updated 11:55 am EDT, Wed April 22, 2009
EU Roaming Caps Start July
The European Union Parliament today voted in favor of a plan from the European Commission to cap roaming rates for cellular service in any of its member states. The motion takes effect July 1st and will particularly cut data and text messaging costs. Internet access out-of-country will be limited to 1 per megabyte at wholesale rates, or far less than the 1.63 charged today. Text messaging will also drop sharply with individual messages costing no more than 0.11 versus an average of 0.28.
Call roaming has already been limited in the past but will be cut further, shrinking to 0.43 for outbound calls and 0.19 for incoming. Phone call bills will also have to be measured by the second after the first 30 seconds, the Parliament says. No matter the type of service, the EU has also set a March 2010 deadline for carriers to allow subscribers a self-imposed roaming limit; the restriction will automatically cut off roaming service after 50 or a voluntary higher figure and prevent "surprise" high bills, particularly for data.
Both calls and data will also have their roaming fees cut down in the next two years. Outgoing and incoming calls will be pushed down to 0.39/0.15 by July 2010 and 0.35/0.11 a year later. Mobile data will have to reach 0.80 by 2010 and 0.50 by 2011. The European Commission says the new rules will last until summer 2012 and that it has the right to add new rules by June 2011.
The regulation is meant to guard against what Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding describes as a "rip off" practice for roaming fees in Europe, where cellular carriers have largely been free to set their own rates independently of what the service actually costs. In some cases, data rates have been several times higher than the proposed 2009 rate, peaking at 6.82 in Ireland.
Providers have regularly objected to the changes as interfering with their business models but haven't typically provided their actual costs for data and voice.