'Roam like at home' by default

16-12-2016

The end of roaming costs within the EU – promised at the political level for over a decade – seems near. Four successive regulations decreased (but did not end) roaming charges for calls, text messages and data by more than 90 %. In 2015, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament agreed on abolishing roaming charges in the EU from 15 June 2017. After that date, the 'roam-like-at-home' (RLAH) system should become a reality for all European citizens travelling within the EU. Before RLAH is fully implemented, an agreement has to be reached on: a regulation on wholesale roaming markets, which reviews the prices that operators charge each other. The Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), in charge of the proposed wholesale roaming markets regulation, has suggested a substantive reduction of the data roaming caps proposed by the Commission, while the Council has suggested in its general approach an increase to the proposed wholesale roaming cap. Trilogue negotiations, started on 14 December 2016, will have to find an agreement by early 2017 to meet the deadline. A related Commission implementing act, which defines a 'fair use policy' (FUP) for operators with a view to avoiding 'permanent roaming' and other abuses was adopted by the Commission on 15 December 2016, with significant changes from its earlier draft. While consumers look forward to the prospect of free roaming, small and large telecom operators are worried about recovering their costs at the wholesale level. They also fear that RLAH will bring disruption to competition dynamics and infrastructure investments. The Commission review shows that there is still too much fragmentation in the digital single market (DSM), which poses many challenges. Policy-makers have to deal with the complex trade-offs that RLAH involves, such as having to balance between protecting consumer interests, keeping political promises and realising the DSM, while promoting competition and investments and preventing market distortions.

The end of roaming costs within the EU – promised at the political level for over a decade – seems near. Four successive regulations decreased (but did not end) roaming charges for calls, text messages and data by more than 90 %. In 2015, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament agreed on abolishing roaming charges in the EU from 15 June 2017. After that date, the 'roam-like-at-home' (RLAH) system should become a reality for all European citizens travelling within the EU. Before RLAH is fully implemented, an agreement has to be reached on: a regulation on wholesale roaming markets, which reviews the prices that operators charge each other. The Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), in charge of the proposed wholesale roaming markets regulation, has suggested a substantive reduction of the data roaming caps proposed by the Commission, while the Council has suggested in its general approach an increase to the proposed wholesale roaming cap. Trilogue negotiations, started on 14 December 2016, will have to find an agreement by early 2017 to meet the deadline. A related Commission implementing act, which defines a 'fair use policy' (FUP) for operators with a view to avoiding 'permanent roaming' and other abuses was adopted by the Commission on 15 December 2016, with significant changes from its earlier draft. While consumers look forward to the prospect of free roaming, small and large telecom operators are worried about recovering their costs at the wholesale level. They also fear that RLAH will bring disruption to competition dynamics and infrastructure investments. The Commission review shows that there is still too much fragmentation in the digital single market (DSM), which poses many challenges. Policy-makers have to deal with the complex trade-offs that RLAH involves, such as having to balance between protecting consumer interests, keeping political promises and realising the DSM, while promoting competition and investments and preventing market distortions.