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back to article Steelie Neelie calls for TOTAL BAN on EU mobe roaming charges

The European Commission is planning to scrap all roaming charges across the Continent as part of its efforts to turn the telecoms market into a single market across all EU countries. Announcing the proposed changes, the EC said they'd be good for everyone, reducing red tape for companies and letting them expand across borders, …

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This will be fantastic, if it goes ahead. Watch this space I suppose.

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All 28 have to sign up. Won't hold my breath though.

Why 2016 for all charges though. Why not at the same time? The operators have had it too good for too long already. About time they were forced to behave properly though.

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Why 2016 ? because that's how long it will take the main Operators to strike a price fixing deal together and also to invent some new scams. Maybe they will stop subsidising the telephones or find some way to create a "Media Tax"...

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Anonymous Coward

They'll just average out the cost of roaming and non-roaming then set call rates at that level.

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There are already some tariffs (mainly PAYG) here in Blighty where outgoing calls in the EU are cheaper than calls made at home, and, excluding the availability of bundles, it's almost guaranteed that texts sent abroad will be cheaper than those at home. These people would actually find their prices RISE after roaming fees are removed!

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Anonymous Coward

"They'll just average out the cost of roaming and non-roaming then set call rates at that level.

I doubt it very much. They threw their toys out of the pram making similar threats before the already considerable cuts (for UK consumers at least) in roaming charges were made, and when push came to shove it amounted to nothing by hot air. Consumers (as opposed to business users) largely spend on mobile bills to a maximum budget; crank up the cost and the use will go down in proportion. There will doubtless be some clawback, but far less than they're losing.

Maybe they'll have to get off their lazy arses and innovate.

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Anonymous Coward

Great (<sarcasm>)

So our contract costs and any out-of-package costs are going to increase to offset the lost income from roaming then.

In other words, everyone will be paying for the functionality that (probably) less than half use.

Personally I prefer the scheme where when you want to use something out of the ordinary, you pay the extra for it... especially when it involves using someone else's infrastructure!

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Re: Great (<sarcasm>)

Problem is they take the pi** when you do go abroad. How can you be charged more than the cost of your own out of bundle minutes plus the cost of the foreign operator. The billing costs are incidental its just both parties making too much profit. As for data, £3-7 a mb is way too much.

At the end of the day they have been warning the operators for years to be sensible and they always wait until they are forced to drop prices and when they do they only drop it to the cap. Maybe they only have themselves to blame.

Take your point about the contracts though. What you probably will find is the out of bundle minute price will be what changes as your in bundle allowances probably won't be valid abroad. (Though I'm hoping that "steelie neelie" has already put in provision for that game)

Then they will get slapped down again. And so on....until around 2025 when everybody plays nicely.

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JC_
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Re: Great (<sarcasm>)

People tend to avoid calls when abroad because it's expensive, not because they don't go to the rest of the EU. Removing this kind of friction is a good thing and is what the EU is about.

Keeping roaming charges within the EU would be the equivalent of having roaming charges between states in the US - obviously a way to gouge users, and the sooner they go, the better.

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Re: Great (<sarcasm>)

libertarian drivel shot from the hip. the point is to change what is deemed "out of ordinary". and no, the market cannot change that fast enough by itself. and my prediction is that actually you will NOT be paying more, because once the telcos are forced into the EU-wide game, they will compete more (because their areas of overlap will be larger), and become more efficient. And boy there is room for efficiency! a lot of what you pay for is customer relations and marketing costs, not pushing the bits through.

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Back an fourth

OK, so you network will not get revenue from roaming fees any more. They won't have to pay for them either, or the infrastructure that counts the fees bills customers and sends money back and forth between different networks.

The one the has me concerned is the contract breaker for less than advertised data rates looks open to abuse. We could end up with mass contract breaking parties the the middle of Dartmoor or the Isle of Skye. More likely we will get promises like 'up to 20 millibits per second' like we have now.

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Pint

Re: Great

The roaming charges badly affect people near borders as radio propagation ignores bizarre lines on maps.

