The good news is that roaming charges in Europe may soon be a thing of the past. According to Gunther Oettinger, the European Digital Economy Commissioner, plans are underway to abolish roaming charges for mobile phone users within the European Union by 2017.
However, roaming fees in Europe is still costing users an arm and a leg despite the fact that it is beginning to come down. Most Europeans are having a difficult time using their country’s mobile in the US and in most third world countries.
This announcement comes barely one month after the European Commission ruled out the possibility to end roaming fees from 2016. This came after protests from a number of mobile service providers in smaller member states – several leaked documents have been revealed.
If the charges have to be abolished, then the proposal needs to be approved by the twenty eight European Union member states and European lawmakers before they can be put into effect. According to analysts, telecom firms struggle with declining revenues, whilst Europe is falling behind in broadband infrastructures.
If these plans are implemented, telecom firms would be banned from charging all other roaming fees by 2017. This means that mobile providers will have to let their subscribers make and receive calls at no cost for the period they are abroad.
Companies could merge in the coming years
Oettinger said that there is a need for the EU to consolidate its telecoms firms. He was referring to the whopping 280 telecom companies in Europe compared with only 4 in the United States. Many companies will have to merge in the future in case they want to consolidate their networks and become more competitive. Even so, Oettinger maintained that competition has to be assured.
As at the moment, the telecommunication industry in Europe operates based on 28 national markets as opposed to one unified market in the United States. It is for this reason that companies and customers face conflicting rules and prices.
Under the new proposal, however, telecoms firms will have to seek authorization to operate in all countries across the globe as opposed to 28 European countries.
The charges are part of the long-anticipated improvements focused on improving how people from Europe connect. Lawmakers believe that the new rules will help foster more economic activity in the EU, which is still divided by national boundaries.
Lawmakers say the abolition of roaming charges will let Europeans use their cell phones across Europe just as other developed countries, like the US can text and call and browse the internet via their smartphones from New York to California. The new regulations will lead to net neutrality, meaning all data will be treated as equal.
Many of the regulations passed by lawmakers were opposed vehemently by major carriers such as Deutsche Telekom of Germany and Vodafone of Britain. They have threatened that if they are barred from charging International roaming fees, they might be unable to invest in the region’s mobile industry in the future. They claim that roaming charges in one of their major sources of revenue.
This plan might take several years to complete, but it will involve several players in the industry, including American tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Google and more. All said and done, European lawmakers have already approved the legislation and there is no turning back.