The European Commission has approved legislation to cut data roaming charges. The price caps will stay in place until 30 June 2017.
The cost of making a voice call will fall from 35 euro cents currently, to 29 cents by 1 July 2012, 24 cents a year later, and 19 cents by 1 July 2014. The cost of receiving voice calls will fall from the current 11 cents to 8 cents, 7 cents and 5 cents over the same period, with the same charges applying to sending text messages.
The per-megabyte data cost, currently uncapped, will fall to 70 cents by 1 July 2012, 45 cents a year later, and 20 cents by 1 July 2014. The EC notes that the 70 cents/MB rate is six times lower than 2009 prices. At that point, many operators charged more than €4/MB for data roaming.
From a quick scan of UK operator websites, Orange currently charges £3.07/MB within the EU, with a £3/day or £15/month 30MB daily bundle, which is clearly a much better option. Vodafone charges £2 a day for 25MB, and O2 charges £3.07 per MB with a £40 and 50MB monthly limit. O2 may also offer a bundle, but we couldn’t find any reference to it on the company’s website. Not to say it’s not there, we just couldn’t find it. The EC also notes that operators are free to offer cheaper rates, pointing out that: “Price caps are a maximum level, acting as a safeguard, and competition should drive them lower”. Mmm, good luck with that one…
In addition, from 1 July this year, consumers roaming outside the EU will get a warning text message, email or pop-up window when they are nearing €50 of data downloads, or their pre-agreed level. They will then have to confirm they are happy to go above this level to continue data roaming. Currently, this alert system is only operational within the EU.
From 1 July 2014 customers will have the option to shop around for a separate mobile roaming provider, either through a contract or by choosing a provider at their destination, while keeping the same number.
“By putting price caps on data, we have created a roaming market for the smartphone generation,” says European Commission vice president, Neelie Kroes. “More than that, we have ended the rip-offs familiar to anyone who has used a mobile phone while travelling abroad.
“From 2014 we are also delivering a permanent solution to the roaming issue, something better than any price cap. We are bringing full competition to this market by making it easy to choose a separate roaming provider. If you can find a better offer compared to your standard contract you’ll be able to do it in a few simple swipes, just like when you choose a wi-fi network.”