Also in reallity it costs nearly nothing. The "compensation"/"sop" offered is to allow Pan-EU operation rather than buying a separate licence in each of 28 Countries. They next need to abolish the corrupt & incompetent National regulators, especial examples are Comreg and Ofcom. Maybe the French on is bad too?

I have my suspicions about the Italian one protecting spectrum outside towns.

This is good.

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Re: Great

"The roaming charges badly affect people near borders as radio propagation ignores bizarre lines on maps."

Yup, confirmed. I *live* far enough from the French border with a certain country enswearified by Mr Adams that when I am at home, my phone stays with Orange/France. In the office, however, it's a different story, as the skin of the building has a drastic effect on Orange's signal strength, but less so on the nearest enswearified base station, so I have to lock the phone into "don't roam" mode if I don't want periodic "Welcome to Enswearifia" messages during the day. And of course that means that voice-call quality is atrocious.

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Re: Great (<sarcasm>)

So our contract costs and any out-of-package costs are going to increase to offset the lost income from roaming then.

The licences were awarded independently of roaming so what you suggest is bunk. Roaming has always been "money for nothing" on top the national licences. It requires virtually no additional infrastructure and incurs negligible additional costs: at most termination fees must be shared with the network where roaming is happening. But seeing as those fees are paid for by the person calling and mean that a call gets routed through the network to another country but not along any own infrastructure to a base station, that's only fair.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Great (<sarcasm>)

"In other words, everyone will be paying for the functionality that (probably) less than half use.

Personally I prefer the scheme where when you want to use something out of the ordinary, you pay the extra for it... especially when it involves using someone else's infrastructure!"

Gee I rarely roam in the UK so why am I paying for infrastructure in Liverpool, Cardiff, London, Birmingham etc ?

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Seriously, though...

...""The European Commission says no to roaming premiums, yes to net neutrality, yes to investment, yes to new jobs. Fixing the telecoms sector is no longer about this one sector but about supporting the sustainable development of all sectors," Kroes said.

Do you really want to take everything Kroes says as fact? Where's the analysis? Where are the alternative views? Where's the criticism of her half-baked NN proposals, for example?

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Her actions so far have lowered my bill considerably, while using more data abroad. If she keeps up her track record, she gets my thumbs up!

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Indeed

And yet, the telcos are still making record profits, and (legally) avoiding paying tax on them. There's no need for those companies to be that profitable at the expense of the user.

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All 28 governments?

I wouldn't be worried except the UK will be probably be the only one to block it (UK = Ukipia BTW). I take the point about a few people paying for what they don't use, but it still beats far more being ripped off - by the country mile - every time they go on a trip.

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Unintended consequences

I work for a large international mobile phone company. I think this would probably work well for us: we can do cheap roaming on our own footprint anyway (and have some pretty good deals to encourage it). However it looks to me as though this will kill smaller companies: they will have to pay a roaming partner (perhaps at a reduced rate) while not being able to recover the costs. This is particularly true of MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) who use the infrastructure of MNOs (the big companies). Some of them are tiny - a few thousand users. Basically this looks good for the big incumbents, bad for others.

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Re: Unintended consequences

Pretty much this. If this plan goes ahead it's pretty much a given a lot of smaller and/or regional telcos will bite the dust or be taken over by the larger companies. I wouldn't be supprised Ms. Kroes is getting some "extra income" from the largest telco companies who only see this as a good way to put even more pressure on the competition. In the end this could end up costing us a lot more. Once the smaller competitors are knocked out the big players are free to jack their prices to astronomical levels.

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After all what could go wrong, they restricted them before....

...but wait!

some headlines over the last year.

Vodafone raises PAYG call and text charges

O2 increases roaming rates outside EU

No more tethering in T-Mobile’s Full Monty

Orange increases business contract prices

All that will happen is they will shaft us some other way.

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Re: After all what could go wrong, they restricted them before....

another headline you missed

Three scraps roaming charges in 7 countries.

