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EC Calls For End To Mobile Roaming Charges

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the all-seeing-wise-and-benevolent-bureaucrats dept.

Cellphones 173

An anonymous reader writes "European travellers who use their mobile phones abroad could soon see a dramatic reduction in their bills, after the European Commission announced plans to eradicate roaming charges by 2015. In a consultation paper launched yesterday, the EC invited consumers, businesses, telecom operators and public authorities to evaluate the EU's existing roaming rules, and to share their ideas on the best ways to boost competition in roaming services. 'Huge differences between domestic and roaming charges have no place in a true EU Single Market,' said vice-president of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes. 'We need to address the source of current problems, namely a lack of competition, and to find a durable solution. But we are keeping an open mind on exactly what solution would work.'"

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173 comments

Yes please. (4, Insightful)

tenchikaibyaku (1847212) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511612)

This is one of the places where I, for one, would welcome more regulation. The roaming charges are often completely absurd, and I don't see the free market taking care of it anytime soon. Now, if they could fix the roaming charges for data connections outside of the EU too... (over 10€/MB? Seriously?)

Re:Yes please. (5, Funny)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511794)

No, that's socialism, and you go to hell for that.

The free market is making people rich, and it's a sin to stop it with some dirty hippie collective like a government.

Re:Yes please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34511968)

but, but, but ... i, um, err, ain't get'n rich.

Re:Yes please. (5, Insightful)

timbo234 (833667) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511978)

No, that's socialism, and you go to hell for that

I realise you're being sarcastic but it's still worth pointing out that this isn't socialism, it's the use of the same anti-collusion (anti-trust) laws that you guys have over in the US. Basically the EU Commission worked out that phone companies were colluding (illegal in the free market) to fix phone charges for roaming.

They then had the choice of going through a normal collusion investigation, spending huge amounts of tax-payers money in court and investigation fees and at the end probably coming up with fines of a few hundred million Euros - a small write-off for these companies. They chose the smart way - since the EU is one market companies shouldn't be allowed to charge higher prices for services that are 'imported' from another country in the EU.

It's a rare example of governments just doing their job properly, although it's not all perfect. 2015 is a long time, especially since they started this in 2007 or 2008 and since then have been slowly lowering prices - it's gone from extreme rip-off towards the current more moderate rip-off. They really should have brought this law in for 2011 - 3 or 4 years is more than enough time for phone companies to adjust, esp. since most mobile contracts are less than 2 years.

Re:Yes please. (5, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512098)

I was being sarcastic. But in the US, "free market" theocrats will tell you that anything government does is socialism. Because private business does everything better, as an article of faith (disproof has no power over faith). Meanwhile, we could use a healthy dose of actual socialism, instead of the private monopolism that's managed to take over our government and is busy eating what's left of generations of hard-won social democracy.

Re:Yes please. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512294)

>>>anything government does is socialism.

Well of course it is. And sometimes that's a good thing - such as providing an army to defend my house from invaders. BTW the U.S. CD Cartel was broken-up by the Union Government and forced to send ~$25 refunds to all their customers. I got a check, my mom got a check, and ditto my brother and his two daughters. Just last year the same thing happened to Disney where they were forced to refund upto $60 to purchasers of Baby Einstein DVDs.

THAT'S what the European Union government should have done to the cell companies. i.e. Punish them. Instead they did virtually nothing.

Re:Yes please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512444)

THAT'S what the European Union government should have done to the cell companies. i.e. Punish them. Instead they did virtually nothing.

Yes! Because everyone knows that Disney was taught a lesson and no longer does any evil! The refund really hurt them badly!

I prefer a system that works.

Re:Yes please. (2)

macson_g (1551397) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512538)

THAT'S what the European Union government should have done to the cell companies. i.e. Punish them. Instead they did virtually nothing.

Not true. The roaming charges were lower already few years ago due to EUC action. Now you don't have this funny feeling when using your mobile while road-trippin' from Riga to Lisbon (unless you get into Switzerland).

Re:Yes please. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512776)

>>>roaming charges were lower already few years ago due to EUC action.

So the companies were not punished by the Union government. None of the execs are in jail, and they did not have to pay any fines, or refund monies. They simply got regulated while still allowed to keep all the windfall profits from the previous ~10 years of exorbitant roaming charges.

Re:Yes please. (1)

gangien (151940) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512332)

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=define:+socialism [google.com]

first definition
- a political theory advocating state ownership of industry

So while regulations may not be complete socialism, they are in fact a small part of it. As they are definitely the government controlling an industry.

Re:Yes please. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512804)

Where does Fascism (national socialism) fit into that model?

