The European Commission plans to extend the duration in which the its new regulations restricting roaming costs in the EU will remain in effect.
Introduced on 1 July, the new rules place fairly strict upper limits on the prices that network operators can charge customers using their mobile phones abroad, until July 2012. However, rather than allowing the restrictions to lapse, the EC is, instead, drafting new rules extending those now in place, and placing even stricter rules in some areas.
The limits put into place this month bound prices to 35 cents per minute for outgoing calls, and 15 cents per minute for incoming calls. A cap on data roaming wholesale prices of 50 cents per megabyte aims to stop network operators from gouging each other - and, as a result, their customers - for those transfers, and there is a cap for monthly data charges of €50 to stop what the EC calls "bill shocks."
These rules are reportedly to be extended to 2016, but it looks like that is an interim measure to ensure the restrictions don't lapse EC won't be finishing there. The Commission plans to draft new rules, with even stricter limits, to fulfil EU telecoms commissioner, Neelie Kroes', desire to eliminate data roaming charges by 2015.
From July 2012 per megabyte data costs will be capped at 90 cents, dropping to 50 cents in 2014. More radically, new regulation will allow roaming customers to subscribe to a different network abroad to that which they use at home. The intention appears to be to have networks compete to offer the best roaming charges to and from their own countries. It's hoped that these measures will bring roaming data charges in line with non-roaming prices.
Mobile operators are likely to be unhappy with this news as they were with the original roaming charge limits. However, as the EC is keen to point out: the telcos were given the opportunity to self-regulate, and failed to do so; if they don't like these new rules, they have only themselves to blame.