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Telcos their own worst enemies

I have worked with the majority of telcos in Canada. The misapprehension of bandwidth is astonishing. These companies have built their business on a model of scarcity for necessary communications. That scarcity is long gone. They have spent the last couple of decades inventing ever more elaborate scams to charge a toll on communications. Just look at the nonsense with SMS.

If they had ever understood bandwidth, the Telcos would realize the there is *never* enough bandwidth when you can use it. They could be making *more* money by building out infrastructure for ever greater capacity and charging fairly for the delivery of bits. Instead, they gouge customers for a tiny trickle of bits and spend the money lobbying for ever more ridiculous regulatory hurdles.

The bandwidth necessary for phone calls or certainly SMS should be too cheap to even meter. People *should* have access to bandwidth sufficient to shift around BlueRay disks. If we *had* a decent network, people would pay a fair price and be glad for it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Telcos their own worst enemies

The Telco industry seems to be the only industry in the world where excess demand is called a 'problem'.

Any other industry would call it an opportunity, and respond (either by meeting that demand with supply, or else raising prices... in the face of competition from other operators).

Instead, they have become reliant on illegal scams to rip off customers instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Telcos their own worst enemies

"...only industry in the world where excess demand is called a 'problem'."

You're forgetting UK railways, and the annual regretful shrug as they jack up the prices to "regulate" usage due to increased demand.

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Now watch all Western European Mobe companies go bust overnight

This will be great for the mobile phone companies in the less developed parts of Europe. As recent reports carried here on El'Reg point out mobile calls in some countries cost more than mobile calls do in other countries. Once roaming charges are banned then there will be nothing to stop customers in more expensive countries signing up with mobe companies in cheaper countries. This is how competition is supposed to work after all. The companies in the more expensive countries will then lose all their customers over night. Or more likely over the life time of a phone contract.

So the next question is, when all the UK's mobile providers have gone bust because they can't compete with Estonia or where ever, who'll run the UK mobile phone networks?

Not trying to knock the idea, just thinking out loud and hoping that this has the affect of driving down the cost of local calls.

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Re: Now watch all Western European Mobe companies go bust overnight

The counter-effect to this would be people who don't want to pay high charges to Estonia mobile numbers to call their friends who live in the next street.

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Joke

Re: Now watch all Western European Mobe companies go bust overnight

"when all the UK's mobile providers have gone bust because they can't compete with Estonia or where ever, who'll run the UK mobile phone networks?"

GCHQ wouldn't let that happen.

I can imagine every employee, shareholder, and supplier of the networks getting slapped with a hyper-super-duper injunction forbidding them from letting the networks die, no matter the financial losses, and forbidding them from disclosing this has been done.

I think I'm joking.

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Re: Now watch all Western European Mobe companies go bust overnight

If there are no roaming fees then calling Estonian mobile numbers won't be any more expensive than calling their next door neigbour on O2.

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Re: Now watch all Western European Mobe companies go bust overnight

if you read what was proposed there are two options:

a) allow roaming at no additional cost

b) allow a user to use a different operator without changing SIM

I wouldnt be overly suprised if this leads to tariffs which dont allow roaming at all (or perhaps only roam voice/SMS) and the model could become buy a PAYG card when you get to the country you're going to.

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Re: Now watch all Western European Mobe companies go bust overnight

Do you know who are the big mobile players in Eastern Europe? T-mobile, Vodafone and Telenor. All "Western".

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About bloody time!

Data charges are ridiculous traveling in the EU, so are call charges! and there is no reason for it, especially when some companies already operate IN those countries!!! Vodafone I am looking at you, an EU player yet does not share its plans EU wide, and the smaller guys can easily set up some form of cooperative group to share the networks...

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Anonymous Coward

some companies who operate in those countries

well, but you know, it's like a google-tax-sandwich. The way they operate "individually" helps them not pay their tax, anywhere, billing each other and shifting costs and profits as they see best to save a "bob" (or a billion) here and there.

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Anonymous Coward

internet speed promises?

how can you break a promise, that you deliver speeds UP TO the speed of light?

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Coincidentally...

I just got this email from Three UK. Guess they are already looking ahead?

