Regular readers will know I am not a great fan of the over-bureaucratic European Union. Occasionally, just occasionally, the mandarins of Brussels come up with something that actually benefits us all. For some years the EU has been forcing down data roaming charges. Now, the very concept of roaming is to end. As from July 2014 there will be one telecommunications market throughout Europe so you will be able to take your home voice and data plan on holiday with you. No longer will be have astronomical data charges for downloading a a bevy of YouTube videos, no longer will we be stung with exorbitant charges for calling home. It also spells an end to the common practice of buying local SIM cards to avoid extra charges.
We can all welcome this move, which is well overdue. We have a common market, after all, yet the phone companies have persisted in shafting us at every opportunity. I imagine they have been dragged kicking and screaming to accept the new regulations.
In fairness to telecoms companies, most now have reasonable plans for occasional travellers. Vodafone, for instance, currently charge £3 a day to take your home plan, including data, with you when you visit other European countries. It is a reasonable cost in the present market but, nevertheless, adds £42 to the cost of a typical fortnight’s break.
When this new regulation comes into force next year I can envisage a degree of shopping around the whole of Europe for the best deal. After all, if there are no roaming charges it doesn’t really matter where you have your contract. There are now big differences in contract charges throughout the EU and the new measures will almost certainly lead to a levelling of prices.
According to this report in The Telegraph, the new plans could wipe up to two percent off telco’s profits and could even lead to a reduction in the number of operators in the market. Currently there are over 100 companies operating in Europe compared with only four in the United States. Initially European officials expect to see an emergence of Airline-style alliances among operators as a precursor to further rationalisation.