EU move on mobile regulations irks operators

Anticipating fierce opposition from operators,the European Commission Monday opened a six week-long consultationabout its plans to slash the cost of using a mobile phone on themove.

European Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding announcedlast week that she would submit a proposal for new legislationcutting the average cost of roaming by 60 percent in the comingmonths.

The GSM Association (GSMA), a trade grouprepresenting European mobile phone operators, condemned the plan as”unnecessary and heavy-handed” in a statement issued even beforethe consultation started.

The GSMA said that regulating retail prices is adrastic step that distorts competition in the market and interfereswith companies’ ability to develop their own business models anddifferentiate themselves from the competition.

Roaming is a value-added service for whichmobile operators should be free to charge market rates, said RobConway, chief executive officer of the GSMA, in the statement.Conway said it would be “inappropriate” to regulate roaming tariffsat a pan-European level, since national markets aredifferent.

In a statement on Monday, however, Reding saidthat the reduction of roaming charges is crucial forcompetitiveness. “Using your mobile phone abroad must stopproviding a pretext for excessive charges, and instead become anattractive service for tourists and business travellers anywhere inthe 25 EU Member States,” she said.

Roaming charges in Europe range from Euro 4 (CDN$5.66) to Euro 8 for a four-minute call, she said. She also wants operators tostop charging users for receiving calls while on other operators’networks.

While operators oppose the Commission’sinitiative, national regulators broadly welcomed it. “Ourcommitment to resolve this is absolute,” said Kip Meek, chairman ofthe European Regulators Group (ERG) and of UK telecommunicationsregulator Ofcom. He said

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