The European Commission
(EC) has voted to scrap mobile charges
caused through roaming in 2014. The vote, held by a group of 27 European Commissioners on Tuesday, fast-tracks the proposal to ban the extra charges on calls, texts, and data, with a view to having it implemented by carrier by the beginning of July next year.
According to The Telegraph
, the proposals are designed to encourage the consolidation of carriers in Europe, with a source claiming that there are "around 100 operators in Europe and only four in the US." The report's source continues "That's not sustainable if we're going to have a single market and investment," expressing that while consolidation is a secondary aim of the plans, "The aim is a single market, but if that means we get fewer, stronger operators, that's good." The prospect of stronger European carriers could also help improve phone networks further, with the source suggesting that "Europe has less 4G mobile broadband than Africa at the moment."
While the prospect of not having to pay roaming fees will be good for mobile phone users on the continent, it could still affect them negatively. Around two percent of carrier revenues are expected to evaporate after the ending of roaming charges, and while this will eliminate high bills from holidays, it will cause mobile phone networks to seek other ways to earn that lost revenue, such as through higher monthly contracts or call charges. It is also possible that the carriers will count roaming calls as the same cost per minute as a normal out-of-allowance minute, which could cost customers even more money.
The fast-tracked proposals will bring to an end the continued battle between the EC and continental phone networks. Last year
, the EC agreed to new regulations that lowered charges to À0.29 ($0.36) per minute for outgoing calls, or À0.08 ($0.10) per minute to receive calls. A later change that would be implemented in 2014 would bring the call, SMS, and data charges down lower, but it would no longer be required once this new bill is enforced.
While the charges would be dropped for European phone usage, it is not clear how this will affect customers from countries outside the European Union, nor for European phone users making calls when outside it themselves. The EC will be providing more details about the proposals, and its potential implications for non-EU usage, within the next six weeks.