EU mobile roaming survey: companies hit back

Too much regulation could drive smaller operators out of the market

Roaming charges for using a mobile phone abroad are too high, a European Commission survey screamed yesterday. But do operators agree?

It seems not, as O2, Orange and Vodafone agreed that it is competition that drives down call charges - not regulatory intervention from the EU or anyone else.

"We don't need a survey to say prices are too high; we've been aware of this for a long time," a Vodafone spokesman said.

"We totally reject the 'one size fits all' approach that the EU appears to be adopting," O2 stated.

Orange said the same, stating that it is working along with a number of European mobile operators to agree an industry 'Code of Conduct' on roaming charges.

An Orange spokeswoman said it has capped its average wholesale rates at 45 Euro cents per minute from October 2006, and has committed to reduce them to 36 euro cents per minute from October next year. These savings will be passed on to customers in the form of lower roaming charges.

Forcing market change

Vodafone said it launched its Passport service in May last year, and so far 10 million users have signed up for free to receive a potential savings of 30 per cent. This in turn, said Vodafone, 'will force change in the market as customers are responding against high roaming charges'.

The main view seems to be to that too much regulation would jeopardise future investment and could drive smaller operators out of the market.

The O2 spokeswoman said: "It goes against the spirit of the single market to foster innovation and competition. GSM technology is used by two billion people, so where does the EU draw the line?"

Offers available:

  • There are currently two options for travellers wishing to use their mobile phones abroad: a 35p per minute offering on making and receiving calls in Europe , or a £5 a month package. The latter is so far only available in Spain, but is to be rolled out across the EU countries next year. It offers users costs of 25p a minute per call or SMS, whilst receiving calls is free.
  • In June this year launched new roaming offers that deliver average discounts of 25 per cent on existing roaming rates across 25 EU countries.In the UK for example, customers on contracts can buy a bundle of 50 minutes of incoming and outgoing international calls for £25, which works out to a discount of 28 per cent compared with standard price.
  • offers Passport, which means users get charged the same rate abroad as they would at home, plus a 75p connection fee. Any bundled minutes they have on their contract can be used abroad too. Receiving calls costs 75p for calls up to an hour, while sending an SMS text message costs 35p.