Under that late 1800s/early 1900s theory, the State didn't own the companies but it did control them through direct commands. A bit like China today. Are they socialist or not? I'd say "yes" they are, even though they evolved from state-owned to private-owned industry, since the government still controls the CEOs and the Boards.

Re:Yes please. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512240)

>>>The free market is making people rich, and it's a sin to stop

The US free market eliminated roaming charges 5+ years ago. The customers complained and the companies acted to eliminate them. Now we pay a flat rate regardless if we are in our home or 3000 miles away in the Member State of California. And no intervention from the Union Government was needed.

So yes anti-trust laws have their place such as breaking-up the forrmer CD Price-fixing Cartel, but in nearly all cases it's not necessary. The invisible hand of the market (i.e. dissastisfied citizens) correct disparities.

Re:Yes please. (2)

timbo234 (833667) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512312)

Right, and roaming charges have never even existed within most of the individual member states.

However the EU is still not a single federal nation state like the US, Australia or Germany are, for eg. Eliminating what is effectively an import tariff on a service provided from one member state being 'imported' into another is the job of government, and does create a free market in the end (2015 in this case).

Re:Yes please. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512830)

>>>effectively an import tariff on a service provided from one member state being 'imported' into another

Tariffs are illegal for US States.
I thought the same was true with EU States too?

Re:Yes please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512528)

Yup, there are no roaming charges in the glorious free market. We just have to pay to receive calls and texts.

Re:Yes please. (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512942)

Two points the customers didn't complain, The customers simply got nationwide wireless(I have had it for a decade now), because the customers like to travel and in the USA there are no borders to check through.

The EU is made of countries, each soverign unto themselves. you have to pay international rates to go internationally.

Re:Yes please. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513072)

The EU is made-up of FORMERLY sovereign states, just as the US is made-up of formerly sovereign states. They aren't sovereign no more.

As for another poster's claim, "the US never had roaming charges" I disagree with that. I was with Cingular (now ATT) in the early 2000s, and all my calls were free within the Washington/Baltimore market. But as soon as I went somewhere distant, like Cumberland MD or Ocean City MD, I was hit with 50 cent per minute "roaming" charges. ----- These charges were eventually eliminated, not by the Member State or Union government, but by the free market and unhappy customers complaining to the corporations ("Why did I get a $100 bill when it's only supposed to be $20?") or taking our business to other companies w/o roaming charges. The invisible hand of the market eliminated the roaming charges.

Side-thought: This article also erases the myth that EU cellplans are so much cheaper than US cellplans. Sounds like they are more expensive.

Re:Yes please. (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513150)

in the USA there are no borders to check through.
Afaict other than moving between the british isles and mainland europe there aren't in the EU either these days.

Re:Yes please. (2)

Xenna (37238) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512026)

There aren't enough parties for a true free market (oligoply). The data roaming charges are ridiculous. I pay 10 EUR a month for max 1GB traffic. When I cross the border to Belgium that goes to 10 EUR per MB. A thousandfold increase! And we all know what it costs to transfer 1MB from one country to another these days: practically nothing!

The result is that everybody disables data whenever they cross the border.
So they make practically nothing on it anyway...

OTOH national data and voice rates are very reasonable. The market works well enough there...

Re:Yes please. (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512064)

I expect that national laws make the national data and voice rates work well enough in those markets. The EU hasn't regulated the cartel across Europe well enough yet. But at least it's not a state-owned monopoly, or the cartel-friendly state the US has become.

Re:Yes please. (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512328)

>>>the cartel-friendly state the US has become.

Sorry - what?

(1) Cartels are illegal in the US and (2) our Union government has punished several companies over the last decade including the Record companies, Disney, Paypal, Microsoft, Walmart, JCPenney, and thousands of lesser-known smaller companies.

Re:Yes please. (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512784)

Telco cartel, cable cartel, oil cartel, bank cartel, insurance cartel, pharmaco cartel, car cartel... all too big to fail, too big to compete with. And those are just the ones in the news for epic abuses this year - with no change to their business model or even executives.

The "punishments" you're referring to are tiny costs of doing business compared to the huge profits these cartels reap by suppressing competition. "Illegal" means something different to a mere human or small business than it does to a cartel. It means "fee", and usually "extra bribes".

Re:Yes please. (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512986)

Telco cartel, cable cartel, oil cartel, bank cartel, insurance cartel, pharmaco cartel...

Good point. But:

How is Europe any different? The EU and its Member States have plenty of monopolies, duopolies, and cartels too. Some of those monopolies are run by the government itself. The grandparent implied* the US is a corporate serfdom, while the EU is paradise, and it's simply not true.


