June 16, 2015
EU ROAMING REPORT UPDATE – NOTHING TO SEE HERE
With the US implementing Net Neutrality at the end of last week, attention has turned to the European Union who are attempting to come up with something similar for their 28 Member States. The amount of countries involved has the unfortunate result of making the EU’s plans that much harder to implement – 28 times harder, to be precise.
It’s a good news/bad news situation at present. The good news is that a framework for data regulation across the whole EU has been agreed upon, and it only took 3 years. The next steps are for the three sections of the European Union – the Commission, the Parliament and the Council – to discuss the specific amendments put forward by each country. Early estimates hinted that this could take up to 2 years, so let’s call it at least 4. That is, assuming they are able to reach an agreement, which does not seem to be the case when it comes to roaming charges.
At a breakfast meeting last Friday, the outgoing Latvian President of the European Council urged the few representatives who had bothered to show up to come to an agreement on the issue of roaming charges in Europe. After all, the latest figures suggest that a vast amount of money is being spent on roaming even within the EU. Last year, for example, travelers from the UK spent £573 million ($891 million) on roaming fees alone in Europe. German visitors spent €375 million ($422 million), and with only two of the 28 Member States counted so far, this already adds up to over a billion dollars. And of course, this is what is causing the hold-up.
Telecoms operators, and the countries that they work in, do not want to give up on this income. Others have concerns about fairness. Polish telecoms operators, as an example, feel that they’re losing out because of their geography – relatively few travelers want to go on vacation to Northern Europe as compared to the sunnier parts of the Mediterranean, and would be much more in favor of the proposals. Countries like Greece, already in a financially precarious position, feel that losing this very lucrative revenue stream would leave them in even more trouble. So while data regulation is something that everyone can (in theory) agree on, abolishing roaming charges seems at this stage to still be an impossible dream.