Holiday text messages to cost less than 9p

Text and data caps detailed

Viviane Reding has begun circulating details of her proposed caps on data and SMS roaming. She wants to see prices capped at €.11 for a text message and €1 a MB for roamed data.

The draft text has been sent to the EU Commissioners for consideration ahead of a formal vote on the matter in October. It also includes a proposal to demand per-second billing on calls lasting more than 30 seconds.

The latter proposal is the most controversial, as some countries already require per-second billing and differing increments are used as a tariff differentiator by many companies. "The regulation of billing increments within the Eurotariff or any other roaming tariff would amount to micro-management," the GSMA told Reuters. "Billing increments are a point of differentiation that operators can use to appeal to customers with different preference."

Quite what kind of customer prefers to be billed by the minute isn't clear - but the GSMA has always protested against change, so its stance is unsurprising.

SMS messages currently cost around €.29 to send while roaming around Europe, and some 2.5 billion are sent annually, so cutting the rate to €.11 could see €450 million less revenue for the mobile operators - unless the cheaper costs drives up usage by at least 100 per cent.

The cap on data is a wholesale rate - the amount the network operators charge each other - so punters will end up paying more than that depending on their tariff. But overall it should drive prices - and profits - down.

There was a fear that operators would cut their wholesale prices before Ms Reding had a chance to champion the ordinary euro-citizen by capping them. That now looks unlikely, though, and leaves the operators fighting a rear-guard action against the caps while trying to work out how they're going to replace that lost revenue. ®

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