European parliamentarians (MEPs) voted yesterday to introduce a price cap on mobile data downloads and to enforce cuts of up to 60% for roaming on mobile phones in Europe.
From July European travellers will pay no more that €0.11 to send a text message, €0.11 to receive a call, and €0.35 for making a voice call from their mobile phones.
However, the cuts in the cost of voice calls will be phased in by July 2011.
MEPs capped the wholesale price of downloads at €1 per megabyte. This would fall to €0.80 in 2010 and to €0.50 in 2011, it said.
The European average wholesale download price is now €1.68 per megabyte, with peaks in Ireland (€6.82), Greece (€5.30) and in Estonia (€5.10).
Mobile operators will also have to bill roaming calls on a per second basis from the 31st second at the last. This would end the current practice under which consumers are overcharged by up to 24%, the commission said.
"Today's vote marks the definite end of the roaming rip-off in Europe," said EU telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding.
The decision will be welcomed by businesses and consumers hit by unexpectedly high bills on their return from European holidays. It should also encourage consumers and businesses to communicate more via data rather than voice or text.
Reding first proposed the cuts and new rules on SMS and data roaming in September 2008.
European president José Manuel Barroso said Europe was now the most attractive continent for mobile phone users. He expected mobile network operators to introduce innovative new products and services to shore up their margins.
Reding said she would monitor the development of the roaming market for the next three years. It was up to the mobile industry to show they competed genuinely, she said. "The best proof of this would be if attractive voice and data roaming packages appear on the market very soon."