European Union member states, the European Parliament and the European Commission have agreed on an end date for roaming charges. The fees will be abolished on 15 June 2017, after which consumers will pay the same rates as in their home countries when using mobile services abroad in the EU. Starting 30 April 2016, the existing price caps on roaming will be reduced. Users will pay the same as they do at home when roaming in the EU, plus a small surcharge. These surcharges are proposed at €0.05 (US $0.06) per minute for outgoing and incoming calls, €0.05 per megabyte for mobile data and €0.02 (US $0.02) per SMS. From mid-June 2017, the last surcharges will be scrapped, and users will pay for roaming with their existing postpaid package or prepaid credit, at the same rates as in their home country. However, roaming at home rates will be subject to a “fair use” ceiling, after which operators may charge a small additional fee. According to the EC, this fee will still be “much lower” than current roaming price caps.
It appears that after years of negotiations and back-and-forth policy shifts, the EU has finally committed to ending roaming within its borders and has specified a timetable and a fee structure for phasing it out. We have chronicled the vicissitudes of this debate in these pages. In April 2014, the EC passed legislation mandating the end of roaming charges by the close of 2015. That deadline was dropped after some smaller member states on the periphery of the EU, such as Finland and Croatia, objected that they would be hurt financially if roaming charges were to be abolished. But the states forged ahead with their negotiations, intent on addressing widespread user dissatisfaction with roaming charges.
Unlike with the previous, rushed deadline, the current agreement seems to allow enough time for wholesale and retail interconnection charges to be homogenized within the EU. This process is essential, we believe, for ending roaming charges, and mobile operators and governments alike must invest in developing the infrastructure needed for that to happen. The process will need some fine-tuning, but the fundamentals of the agreement are in place, and it is likely that this time, roaming really will come to an end in Europe.