At last the EU seems prepared to do something about exhorbitant roaming charges, especially for data. Neelie Kroes, the EU commissioner in charge of digital affairs, says that she expects the gap between domestic and roaming charges to be reduced to zero. With some companies still charging up to £10 a megabyte for roaming within Europe, we have a long way to go.
In a speech today, Koes said that a genuine EU single market should be one where price differences between voice, text messages and data were based only on the actual cost of providing these services: "I will assess the structural, economic and legal barriers to such a true single market and I am not afraid to propose the necessary measures to overcome these," she said.
"But some real out-of-the-box thinking is needed for that. In this scenario the exorbitant cost of 'roaming' abroad within the EU is an outdated concept." Kroes said she would not impose price ceilings just for the sake of it but would unveil new proposals if necessary.
Her predecessor, Viviane Reading, has already done a great deal to cap roaming charges and operators are not not allowed to charge more than one euro per megabyte to other companies for data roaming. Yet this is merely the wholesale cost and consumers continue to be charged between £3 and £10 per megabyte.
Something must be done about this. There is no reason why EU citizens should feel it necessary to buy local SIM cards in a number of countries simply to enjoy reasonable costs. In a free market such as the EU, I believe the entire territory of the Union should be considered a "home" area for all cellular phone companies. This is no different to the situation in the USA, an area which is even larger than the EU. Ms. Kroes has put the telecommunications companies on notice and I hope that we will see dramatic reductions in roaming costs over the next twelve months.