* "at least [the EU] is not...the cartel-friendly state the US has become."

Re:Yes please. (3, Insightful)

ConfusedVorlon (657247) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512578)

It isn't national laws that make the national data prices work - it's plain competion.

The thing is; When people sign up for a contract, they all ask
1) How much do calls cost
2) How much does data cost
3) What 'free' phone do I get

so the companies compete on these

Then they shaft you with the items that you weren't paying attention to; International roaming, calls, etc.

Since these are a small concern for most people - there isn't any real competion in it.

Same thing with credit card companies; They compete on the headline interest rate, then shaft you on the fees.

Customers are shallow in their purchasing decisions, and there aren't many choices anyway (~four operators in the UK).

Competition works for the headline stuff, but in complex products it doesn't work for the secondary items.

Re:Yes please. (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511844)

Expensive roaming is the exact reason I simply don't have a data account on my phone.

When I'm in my home town, I'm usually either in office or at home, or not long away from both. I've not much use for data roaming here.

It's only interesting when traveling (though hotels these days usually have Internet service included, and open wifi networks are plentiful). But for that purpose the charges simply put me off.

I'm European, not living there now, and would love to see more reasonable roaming charges across the globe. I understand having to pay extra for the service, I don't understand why calling on my home network is virtually free (I pay about E 3,50 for 800 minutes or so!) but when roaming I pay half that for a single minute of calling!

Re:Yes please. (1)

DiarrhoeaChaChaCha (985322) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511888)

Bless her. She's been a force for a while trying to stomp out anti-competitive behaviour and consumer fleecing. A completely free market eventually only leads to monopolies. I prefer a more regulated approach. It has the positive side-effect of feeling actually represented in government.

Re:Yes please. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512368)

>>>A completely free market eventually only leads to monopolies

False.

Even if a monopoly did form (highly unlikely in a competitive environment), eventually a new guy comes along to undercut the monopoly with lower prcies or better goods or improved service. As example see what happened to Kmart which used to be as dominant as Walmart, but is now a has-been. Or more relevant to slashdot: How the IE monopoly with its 90% dominance was broken-up by new competitors ike Firefox, Chrome, et cetera.

Re:Yes please. (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512742)

Neelie Kroes is simultaneously the only Euro Commissioner that seems to be doing a consistently good job, and one of the few good VVDers that I regularly hear from (VVD the Dutch conservative liberal party; more conservative than liberal lately).

Not Outside Europe (1)

andersh (229403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511918)

The EU has a mandate to regulate and improve the market conditions in Europe, but I don't see them making any headway outside. After all can you imagine any corporation voluntarily giving away profits?

We can only hope that some enlightened regulator is inspired to act on behalf of his own citizens thus making it possible for similar agreements. I don't have much hope for African markets, but perhaps in some Asian countries and Latin-America?

Re:Yes please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512130)

This is one of the places where I, for one, would welcome more regulation. The roaming charges are often completely absurd, and I don't see the free market taking care of it anytime soon. Now, if they could fix the roaming charges for data connections outside of the EU too... (over 10€/MB? Seriously?)

Less regulation is what fixes this.

If you don't need the schlep of an ID card or passport, salary slip and all sorts of other information to get a sim card, you just get a pay-as-you-use sim. Then use Skype or Google Voice, or somesuch.

No regulation == cell companies are just a data carrier. Pick the cheapest.

Re:Yes please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512148)

Noooo!
Absurdity... it is cheaper to send a SMS using a spanish mobile from France to Spain than inside Spain. Thats because there is a limit on how
much they can charge for the roaming SMS (due to EU legislation). It is something like 0.12 € roaming vs 0.15€ inside Spain. I just hope they just
absolutely everything. It is clear that the market doesn't work on the presence of oligopolies.

Re:Yes please. (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512890)

The stupid thing about the charges that if you're on (say) O2 UK and go to Ireland and use O2 in Ireland - the same company! - you get hit with roaming charges. Or where one company owns another, for example Telefonica owned O2, but you would be hit with huge roaming charges to use the Telefonica network even though they owned O2.

Re:Yes please. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513040)

I agree that the prices are absurd. If the roaming charges are just 10-20% over the local charges it's no big deal for most users but now it's also a factor of operators doing large steps in charges so the minimum charge is per started megabyte of data and per started minute of a call. This is actually adding to the income of the telecom operators since calls seldom are close to a minute or a megabyte.

The customers are ripped off...

"Over there!" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34511636)

European travelers who use their mobile phones abroad could soon see a dramatic reduction in their bills...

I thought the idea behind the creation of the EU was to eliminate the notion of "abroad"?

