The review of national wholesale roaming markets and the Roaming Regulation

31-05-2016

The Roaming Regulation has contributed to ongoing efforts to achieve a Connected Continent and a well-functioning EU Digital Single Market. Through various amendments to the initial 2007 Roaming Regulation, the Commission and co-legislators have gradually reduced surcharges for making and receiving voice calls, sending and receiving SMS messages and using data on a mobile phone while in another EU Member State. European Commission estimates indicate that total savings for EU consumers between 2009 and 2013 amounted to €9.6 billion. On 30 April 2016, the latest reduction in charges became applicable throughout the EU. The next step in the process is the planned abolition of all retail roaming surcharges as of 15 June 2017. Yet, to achieve this goal several questions remain open, in particular as regards the status of wholesale roaming markets. Indeed, despite amendments to the Roaming Regulation, the current state of the EU telecoms market is fragmented and several adjustments are needed before a roaming-free policy can be fully implemented. While the abolition of retail surcharges up to a fair use limit would allow customers to replicate their domestic mobile usage patterns across the EU, the appropriate level of wholesale roaming caps needs to be found and possible mitigating measures adopted for mobile operators inter alia to recover costs. As the recent public consultation on national wholesale roaming markets has shown, finding a balanced solution remains complex. Customers from home and visited markets, mobile operators, NRAs and stakeholders have various conflicting interests. In particular, divisions exist between small and large operators, and between Member States depending on whether they have higher inbound than outbound roaming traffic. Last but not least is the need to reconcile the protection of consumer interests with operators’ abilities to remain competitive and sustainable.

The Roaming Regulation has contributed to ongoing efforts to achieve a Connected Continent and a well-functioning EU Digital Single Market. Through various amendments to the initial 2007 Roaming Regulation, the Commission and co-legislators have gradually reduced surcharges for making and receiving voice calls, sending and receiving SMS messages and using data on a mobile phone while in another EU Member State. European Commission estimates indicate that total savings for EU consumers between 2009 and 2013 amounted to €9.6 billion. On 30 April 2016, the latest reduction in charges became applicable throughout the EU. The next step in the process is the planned abolition of all retail roaming surcharges as of 15 June 2017. Yet, to achieve this goal several questions remain open, in particular as regards the status of wholesale roaming markets. Indeed, despite amendments to the Roaming Regulation, the current state of the EU telecoms market is fragmented and several adjustments are needed before a roaming-free policy can be fully implemented. While the abolition of retail surcharges up to a fair use limit would allow customers to replicate their domestic mobile usage patterns across the EU, the appropriate level of wholesale roaming caps needs to be found and possible mitigating measures adopted for mobile operators inter alia to recover costs. As the recent public consultation on national wholesale roaming markets has shown, finding a balanced solution remains complex. Customers from home and visited markets, mobile operators, NRAs and stakeholders have various conflicting interests. In particular, divisions exist between small and large operators, and between Member States depending on whether they have higher inbound than outbound roaming traffic. Last but not least is the need to reconcile the protection of consumer interests with operators’ abilities to remain competitive and sustainable.