Tighter regulation of mobile data roaming casts shadow over Barcelona from Brussels

With MWC 2011 still in full swing there are no shortage of topical issues to blog about, but whilst the mobile industry celebrates its achievements in Barcelona, back in Brussels the European Commission continues to go about its business. On Monday, the Commission published its latest consumer research on perceptions of roaming costs which showed continued consumer concern over the costs of both voice and data roaming.

The existing Roaming Regulation has dramatically reduced roaming voice revenues for operators for intra-EU roaming, with some reduction in roaming data revenues. The existing rules expire on 30 June 2012, so this research feeds into the Commission’s review of its replacement which started in December 2010. In that review, Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda said: “Huge differences between domestic and roaming charges have no place in a true EU Single Market. We need to address the source of current problems, namely a lack of competition, and to find a durable solution. But we are keeping an open mind on exactly what solution would work.” 

Speaking at MWC on Monday (launching the research) she further said: “I would love to be able to say to you today that the roaming market is competitive, that data roaming charges approach domestic prices, that bill shocks are a thing of the past, that prices for voice and SMS roaming are not clustered around the maximum levels permitted.  Regrettably, I cannot.”

The Commission’s Digital Agenda’s target is to have a single market for telecoms services in which the difference between national and roaming charges should approach zero by 2015. Whilst this week has seen some of the operators announce cheaper data roaming plans in an attempt to head off further regulation, the Commission seems to be preparing the ground carefully for further aggressive regulation of roaming.

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