The European Parliament and representatives of the Council and the European Commission (EC) have reached a preliminary agreement on new EU roaming rules in the wake of the Commission’s proposal in 2011. The EU parliament is expected to approve the new charges in May this year, followed by the Council in June. As such, it is hoped that new mobile roaming rules will enter into force from 1 July 2012, bringing increased competition to that segment and putting in place improved safeguards of consumer prices and a new cap on data roaming fees. Commenting on the development, the EC’s vice president for the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, said: ‘The new roaming deal gives us a long-term structural solution, with lower prices, more choice and a new smart approach for data and internet browsing. The benefits will be felt in time for the summer break – and by summer 2014, people can shop around for the best deal.’
In brief, under the new regime from 1 July this year mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and mobile resellers will have automatic rights to access other operators’ networks via closely regulated wholesale prices. Further, from 1 July 2014 end users will be able to sign up for a separate mobile roaming contract – which may be different from that for their national service provider – while keeping the same phone number. As a user crosses a national border the handset will switch to the user’s selected roaming provider seamlessly, although they will also have the option of selecting a local roaming partner manually. The EC hopes that the new rules will also put in place competitive data roaming offers, but until such time as they do, the EU’s roaming rules will put charges on a glide-path to reduce retail price caps on voice and texting (SMS) services and introduce a new retail price cap on mobile data services. It is understood the new caps will stay in force for consumers until 30 June 2017. By 1 July 2014, roaming customers will pay a maximum EUR0.19 (USD0.25) per minute to make a call, EUR0.05 per minute to receive a call, no more than EUR0.06 per SMS and no more than EUR0.20 per 1MB of data download or browsing.