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Saturday, October 11, 2008

SMS caps closer and closer

Finally the move we all expected. The sms price caps. If you read the following 2 articles, you'll see that the Commission may even be on the side of the good for once. Yup. I'm happy, because sms are absurdly expensive, when this is only a message of symbols, not more than say 200 bytes. How could you charge so much for it? And I hope opperators do understand the benefit of the regulations-the cheaper the calls, the more calls and since they usually charge not only on time but on a call, that mean ultimately more happy tourists calling home, sending mms and sms and having fun. In short-more money. So, let's make a toast for EC and hope this package will be approved on all the levels. It's good. It makes you feel at home anywhere at the EU, it stimulate the mobile operators and the use of the technology. It's good :)

Commission caps SMS roaming price at 11 cents

24 September 2008

The European Commission proceeded with its plans to regulate tariffs in the mobile telecoms yesterday (23 September), deciding to impose price caps on text messages sent while abroad, as well as a range of regulatory measures to cut the price of mobile services for consumers.

In June 2007, the Commission introduced a regulationexternal placing caps on prices of cross-border mobile calls in Europe, the so-called roaming regulation (EurActiv 29/06/07).

Last February EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding told mobile operators to cut tariffs for both texts and data sent abroad. She gave the industry a deadline of 1 July to significantly reduce fees (EurActiv 12/02/08) or face regulation.

But as early as June it was clear that the price decreases introduced by mobile operators were not sufficient for the commissioner, who declared that only "a miracle" would prevent operators from facing further regulation (EurActiv 13/06/08).

Cheaper text messages

The new measures, which were outlined yesterday as part of an update of the roaming regulation, would cap roamed text (SMS) prices at just €11 cents (VAT excluded) across Europe, down from the current average of €29 cents. But the cut could prove to be even more significant for some users as this average hides significant disparities between prices charged by operators. For example, in Belgium at presentexternal , a Base customer could pay up to €80 cents for a SMS sent from abroad, while customers of the Dutch company KPN can be charged up to €75 cents (in these cases VAT is already included).

Abolition of per-minute tariffs

The Commission's review of the roaming regulation also seeks to abolish per-minute tariffs in roamed phone calls. Currently, most operators impose this billing system, which, according to the European telecom regulators group (ERG), charges customers for 24% more than the time they actually spend on the phone.

If the EU executive's proposal is approved, then roaming will be charged per second, as is already the case for most national calls (EurActiv 29/08/08).

More cuts in cross-border call charges

Another measure included in the packageexternal aims to decrease current caps on roamed phone calls. These fees are currently limited to €46 cents, but are scheduled to gradually decrease to €34 cents in 2012. Charges for receiving calls will also go down.

Softer stance on data roaming

On data roaming, which is the use of the Web via a mobile phone while abroad, the Commission adopted a softer stance following strong pressure from the industry and concerns raised by consumer groups. The service is in fact at a nascent stage and price caps were considered to be a potential obstacle to the take-up of mobile Internet.

Nevertheless, the Commission requested more transparency from operators. From 2010, consumers should be able to set in advance the maximum amount they want to spend on data roaming, after which their service would be interrupted. This will avoid the so-called 'bill shocks' experienced by some tourists, charged thousands of euros for downloading movies or songs while abroad.

In addition, the Commission proposed introducing caps at wholesale level on data roaming to tackle the highest tariffs and to increase competition among operators. Wholesale tariffs are those charged by an operator to another one in order to carry a service. They apply when a consumer uses, while abroad, the network of another operator.

The Commission's proposals are very likely to be approved by both the Parliament and the Council, which have a final say on the regulatory package. Many MEPs have already shown support for the new initiative, which has gone down particularly well in view of the approaching elections. Member states should also come out in favour as the impetus for Reding's move actually came from countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, where consumers are charged much more for roaming than elsewhere.

Consumers have also welcomed the new initiative. The main operators immediately responded with strong criticism, while the smaller ones are backing the proposed measures but calling for more pro-competition measures. source


Europe Weighs Caps on Roaming Fees for Text Messages

Published: September 3, 2008

BERLIN — The European Union’s telecommunications minister will propose price controls that would substantially reduce the roaming fees that individuals are charged to send text messages and limits that could reduce the cost of using the Internet.

Details of the proposal, obtained Wednesday by The International Herald Tribune, show that the minister, Viviane Reding, will seek to cap retail roaming fees for short text messages, or S.M.S., within the European Union at 11 euro cents, or 16 American cents, a message.

That would be a 62 percent reduction from the current average of 29 cents, according to the European Commission, which is the executive arm of the European Union.

Ms. Reding also intends to recommend a cap on the wholesale cost of using cellphones to gain access to the Internet — the fees operators charge each other — that would halve the average cost to one euro a megabyte.

Roaming prices range from 6 cents in Estonia to 80 cents in Belgium, according to the European Regulators Group, a panel of the European Union’s 27 national telecommunications regulators.

“S.M.S. prices are really too high, so bringing them down is best thing that can happen for consumers,” said Monique Goyens, the director general of the European Consumers’ Organization, based in Brussels, which represents 41 consumer groups.

In 2007, Europeans spent 800 million euros on roaming charges for short text messages and 560 million euros on data roaming services, according to the commission. They also spent 5.2 billion euros on voice roaming charges that year. Over all, 300 billion euros was spent on telecommunications in Europe, the European Information Technology Observatory said.

Ms. Reding devised the European Union’s limits on charges for voice roaming, which took effect a year ago and have, she says, saved European consumers an average of 60 percent for the service.

Her new proposal cleared a commission economic assessment panel last week and is circulating for comment among the commission’s 27 ministries. The commission could vote on the proposal as early as Sept. 15.

Commission approval is considered likely, given the support of France, which holds the rotating European presidency through 2008.

The operators say they base their roaming charges on the actual cost of connecting voice and data calls between networks. The charges have so far been set largely by operators without government oversight.

But prices have fallen recently as large operators like Vodafone, the 3 Group and KPN have begun offering reciprocal wholesale data roaming fees to other operators of 50 cents or less per megabyte.

Efforts to regulate the fees with a single uniform price cap ignore important differences in data services, Mr. Pringle said. Those who use push e-mail, a service that forwards messages to cellphones, for example, stay in constant contact with their network, placing a greater drain on an operator than the 30-minute Internet session of a traveling laptop user.

The European Regulators Group said the average rate telecom operators charge each other for data roaming fell 38 percent to 2 euros a megabyte in March from 3.22 euros a megabyte in June 2007.

The average retail roaming price in Europe for downloading one megabyte of data was 3.50 euros in March, according to the regulators group, a 40 percent decline from 5.81 euros in June 2007.

Ms. Goyens, the director general of the European Consumers’ Organization, said it had found that many European consumers were unaware of the fees for data roaming. In one case this year, she said, a Belgian woman on vacation in Spain received a bill for 18,889 euros from her operator for Internet use. She was billed at 9.68 euros a megabyte.

Ms. Reding’s new proposal would allow customers to ask that operators cut them off when their data roaming costs reach a designated level. source

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