EU wins battle to end mobile roaming charges
By Daryl Jackson, News Editor
01 Feb 2017
The European Union says it is on course to deliver on its promise of an end to mobile phone roaming charges on 15 June for EU residents travelling in the bloc.
It announced on Wednesday that it had cleared the final hurdle by agreeing caps on wholesale charges - the amount phone operators charge each other when their customers use their phones abroad - following exhaustive negotiations.
The apparent removal of that barrier allows the end of roaming charges for consumers to take place.
It means that data usage, calls and text messages will cost you no more when using your phone in any EU country - putting an end to the potential for shock bills.
While the wholesale caps need to be formally ratified by the European Parliament and member states, the deal was seen as sending a message that the EU works for the consumer amid the backlash against Brussels from UK voters last June and growth in support for anti-EU parties in several other countries.
UK consumers will benefit from the end to roaming fees while the country remains a member of the EU - expected to end in the spring of 2019.
After that it will depend on what agreement, if any, can be made in the Brexit negotiations.
The agreement on wholesale charges was announced by Malta, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
Its digital minister Emmanuel Mallia said: "Today's decision is the final step in a process that started 10 years ago … Roam like at home is now a reality."
The agreement means a 90% drop in the maximum wholesale roaming prices.
They are capped at €7.75 per gigabyte for data and the limits, which also cover calls and text messages, will go down every year after that - with the European Commission pledging to step in if the wholesale caps prove too meagre.
The main stumbling block to the wholesale talks were wide differences in domestic prices and consumption patterns across the bloc.
For example, countries that include summer holiday hotspots were worried that domestic customers would have to foot higher bills to recover costs from handling high traffic from overseas tourists.
The MEP who handled negotiations on behalf of the largest grouping in the European Parliament, Paul Rubig, expressed frustration over the talks.
He said: "We want a truly functioning digital single market.
"The telecoms ministers of some EU member states still seem to care more about their former state-owned telecom companies than about the benefits for citizens."