Re:"Over there!" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34511774)

You thought wrong. EU stands for European Union, not European Nation. There's no realistic way of collecting 30-ish countries, most with a distinct language and culture compared to the rest, as a single nation.

Re:"Over there!" (2)

lordholm (649770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511822)

The Schuman declaration (May 9, 1950) made it very clear that the goal was federation:

"The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims."

Now, will this be like the US? Probably not, but it will be a country to some extent.

Re:"Over there!" (5, Insightful)

Captain Segfault (686912) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512054)

There's no realistic way of collecting 30-ish countries, most with a distinct language and culture compared to the rest, as a single nation.

You mean like India?

Re:"Over there!" (3, Interesting)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512424)

Yeah, and India has it going very good. Their government can really impose the laws in every part of the nation without being overruled by local traditions and social hierarchies.

Re:"Over there!" (1)

timbo234 (833667) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511990)

That's what they're doing, but they're doing it (too) slowly. There will be no more notion of 'abroad' between EU countries phone contracts by 2015.

Re:"Over there!" (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512748)

Its intention is to erase the economic borders, not the social ones. The social ones will be erased by MacDonalds, Carrefour, Benneton and the like.

Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (1)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511646)

Last time I went from Norway to the UK, I racked up a 500NOK (about 50GBP/90USD) bill in about half a day of using Google Maps on my iPhone while trying to find my way around. I started around 7:30am walking from Liverpool Street Station and by around 12:30, I got an SMS from my mobile phone service provider that I would soon need to call them to override my "stop limit of 500NOK" if I wanted to continue using data.

Of course, I went to the first open Starbucks, logged on and downloaded a cheap (though almost functional) GPS app for the rest of the day.

I just read an article yesterday that the telephone providers are trying to force Apple and Google to pay for their network upgrades to support all this data traffic. I'm guessing their next thing is to put out a hit on the commission members.

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (4, Informative)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511694)

I'm guessing their next thing is to put out a hit on the commission members.

Bad idea. Her position as an unelected official notwithstanding, Neelie Kroes is one of the good ones. Under her leadership as Commissioner for Competition, the EU already imposed actually meaningful penalties on Microsoft for anti-competitive behaviour. I don't suppose the telecoms companies are going to scare her, particularly given that they are so obviously ripping everyone off and the telecoms industry is so obviously not functioning effectively as a free market with open competition in this respect.

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (1)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511722)

I don't recall Microsoft ever being accused of assassinating anyone. On the other hand, Telecom Italia, while I don't know if they've ever placed a hit on anyone, doesn't have the cleanest reputation.

Now, I'm force to ask. If she was less of a "bull dog", would it be a good idea to assassinate her? Don't get me wrong, I think it's a bad idea based on that fact too... but are there situations where assassinating someone is a good idea... or at least not a bad idea?

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511784)

Erm... OK... I had rashly assumed that by "put out a hit", you meant apply some sort of political pressure to have her removed from her (government appointed) role. If you are literally talking about assassinating her, you're way too crazy for me.

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (1)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511814)

Well, I wouldn't assassinate her. Hell, if she pulls this off, she's my hero (especially if Norway adopts it as part of the EEC which often confuses itself with the EU when convenient).

I'm just scared that someone else will

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512930)

.. the EEC which often confuses itself with the EU when convenient.

There is no confusion. Mandatory wikipedia quote:

...The entire pillar division, and the EC along with it, were abolished upon the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009. The legal personality of the EC was at this point transferred to the EU as a whole, a change in line with the Lisbon Treaty's wider aim of consolidating the legal nature of the Union.

The EEC is no more.

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34511830)

You might consider the possibility that he was being a little flippant, and merely wanted to suggest that the telephone companies might want to take extreme measures to prevent this.

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512048)

I don't recall Microsoft ever being accused of assassinating anyone. On the other hand, Telecom Italia, while I don't know if they've ever placed a hit on anyone, doesn't have the cleanest reputation.

Now, I'm force to ask. If she was less of a "bull dog", would it be a good idea to assassinate her? Don't get me wrong, I think it's a bad idea based on that fact too... but are there situations where assassinating someone is a good idea... or at least not a bad idea?

First of all, MS would not tell public it they did. Secondly, assassinating does not have to mean killing, MS can buy the officials to it's side or pay to put person away from post. Because monopoly does not have to care about it's money or reputation. Hell, we all (globally) have to go on paying taxes to MS, no matter what it does or says!
Telecom industry, on the other hand, is mostly EU internal and as such, controllable.

