BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- Legislation to cap mobile phone roaming charges is on track to be enacted by this summer, the European Union's top telecom official said Tuesday.
"Things are going very smoothly in the right direction. We should have the regulation by the summer," E.U. Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding told a news conference.
Callers pay up to four times more - or between EUR4 and EUR6 - to connect four-minute calls from abroad than at home, the commission charges. Under the E.U.'s proposal, the price would be cut by at least 60%.
Mobile phone operators have been fighting the measure hard, saying it will smash their bottom lines. All told, the regulation will mean at least a EUR4.3 billion total loss of revenue to European telecom operators, and at least a EUR2.3 billion total loss of profits, according to a 2006 study by research and analytics firm Evalueserve. Mobile operators draw between 10% and 18% of their revenue from international roaming charges, the study adds.
But the effort to rein in charges for calling or receiving a call when traveling abroad is popular, drawing broad support from Europe's national telecom ministers and popularly elected Parliamentarians. According to a commission survey, 70% of E.U. citizens believe the E.U. should step in to make sure that prices for making and receiving calls on mobile phones when traveling in other E.U. countries are similar to those at home.
"We are entering the very strong phase of getting it done," Reding said. "The European Parliament has worked intensively" and a study it commissioned recently supports the commission request to cap both wholesale and retail roaming charges.
National governments represented by telecom ministers will discuss the measures at a meeting scheduled for March 16, Reding said. The telecom ministers gave the measure initial backing in December.
Operators have criticized the move, saying it was over-intrusive and would lead to underinvestment in the industry.
The update on the roaming regulation came at a signing ceremony between the E.U. and mobile phone operators to protect minors from illegal or harmful content.
Rather than face E.U. regulations forcing such protective measures, 15 European mobile phone operators have signed up to the voluntary code of conduct. These include Bouygues Telecom, Debitel, Deutsche Telekom, Hutchison Telecommunications International, France Telecom's Orange, KPN, Telecom Italia, Telnor, TeliaSonera and Vodafone Group.
-By William Echikson, Dow Jones Newswires; 32-2-741-1480; firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires "
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