After months of negotiations representatives from the European Parliament, Council and Commission agreed a level for wholesale roaming price caps, paving the way for the abolition of consumer roaming fees in June.
Wholesale rates – the charge operators levy on each other for connecting customers roaming in the EU – proved a thorny issue with different levels suggested by the European Commission (EC), MEPs and Council of member states.
Yesterday, the three groups finally agreed on caps of €0.032 per minute for voice calls, €0.01 for SMS and a decreasing scale for data starting at €7.70 per GB in June and eventually reaching €2.50 per GB in 2022.
Between those dates, operators will be tied to per GB limits of €6 during 2018, €4.50 in 2019, €3.50 in 2020 and €3 from 1 January 2021.
The data charge proved the most difficult issue for the EU bodies to resolve. In November the European Parliament called for a sliding fee from €4 per GB to €1 per GB. Ahead of the proposal going to the European Council, Finnish Council member Anne Berner threatened to demand further reductions, citing fears of increased consumer prices.
Despite Berner’s comments, the Council eventually voted for an increased limit of €10 per GB in 2017 and €5 by 2021. In its original bill the EC suggested a rate between the levels MEPs and the Council demanded.
While all parties agreed on wholesale pricing levels, the policy must still be finalised by the European Parliament and European Council. Agreement on the caps constituted the final hurdle to passing legislation to end consumer roaming fees, after all the bodies approved a fair usage policy in December.
Andrus Ansip, EC VP for the Digital Single Market, said: “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. Today we deliver on our promise.”
As the data cap reduces, the EC will conduct a review of the wholesale telecoms market and submit its findings by the end of 2019.