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Ofcom boss demands action on data roaming charges

Tries to cut down price hurdles

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Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards will tell a meeting of European regulators today there is a need to make sharp reductions to the costs of "text roaming" and "data roaming" across Europe.

Richards will also look at whether Ofcom has powers to act itself.

Sending a text from abroad costs an average of 21p versus an average cost of 5.6p within the UK, despite there being little additional cost.

Ofcom is concerned that data roaming charges are also hitting business. UK operators charge an average of £4.11 per Mb of data when used in Europe. Richards described this as an obstacle to business and "a significant price hurdle to the use of mobile internet".

The regulator is also concerned that despite European action last year on the costs of voice roaming, costs remain high. The EU capped wholesale roaming charges for voice calls at 30 euro cents per minute. The Labour government lobbied unsuccessfully to get the proposals dropped.

But many operators are charging consumers for a full first minute of a call even if it is actually only 20 or 30 seconds long. On average this means that roaming is 20 per cent more expensive than domestic calls.

European Union communications commissioner Viviane Reding is pushing for a central European regulator to replace Ofcom and the other national bodies. She accuses them of being too cosy with telcos. ®

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