry’s big players, including Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao and EE chief Olaf Swantee, have previously called on the European Commission to reduce regulation in the European market, with Swantee claiming that roaming cuts had wiped £42 million from EE’s profits in the first half of 2014.

However, the move is likely to be met with disappointment by smaller firms, who could be forced to pay more to use the networks owned by the larger rivals.

The new regulations take in to consideration the fact that profits within the industry have been harmed by the growth of online calling services such as Skype and Viber, and gives national regulators freedom to remove limits on wholesale prices for calls.

ETNO, a lobbying group that represents telecoms firms including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and KPN, has welcomed the move, saying it could boost investment in infrastructure and help the European market compete with the United States.

An ETNO statement said: “Competition from alternative platforms and over-the-top service competition are today well established, and this recommendation is the right instrument to adapt regulation to the new market reality,”

According to data from ETNO, revenues from fixed telephony at major telecoms companies dropped by €5 billion to €59 billion in 2012.
The final decision on whether regulation will be removed will be made by the national regulators. The German regulator The Federal Network Agency has already said it will continue to enforce pricing restrictions.

The Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC), which is the EU’s group of national telecoms regulators, opposes the deregulation, believing it will force price hikes on to customers.

It is also opposed by the European Competitive Telecommunication Association (ECTA), a lobbying group that represents firms including TalkTalk, Wind and E-Plus, amongst others.

An ECTA statement said: “In the vast majority of member states, end-users will have very little choice – often only one, the incumbent – if fixed voice regulation is removed.

“Such premature deregulation will harm competition and thus ultimately the users, be they consumers or businesses.”

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