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (1)

lordholm (649770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512220)

She is about as unelected as the German prestident, or the British prime minister. That is, they are elected to their posts by parliament. In the EU commission, the commissioners are appointed by the member states' governments and elected by the parliament. In a standard parliamentary democracy, like Sweden, UK et.c., the prime minister (who then appoints other ministers) is appointed by the king / queen / speaker of parliament and thereafter elected by the parliament. I have always wondered why people are complaining about the commission being unelected, I cannot really see the issue here.

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512274)

I have always wondered why people are complaining about the commission being unelected, I cannot really see the issue here.

Firstly, some of us don't feel that having the administration of the day elected only indirectly as a result of who got the most MPs is a good idea either.

Secondly, the Commissioners are one step further removed.

Given that here in the UK our system for electing MPs is itself hardly democratic (it fails almost every common benchmark for a fair electoral system) you are talking about someone who wields a potentially very signficant amount of power, yet who is determined by something along the lines of an average of averages of averages. You don't need a PhD in statistics to see that this does not actually require any sort of popular mandate nor impose any real popular accountability at all.

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512032)

That would be some former or current Canadian official. The Telcos will find two girls who were "raped" by Dear Neelie ... (Hey, it's Sweden, anything is possible), while Amazon won't sell her anything because her MasterCard doesn't work. That is a good MO.

Re:Next article, "Telco accused of assassination" (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512290)

A Hit? This is Europe, not America - No they will be accused of sex crimes in Sweden.

common good (1)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511648)

I am suprised that they would work for the common good, rather than the coorporate interest.
The reality though is that 2015 is a loong way away, and by then these costs woudl have collapsed by nature.

Everybody would be walking aroud with an voip phone tapping into free bandwidth. This has already started with android 2.3 and SIP VoIP

G

Re:common good (2)

zaibazu (976612) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511684)

Bet one eurocrat got angry about the roaming charges because he used his private phone in Brussels.

Re:common good (1)

beakerMeep (716990) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511734)

Not sure I follow, why would roaming charges collapse due to VOIP? I can't imagine corporations ever backing off extra money.

Re:common good (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511892)

Because with VoIP, you can swap out your SIM card for a local prepaid card with a data flat when abroad, and everyone can still reach you over your VoIP number.

I've been doing it for over a year now (frequent trips to the Netherlands & Belgium, as I live right on the border), and it works perfectly as long as I've got 3G access. EDGE or GPRS not so much, but hey, it's better than paying 10 for a 5 minute phone call.

Re:common good (3, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511780)

If the costs could've collapsed by nature, it probably would've happened to at least a miniscule degree in the last decade of widespread mobile phone use. The fact is that it's at a deadlock. Each carrier charges every other carrier obscene termination fees for roaming. It's that fee that then sets the roaming rate in the market. A network could choose to eat the huge fees the other networks charge when its own customers roam, but that'd probably drive it out of business. Or it could choose to drop its termination fees for non-customers roaming onto its network, but that doesn't benefit them in the slightest, it helps everyone else instead. They're stuck in a local minimum that free market actions can't hop them out of. They need a perturbation. If/when roaming fees are forced to drop, they should stay low without any further action.

(FWIW, your common or garden Symbian phone's had SIP integrated for a while, and it's hardly affected mobile VOIP adoption.)

Don't agree (1)

batistuta (1794636) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512568)

There are a handful of providers which cover the whole EU continent. They are in every land. If I call from my German Vodafone to Codafone in Greece, I still pay this ridiculous roaming charge.

Roaming fees are purely artificial, not technical.

Re:common good (2)

AtomicJake (795218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512608)

If the costs could've collapsed by nature, it probably would've happened to at least a miniscule degree in the last decade of widespread mobile phone use. The fact is that it's at a deadlock. Each carrier charges every other carrier obscene termination fees for roaming. It's that fee that then sets the roaming rate in the market.

In theory, you are right. However, de facto there are only some mobile phone operators which are active in (nearly) all European countries. If Orange UK charges an Orange France user huge roaming costs, this is just for screwing the customer. And, to make it worse, the SIM card of the Orange France user has the preinstalled "preference" to use the Orange UK network. The same goes for t-mobile and Vodafone users - and probably most the other mobile carriers.

While the EU regulation already put a cap on the roaming costs for phone calls; the costs for data roaming is still obscene and completely nontransparent (I have really no clue how much the provider in another EU country charges me, if I do not do a check first - btw: how do you do this check without paying roaming costs? - everytime I turn on my mobile when arriving at the airport).

Re:common good (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512704)

Even worse is if the roaming company is the same company you are already have a subscription. They are the same frickin' company, yet you still pay roaming fees up till your wazoo.

