The end of EU roaming, for real

The last few days the whole Europe has been holding its breath to hear the latest advancements on the roaming proposal the EU Commission’s telecoms chief Neelie Kroes and her people have been preparing. Yesterday the proposal was finally formally adopted by the Commission, which means that it will now move through the legislative process, where it will probably evolve. And not least because of intense lobbying.

The Commission is confident that the new proposal will boost not only the European telecoms sector but also the whole economy. The proposal is a package with several points, each of them connected and with an objective to create a true European telecoms single market that could help Europe to catch up its competitors and get back to the driver’s seat where it once used to be.

The objective seems ambitious considering the proposed measures in the situation where the sector still operates largely on the basis of 28 national markets and according to Kroes there’s not a single telecoms company that operates across the whole EU. But baby steps are steps too. So let’s dig into what you should know of the proposal as a consumer and how it will affect you. The list is based on the blog post of Neven Mimica.

Open Internet

Legally guaranteed net neutrality. No more blocking, slowing down, degrading or discriminating against your favourite apps or services, like Skype for example. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Data speeds

Operators need to provide clear information about the actual data speeds for downloads and uploads, also for peak-hours. So, no more theoretical maximums. Excellent!

Comparison tools

The consumers will have certified evaluation tools at their disposal to be able to compare the performance and cost of the operators. How cool is that! At least if updated at a regular basis.

Tools for controlling consumption

Consumers can set monthly maximum consumption limits and be notified once they reach 80% of the limit.

No more overly long contract periods

The minimum duration for telecoms contracts will be limited and consumers can terminate a contract after 6 months with one month’s notice. Also, there will not be automatic extensions to contracts anymore. So, in that sense, changing your operator should become easier.

Switching services

Improved switching rules allow consumers to choose more easily the provider that best meets their specific needs. You can keep your number and get the change happen within one working day. When changing your email account from a provider to another, the operator is obliged to forward your emails, for free.

Fairer charges

No unjustified surcharges when you call another EU country from a landline or mobile. Fair enough.

Receive incoming calls for free

No more charges at all for receiving a call within the EU. That’s freaking fantastic! We are coming to the 21st century.

Roam like at home

This is the part where roaming in EU comes to its end. In the future (vague transitional period disclaimers apply) operators are obliged to offer voice, SMS and data roaming services abroad at the same price as you pay at home. If your operator fails to do so, it must offeran alternative roaming provider. Great! No wait, who says the operators won’t raise their domestic prices to seemingly meet the requirement? No one.

On the last point lays the weakness of the proposal. It has been envisioned that consolidation will happen, weaker operators cease to exist, stronger players will emerge. The Commission has decided to believe that with fewer players in the field, we can still have more competition and that the competition will drive the prices down. I’m sorry to confess not having their optimism in this matter. As I wrote earlier in ”Goodbye roaming, hello higher consumer prices” my prediction is that the domestic users will end up paying the cost their travelling peers.

On that note, I would encourage people to look also for alternative ways to tackle the roaming problem. Commissioner Kroes said that there is still no telecoms company that operates across the whole EU. Well, it all depends on how you define ”telecoms company”. If you broaden the term, there are many players who have already resolved the roaming issue. We have defeated bill shocks with our international mobile hotspot, Goodspeed, which uses the local network of the country you’re travelling in. And yes, we are determined to be among the first telecoms companies to operate across the whole European Union. And why leave it to that when we can cover the whole world. There is an alternative solution for you. No speculations and waiting to see what will eventually happen. Just roam like at home.

- Hanne @Uros