"Great news. As a Three customer you can now use your current UK plan in seven other countries around the world with Feel At Home. So you can call and text the UK and get online, just like you would at home. And it won’t cost you a penny more.

You can chat to your family, text your friends, post gloaty status updates and share your holiday snaps whenever you like, with no more worrying about extra charges on your bill.

You don’t need to do a thing. It all happens automatically as soon as you arrive. Just wait for your phone to pick up any local mobile network and then you’re good to go."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Coincidentally...

This existed previously - until 2009 IIRC, but was canned until a few weeks ago. It was certainly in force when I had a Three phone in 2004. Good nevertheless, but a shame I don't visit the bloody countries on the list!

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Good thing I live in the USA!

The vast majority of people can wander around without funny "roaming" charges. We have a bunch of major operators (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile), and if you can get the signal, "long distance" is basically "free". Sure you have to pay for the call time (and your mobile's friend pays as well), but most plans have "unlimited" minutes.

Bandwidth? Well, it always bothered me that about 1 second of an audio transmission (phone call) is about as much data as a multi-thousand character message. Unfortunately the message gets charged more. Then there is data (web browsing, etc.) which is limited in the course of a billing period and costs dearly if one goes "over". Simple things like using your phone for a radio can do that for you.

Good thing we don't have 50 different jurisdictions fighting each other.

Me? I use a limited cell-phone and a pager. Allows me to ignore those calls/pages I really don't like. Saves on battery charges as well.

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Happy

Re: Good thing I live in the USA!

Hiya Herbie!

I'm not sure what your point is - we also have major operators here in the UK (and the same in Europe)

There are also many tariffs that offer free texts, free phone calls, and unlimited internet.

Additionally, we have never had to pay to receive calls whilst in our own country (how mad and unacceptable would that be!)

This article is about a continent-wide agreement, where we will no longer have to pay extra to use our phones in Europe.

Come back to us when you don't get charged to receive calls whilst you're in mexico!

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Happy

Re: Good thing I live in the USA!

P.s. I get unlimited internet, 4000 texts and free hours talk time for 15 pounds a month! Unlimited data is common here now :-p

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Re: Good thing I live in the USA!

The US has a total area and population comparable to the EU. The whole point of the Single Market is to make intra-European commerce as streamlined as the US so it can gain similar economies of scale. Of course, language barriers won't go away any time soon, but telecoms and financial networks need to be made geography-neutral for that vision to be achieved.

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Re: Good thing I live in the USA!

Yeah... Fair point!

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Anonymous Coward

Ofcom to the rescue!!

I can hear the grinding of gears from Riverside house as Ofcom prepares its PR assault in robust defence of the status quo. No doubt they'll try a similar approach to their recently launched public brainwashing programme to persuade us net neutrality is great. Although selling exorbitant roaming charges as a benefit to users will be a tough sell even for them.

If they fail to persuade, they'll doubtless just block it anyway.

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I'm not sure that all 28 EU Member States do have to approve it as IIRC telecoms is qualified majority voting not unanimity...good news all round.

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Seems absurd

This seems absurd.

On the one hand, the current roaming rates (from most carriers) are pure profiteering, and are absolutely ridiculous. International rates should definitely be reduced significantly from where they are in general. Clearly, a company that provides 5GB for $10 (or even the US's rather poor 2GB for $30 or so), it doesn't magically cost like $1000 a GB to provide that data to a roamer.

However, setting this to zero is rife with abuse.

There are situations where almost all traffic goes in one direction (customers of carrier A roam much more heavily on carrier B than carrier B customers roam on carrier A.) In the US, at least, although the customer is not charged roaming (within the US), between carriers they have reciprocal roaming agreements so if the traffic is almost even, the cost is zero; if it's uneven, the carrier with more roaming minutes and data pays the other. These rates are very very low, though, and perhaps should be a model for what is charged in the EU.

With this cost forced to zero, someone could put up one single cell site, claim they are a cell phone provider, and then get service from those carriers who bothered to build out a network at zero cost.

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