Re:common good (2)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513008)

Looking at the big operators in the UK -

Telefonica also has networks in Ireland, Isle of Man, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy and Spain

Everything Everywhere (Orange / T-Mobile) also has networks in Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Armenia, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Switzerland)

Vodafone also has networks in Albania, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Nothern Cyprus, Portugal, Romania, Spain, France, Poland and Slovenia

Three also has networks in Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and Italy.

In each case, they charge their sister companies more for roaming fees than they charge their own customers for using the network.

Re:common good (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511820)

The COSTS would have collapsed, but that's exactly the issue: for the telcos it just means their profit margins increase. Not one of them has passed on that saving to the end user unless forced, which carries a tiny suggestion of cartel formation instead of true competition..

Re:common good (4, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511860)

Roaming charges are so high because there is no competition in that field. None. You're dependent on your operator - you have no choice. They compete with each other on the local market, not on roaming charges, because - let's be real - some 90% of the telephone users doesn't even use roaming, save for maybe those two weeks vacation a year and then they'd just switch off the phone.

People that have most roaming charges are those that travel for business, and they often don't have to pay their own bills (so they don't care). And companies don't care enough because it's too important to have the phone work in the first place.

Competition (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512516)

On the contrary. The competition makes sure that prices are lowest where people do have a choice and highest where people don't. When you "remain" with your supplier, your supplier will try to attract you with low prices. When another supplier is forced to use its services, the price is as high as possible. If only so the customer price can be more attractive. This is a result of competition. Competition means customers want freedom and suppliers want lock-ins. And guess who has the advantage? No customer is big enough to build his own alternative network.

Re:Competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512744)

Google?

Re:common good (1)

AtomicJake (795218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512646)

Roaming charges are so high because there is no competition in that field. None. You're dependent on your operator - you have no choice. They compete with each other on the local market, not on roaming charges, because - let's be real - some 90% of the telephone users doesn't even use roaming, save for maybe those two weeks vacation a year and then they'd just switch off the phone.

I am still looking for a pan-European provider that offers a flat rate - or at least a constant minute price - for all phone calls regardless the (European) country, I happen to be. I know that there is a market. However, it is not since long that you would be allowed to create such a meta-provider (i.e. reselling only, without own network) in some countries and I am not sure that you are allowed in all countries (this was to make sure that providers actually build out a competing infrastructure; but the downside is that it also created an oligopoly).

Re:common good (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512722)

some 90% of the telephone users doesn't even use roaming, save for maybe those two weeks vacation a year and then they'd just switch off the phone.

And 82% of statistics is made up.
The roaming charges are so high, because they can get away with it. Hopefully that will change now.

The reason people turn off their phone during the two weeks in Spain or Greece is because it IS so expensive.

Re:common good (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512170)

I am suprised that they would work for the common good, rather than the coorporate interest.

Some bits of the Commission are independent, some are in the pockets of big business.

The reality though is that 2015 is a loong way away, and by then these costs woudl have collapsed by nature.

No, they would still be there...the cellphone companies are making a killing on these charges.

Everybody would be walking aroud with an voip phone tapping into free bandwidth. This has already started with android 2.3 and SIP VoIP

Not an icicle's chance in hell. Wifi is nowhere near widespread enough for this, and still won't be in 2015. SIP is fine as a concept, but cannot take off until there is a unified directory that works. Right now it's just an interesting plaything.

There are still roaming charges? (1)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511650)

I know it might be naive, but I assumed that purchasing "international service" meant you had service anywhere in the world just like in your home country. One of my friends spent a month in China over the summer, and I didn't hear him say anything about roaming charges, or anything out of the ordinary.

Similarly, I know that a lot of Canadians who frequent the US will purchase cellular service here, but I assumed that was just because of better service when they're here.

Within Europe (4, Informative)

andersh (229403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511854)

You're probably American, and as such it's normal that you travel less outside your own country. Europeans in general travel more frequently to other European countries.

As a European I would never dream of purchasing "international service", not that it exists as a product here, I should not have to. The basic service is not a problem, your phone will work automatically.

When I travel abroad [at least in Europe] I expect to continue using my phone without any interruptions or changes. It works that way too, as every network has some local partner in the foreign country in question. The only issue is with the roaming charges, they can be exorbitant, but at least the EU is looking out for us.

The point is that within the European Union marketplace there is no room [by law] for abusive pricing that treats consumers differently depending on their nationality. The EU's goal is to create one, free market.

Re:Within Europe (1)

CaptainNerdCave (982411) | more than 3 years ago | (#34513086)

True, I'm from the US, but I recall reading not long ago about European phones using a different system (or maybe it was that particular carrier?) in various other parts of the world. With that in mind, buying a phone that has several band capabilities (CDMA, GSM, etc) and having to pay extra for the additional service seemed reasonable at the time.

