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Roaming - Questions and Answers

Information society08-05-2012 - 14:45

The cost of using mobile phones, smartphones and tablets when travelling within the EU will fall sharply from 1 July this year, under a provisional agreement between MEPs and national governments to be voted by Parliament on Thursday 10 May.

On 28 March, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers reached a first-reading agreement on the new regulation on roaming, which includes price ceilings lower than those set by the European Commission in its original proposal, as requested by the Industry, Research and Energy Committee. For the first time, data  roaming, which is of particular importance when using a Smartphone, will also be subject to price caps.

REF. : 20120508BKG44649
Updated: ( 10-05-2012 - 12:40)

Why a new regulation on roaming?

The current legislation capping roaming charges for phone calls and SMS messaging expires on 30 June 2012. After a thorough review and extensive consultations, the European Commission concluded that the roaming market is not competitive enough and that consumers are paying too much.

The new deal proposes for the first time measures to boost competition on the EU market while still providing a "safety net" for consumers by lowering roaming price caps until competition fully becomes effective.

In its 2010 Digital Agenda for Europe, the Commission pledged to bring cross-border roaming tariffs into line with domestic prices by 2015, in line with Parliament’s requests.


What do the new rules mean for EU consumers?

Under pressure from MEPs, new retail caps will reduce the costs of calling and sending text messages and the cost of using data services will be capped for the first time. See the table below for details.

The new rules will also provide for the extension of the alert system currently in place within the EU to protect consumers and business travellers from unexpected "bill shocks". As from 1 July 2012, people travelling outside the EU will get a warning message,  if the foreign network is compatible, when they are nearing 50 Euros of charges in a month (excluding VAT).

Retail ceilings (charged to consumers) excluding VAT


1 July 2012

1 July 2013

1 July 2014

Data (per megabyte)


70 cents

45 cents

20 cents

Phone calls made (per minute)

35 cents

29 cents

24 cents

19 cents

Phone calls received (per minute)

11 cents

8 cents

7 cents

5 cents

SMS (per SMS)

11 cents

9 cents

8 cents

6 cents


What about industry price caps?

Under the proposal, caps on prices operators charge each other would fall annually until 2014, reflecting the declining costs of providing roaming services.

Wholesale ceilings (charged between operators) excluding VAT


1 July 2012

1 July 2013

1 July 2014

Data (per megabyte)

50 cents

25 cents

15 cents

5 cents

Phone calls (per minute)

18 cents

14 cents

10 cents

5 cents

SMS (per SMS)

4 cents

3 cents

2 cents

2 cents


How to further boost competition on the roaming market?

The text enshrines two structural measures to boost competition.

It requires operators to offer retail roaming services separately from 1 July 2014, so that customers can choose an alternative roaming service supplier for foreign calls while retaining their national operator for domestic use and keeping their phone number. Home providers would have to inform their customers of this right and any switch to an alternative roaming service provider would have to be free of charge.

Domestic mobile service suppliers would also have to enable their customers to access mobile local data services while abroad without having to unsubscribe from their existing data roaming contract or arrangement, and while keeping their mobile number.

Furthermore, as from 1 July 212, virtual mobile network operators (MVNOs), i.e. those who do not have their own networks, will have the right the access other operator's networks at wholesale prices in order to provide roaming services. This will encourage more operators to compete on the roaming market.


Background and next steps

The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers first introduced caps on roaming prices in 2007, ensuring that mobile phone subscribers pay similar roaming tariffs across the EU.

In July 2009, they adopted revised rules that cut roaming prices further, so that by July 2011 the maximum roaming charges would be 35 cents per minute for calls made and 11 cents for calls received while abroad. The 2009 roaming rules apply until the end of June 2012.

If the new rules are adopted by Parliament as a whole on 10 May and the Council of Ministers in June, they will apply with direct effect in all EU Member States from 1 July 2012.