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EU to settle roaming debate

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The EU Commission is poised to make its long-mooted swoop on the mobile industry this week, forcing operators to cut roaming charges, according to weekend reports.

On Wednesday, Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding will present the plans the mobile industry has been lobbying hard to have canned.

AFP reports that Reding will introduce measures to cap the price countries' networks can impose on each other at wholesale, and the charges they can slap on punters.

Analysts at Ovum reckon it'll mean calls within the EU will go for around €0.24 a minute at wholesale, while wholesale roaming charges for international calls will be capped at around €0.36 a minute.

The proposals will also include an end to the practice of charging customers for receiving calls abroad.

Reding says the current system is worth €8.5bn to networks.

Opposition from the industry has claimed that operators will be forced to allay the hit of losing the lucrative roaming business by raising domestic prices.

GSM Association CEO Rob Conway said: "It is inappropriate to regulate tariffs at a pan-European level as the commercial and regulatory factors in each national market are different.

"The mobile phone industry has a long track record of innovating on services and tariffs. The European Commission's proposed intervention will curb such innovation by limiting operators' scope to develop tailored packages aimed at particular customer groups."

In a recent speech, Reding countered: "Given the cross border nature of the problems, any type of legislative intervention by member states would be ineffective and would risk giving rise to divergent results."

The 25 commissioners will discuss Reding's regulatory scheme, which has found favour with the public, at Wednesday's meeting. ®

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