Re:There are still roaming charges? (1)

dakohli (1442929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512070)

As a Canadian who has spent a fair bit of time down in the States, I can say that I purchased local cell service, not because of the service, but rather that it was a ton cheaper. My roaming fees from Rogers is $1.45 per minute, texts are 75 cents, and for data: 3 cents per Kb! And in some cases I have to accrue data in 20 Kb chunks! Quite frankly, sometimes its just easier to get a throwaway phone at Walmart especially if I'm in town for more than 4 weeks.

Portugal and Spain will do it first (3, Interesting)

arestivo (459117) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511664)

Portugal and Spain are already in talks to end roaming charges between the two countries: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/technology/08roam.html [nytimes.com]

Already Done In Scandinavia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34511872)

Actually this has been abolished a long time ago here in Scandinavia; Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The same major corporations are present in all the markets anyway. It's much the same as with Spain and Portugal, we're neighbors and speak almost the same languages. People move across the borders at will.

Data is included, but not clearly.. (4, Insightful)

cheros (223479) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511808)

The paper includes questions about that last frontier of all rip-offs: data traffic.

The prices you pay for phone call roaming have indeed been affected by EU rules, but you now get ripped off over data - the cheapest resource to provide as the whole infrastructure has already moved to IP (that was one of the reasons 2.5G to 3G took so much time - the underlying security model had to be changed). This is partially visible in the VoIP and WiFi comments, so they're not ignorant of the issue - maybe I'm just too picky :-).

I cannot see the paper make a clear distinction between voice and data, but on the other hand, it's not that clear on packing the two together either so if you answer, make the distinction and address both separately.

Re:Data is included, but not clearly.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512176)

Also, you can get a data plan for 10€ a month for unlimited data, yet a sms costs .20€ which comes to 1497.96€ per MB.

Does this mean that you could (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511858)

Does this mean that you could sign up for the cheapest tariff in Europe (eg SIM via mail order) and use it at the same cost in your own country? If so it will drastically increase competition. Also you would probably be better of for coverage than those using a phone from the same country, because you could roam to any of the networks!

Re:Does this mean that you could (1)

AdeBaumann (126557) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511894)

I'd assume (not having read TFA) that you'd still have to pay international charges to call from, say, Spain to the UK, but you'd pay local charges to call a Spanish phone from your Spanish mobile while in the UK. So I'd say you could get a SIM via mail order from country A, but unless the bulk of your calls go to country A, you still won't save much.

Re:Does this mean that you could (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511970)

I'd assume (not having read TFA) that you'd still have to pay international charges to call from, say, Spain to the UK, but you'd pay local charges to call a Spanish phone from your Spanish mobile while in the UK.

I did read TFA and it is not clear, it seems to imply that there would be no international charges.

Re:Does this mean that you could (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512264)

Come to think of it, there's no good reason for international charges. Calling Aberdeen from Cornwall is not an international call. Unless there's already some agreememnt between France and Belgium, calling Brussels from Dunkirk is an international call and that's somewhere around a quarter of the distance.

Re:Does this mean that you could (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511930)

While that would be fantastic, I doubt that will be the case. That would likely lead to the collapse of the whole industry... compare, for instance, the pricing in Germany and Austria - minutes cost 10cts (Germany) vs. 1cts (Austria) on average. Many operators would just go out of business with such an abrupt transition.

Of course, anything's possible, and I hope you're right :p

Re:Does this mean that you could (2)

Strider- (39683) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512004)

I think it would be fair if, say, you're on a Spanish SIM and traveling in the UK, you pay the same rates as a holder of a UK phone would pay.

This is the part that cracks me up.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34511924)

This is the part that cracks me up in the whole global mobile technology argument. Europeans will have no problems at all bashing the US about our ridiculous child-like mobile network options, yet a) look at how the carrier that deploys the most globally compatible technology is the worst one here, and b) many Americans don't realize that Europeans typically need to buy a new SIM card every time they travel distances equivalent to us going to a different state. Commuting from NJ into NYC? Two SIM cards. Driving from LA to Vegas for the weekend? Two SIM cards. I really wish EUers would STFU about the US needing to "catch up" when they really don't understand how bad they have it.

Re:This is the part that cracks me up.. (2)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512008)

You don't need a different SIM. Those of us living in Europe simply buy a new one because it's cheaper.

When I moved here from the USA, I had to wait a month before I could manage to jailbreak and unlock my AT&T iPhone. During that month, I used up 300 minutes and 200 text messages, with many of the minutes coming from random "blocked" calls I received on my phone that only lasted one minute, and many texts from text spam advertisers. The result? A 600 dollar phone bill.

