From 1 July European Union (EU) mobile operators have been required to lower retail prices for roaming calls, in line with EU rules first introduced in 2007. Consumers opting for the EU regulated ‘Eurotariff’ will pay no more than 35 cents (32p) per minute for calls made, and 11 cents (10p) per minute for calls received while abroad in the EU. From 1 July 2011 the cap for data roaming wholesale prices (the price which operators charge each other) fell to 50 cents (45p) per megabyte (down from 80 cents – 71p – per MB). The current Regulation does not establish a retail price cap for data services. How do you feel about this final EU price cut? What does it mean for consumers and is it enough to encourage them to use their mobiles for calls and data while roaming, and for mobile operators, what does it mean for their business’s sustainability and future in general?
Richard Turner, Brightstar Europe managing director: It was always obvious what would happen here, operators would simply put their prices up for pay as you go services to compensate and that’s exactly what’s happened, so to some degree the ruling is pointless, as it simply means that the burden of operating and funding those international roaming agreements is being shared out amongst all users.
Overall, it’s not that helpful because the majority of users don’t travel that much; those who do, mostly business users, are happy to pay the additional charges as long as they are not entirely disproportionate. In the end, the EC directive could have a negative impact; consumers who do not travel won’t be happy about having to pay more to supplement those who want to make calls from abroad.
Ultimately, that could even lead to some operators walking away from roaming agreements in areas where there are marginal benefits, which would limit the scope and flexibility of services. That would be a move in the wrong direction. The tariffs did need to come down a bit, but we think the EU may have gone too far.
This ruling prevents operators funding the cost of roaming agreements by charging the people who use those services; instead, everyone is going to make a contribution, whether they use roaming or not. In that sense, it’s not entirely fair.