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EU introduces new caps to halve mobile data roaming costs

Paul Withers
July 1, 2014

Internet activity now costs 16p per megabyte, with the cost of making calls falling 21 per cent to and sending a text by 25 per cent to 5p per message

The European Union has introduced new data roaming costs that will see the cost of surfing the web in Europe more than halve.

Mobile operators can now charge up to 16p per megabyte for internet downloads and web surfing, down 55 per cent from 36p per megabyte last year.  In 2012, they were allowed to charge up to 56p per megabyte.

The cost of making a call within the EU has fallen 21 per cent and 4p per minute from a year ago to 15p per minute, while receiving a call is now charged at 5p per minute – down 28.5 per cent from 6p per minute.

Caps on SMS have fallen by a quarter from a year ago to 6p per text message to 5p per text message.

From today, mobile operators in Europe can offer customers a specific roaming deal before they travel and, where available, allow them to choose a local network for data services such as emailing, reading the news online, uploading pictures and watching videos online, in the country they are visiting.

The EC said roaming charges were at their peak when the EU started to take action in 2007. The latest results are an 80-90 per cent drop across roaming services compared to then.

In April, the European Union voted in favour of eliminating roaming charges from December 15, 2015. The law still requires approval from individual EU governments.

European commission vice president Neelie Kroes said: “This huge drop in data roaming charges will make a big difference to us all this summer. but it is not enough. Why should we have roaming charges at all in a single market?

“By the end of this year I hope we see the complete end of roaming charges agreed – the Parliament has done their part, now it is up to the Member States to seal the deal.”

However, reaction from around the mobile industry to the latest roaming caps has been mixed.

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech consumer insight director Imran Choudhary said that with the number of Britons using their phone abroad still low, operators have to step up efforts to make consumers more aware of the new caps.

“The EU has been working on reducing roaming fees since 2007 and many within the industry have feared that these lower rates could impact their revenues. Now that this cap has come into force, network carriers need to turn it to their advantage by encouraging more people to use their phones abroad.

“Only one in five Britons use their phone abroad currently, and this figure has barely moved for two years. Carriers must increase consumer awareness about the new cap, to allay established anxieties about monster bills, and in doing so make using your phone abroad the norm. In this carriers can recoup some of their lost revenues.”

Tommi Uhari, CEO of Finnish mobile roaming company Uros, claims the new reductions still leave UK business travellers vulnerable to bill shock, with daily charges still amounting to £40 per day.

“Whilst the reduction in roaming costs is welcome, the cost of keeping in touch when roaming is still far too high. 16p per megabyte is preferable to 36p but this still means a £40 per day cost for the average business user. Outside the EU the cost can be as high as £2,000 per day – more than a business class flight to New York.”

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