Re:This is the part that cracks me up.. (1)

badzilla (50355) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512090)

Here in UK there is not even any need to "buy" a SIM - all network operators will hand them out for free. Although you sometimes find arbitragers managing to resell them for a small sum. One of my kids got two free O2 SIMs with a can of energy drink yesterday.

Re:This is the part that cracks me up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512690)

You were charged for accepting calls and messages?

Re:This is the part that cracks me up.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512620)

b) many Americans don't realize that Europeans typically need to buy a new SIM card every time they travel distances equivalent to us going to a different state.

I live in Norway. I travel throughout Europe, and I never swap my SIM.

in 1999... (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34511982)

...I paid £50 for one of the latest (i.e. WAP, 3-band GSM etc.) Motorola Timeport 'phones, and for £12.50/month on a 12 month contract with BT Cellnet I got enough inclusive minutes to cover my light usage when not roaming. Data calls were GSM modem, i.e. slow, but this is 1999. Roaming charges were expensive, but I rarely needed to use my mobile abroad, making this is the cheapest mobile plan I've ever had.

All I've seen in the last decade is contract and call costs steadily increasing, while no data plans cater for the very light user who doesn't need to browse Facebook and watch porn on the move, just regularly send/receive e-mail on a mailbox which he's already run through a text filter to limit to a few kB at most.

And, to put my asshole opinion in :-), I've never met anyone who uses mobile data for anything productive except when the usage case could be (and usually is) catered for with e-mail or some group calendaring system such as Outlook.

Re:in 1999... (2)

badzilla (50355) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512120)

In 2003 I took my UK GSM phone on a family trip to the Florida Keys. Before I left I asked about roaming data use abroad and Vodafone told me no problem, just use it like you would at home, no APN reconfiguration necessary and no extra charges. They were completely true to their word and although I ssh'd back to the UK quite frequently I never saw anything on my phone bill.

Of course this was probably before telco woke up to the money that could be made.

Re:in 1999... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512238)

Checking a map, if you don't have world maps stored on your phone?
Checking for public transport delays/maps/timetables?
Looking up addresses or other contact information on web pages?

Nope, not productive at all.
(These are just the things I've used it for ... and it has been extremely useful.)

Re:in 1999... (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512270)

Map: like you said, store it on your 'phone. If I'm stuck in the middle of somewhere I don't know and around no-one, I also assume I may not get a quality mobile signal.

Public transport: not routinely, as I plan in advance, but this can be useful in the middle of the night if unexpected problems arise. A low bandwidth application.

Contact information: again rarely as I tend to plan in advance. Rarely enough that I can swallow a voice directory enquiry when it's not included in a plan. Again, a low bandwidth application.

This continues the implication in my first post that a mobile is in the general case only useful for what Outlook can do: contacts, e-mail, calendaring (which timetabling is). And these are all low bandwidth apps if you use dedicated clients/protocols rather than Web 2.0 bloat.

competition was there at the very beginning (only) (5, Interesting)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512128)

I have been on GSM in Europe since the very beginning, a professional traveller.

I perfectly remember roaming rates were widely variable according to the carrier you chose abroad, and soon there were ordered lists that you would enter in your phone to indicate careful preference for carrier X vs Y then Z, for each country. It was somehow painful to enter in the phone, but once only and cool after that.

Then, I *even more perfectly* remember, one day the news unanimously announced, in order to simplify customer experience, all european carriers had agreed onto a clearer and common rate.

Absolutely no one reacted. The rate of course was among the highest (at least, five or ten time higher than the lowest before).
No newspaper claimed this was an illegal arrangement, and neither did the Ms Kroes of the time.

Saying we discover it today is just a shame.

When it was done, it was fully in the open, and no one reacted.

Getting better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512292)

Now if only they would get rid of the first-minute. It's absurd to pay for a whole minute for a 10 second call.

Slow Hand (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34512348)

Why does Eric Clapton care so much?

Someone has to pay for this (1)

acidradio (659704) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512660)

Great, so the rest of us non-European cell phone users roaming on foreign networks will have to pay more. They have to make their money somewhere. They will just charge whoever will pay it. The US government won't come to the aid of Americans wanting a reasonable roaming rate so it's almost a guarantee of higher roaming charges!

European roaming charges (1)

Dollyknot (216765) | more than 3 years ago | (#34512692)

Having been done by these scalpers twice, who would not know the Golden Rule if it bit them. Can I suggest that some pharmaceutical company could work on a greed reduction pill.
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