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The European Union (EU) has moved a step closer to the long-awaited abolition of mobile roaming charges across the 28 member states after representatives of the European Parliament, Council and Commission set the prices that mobile network operators (MNOs) can charge one another when their customers roam onto foreign networks.
From 15 June 2017, the wholesale roaming rates will be capped at 3.2 cents (2.7p) per minute of voice call and 1 cent per SMS. Meanwhile, data roaming rates will reduce progressively from €7.70 per gigabyte (GB) in June 2017, to €2.5 per GB from 1 January 2022.
“This was the last piece of the puzzle. As of 15 June, Europeans will be able to travel in the EU without roaming charges. We have also made sure that operators can continue competing to provide the most attractive offers to their home markets,” said Digital Single Market vice-president Andrus Ansip.
“Today we deliver on our promise. I warmly thank the European Parliament rapporteur Miapetra Kumpula-Natri and all the negotiators from the European Parliament, as well as the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU and all those involved in achieving this milestone. Their efforts made it happen.”
Under the “roam-like-home” regulations, the changes mean EU citizens will be able to call, send texts or use the internet for the same price that they pay at home, whenever they are travelling in the EU.
Should they go above their contracted limits while abroad, any additional charges will not be higher than what they would be charged if they exceeded their limits at home.
The European Commission (EC) said it would review whether or not the wholesale market was working by the end of 2019, and provide an interim assessment in December 2018.
The cost of roaming has been dropping steadily over the past decade as a result of the EC’s work to bring down the – often borderline extortionate – cost of roaming for travelers in the EU. Currently consumers can be charged 5 cents per minute of voice, 2 cents per SMS, and 5 cents per MB of data, on top of any applicable national rates.
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The agreement will now be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, and MNOs will soon start taking preparatory steps for the introduction of “roam-like-home” in June.
Although the regulations will come into force in the UK at the same time as the other 27 member states, it is not yet known whether or not UK mobile users will be still be covered by the agreement after the country exits the EU.
This is currently anticipated to happen in the spring of 2017, subject to the two-year Brexit negotiations that will take place after prime minister Theresa May invokes the Article 50 clause of the Treaty of European Union.
A number of MNOs, notably Three, currently offer tariff-free roaming for UK customers in some, but not all, EU countries. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...