Europe to regulate mobile roaming rates

The European Commission will detail its plans to regulate thecost of international roaming for mobile phone users at a meetingin Brussels on Tuesday.

“The objective is to promote competition and to ensure thatconsumers are not punished for crossing a border,” said MartinSelmayr, a spokesman for Viviane Reding, European Commissioner forInformation Society and Media.

Reding will reveal the plans at a meeting with Kip Meek, thechairman of the European Regulators Group. The announcement,originally scheduled for April, follows a six-week public inquiryinto the roaming charges, which is set to close Wednesdaynight.

Since the Commission made clear that it is closely monitoringthe cost of roaming, some European network operators have announcedcuts in their roaming charges. Three network operators in Ireland,for example, have abolished roaming fees for customers travellingto Northern Ireland or the rest of the U.K.

The abolition of border controls between many European Unionmember states means that for many Europeans, “The only way you findout today that you have crossed a border is when your mobile phoneconnects to a foreign network,” Selmayr said.

The regulations will affect roaming charges for customers of oneE.U. network operator roaming on a network in another of the E.U.’s25 member states, he said.

To back up its regulatory proposal, the Commission has studiedthe economic impact on network operators. “Some say 10 percent to15 percent of revenue comes from roaming,” Selmayr said. “Everybodyis using speculative figures at the moment,” he added, saying thatthe Commission would publish its own estimates next week.

The GSM Association will file its contribution to the publicinquiry later Wednesday, according to association spokesman DavidPringle. The association, which brings together mobile phoneoperators, would not disclose details of its submission ahead oftime.

On Tuesday, the Commission will also update a Web site where ittracks international roaming charges to show how prices haveevolved since last year.

“That will allow everybody to judge whether prices have comedown or not,” Selmayr said.

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