Travellers to Europe will be able to enjoy cheaper calls from this summer following the final rubber-stamping of roaming charge price caps by the EU Council of Telecom Ministers. And data roaming charge caps are next on the agenda, the EC has warned operators.

The meeting yesterday formally approved the roaming price regulations that were passed by the European Parliament at the end of May. The regulations cap the amount mobile phone users across the 27-nation EU pay for taking and making calls when roaming in other EU countries.

The regulations set a price cap on voice calls (although not texts) that will be lowered each year for the next three years. Initially, charges will be capped at 49 Euro cents (33p) per minute and 24 Euro cents (16p) for taking a call (excluding VAT). Charge caps will be further lowered in 2008 and 2009, squeezing the price of making calls to 43 Euro cents (28p) per minute, and taking calls to 19 Euro cents (13p).

The caps are expected to be formally adopted by member states on 25 June and published on 29 June. Following this, operators will have a limited period in which to implement the changes for customers.

Data cap warning

"Today we approach the end of a seven year saga of the long fight of the EU institutions against excessive mobile charges," Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Telecommunications, told the Council of Ministers.

She encouraged the swift implementation of the regulations, and dismissed concerns that roaming caps would inevitably lead to higher domestic call charges, saying that fierce price competition in the market would discourange operators to raise prices.

Commissioner Reding aimed further warning to mobile operators about data roaming charges: "We will monitor data roaming prices during the next eighteen months. The operators should know this, heed these warning signals very carefully and bring the prices down to normal by themselves in order to avoid further regulation."