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EU confirms SMS and data roaming price caps

Reding vs The Networks, round two

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The EU will cap charges for roaming texts at a maximum of £0.09 and force operators to bill cross-border voice calls by the second, telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding has said.

Texts from other EU countries currently typically cost about £0.23. The battling Luxembourger has also confirmed plans to slap a £0.79 per megabyte limit on data charges within the EU. The existing per minute voice calls cap would also tighten further from £0.34 to £0.27.

The proposals will now go forward to the European Parliament for a vote in spring and could become law in July 2009.

It had been hoped that the Commission's action last year to impose the first pan-European caps on voice roaming would encourage networks to cut SMS and data charges voluntarily. Reding set a July 2008 deadline that wasn't met.

The voice roaming cap was widely seen as a win for Europe and consumers, so Strasbourg approval for similar action on SMS and data seems a formality. Conservative MEP Giles Chichester, the party's industry spokesman, said: "We had hoped the previous price cap would make the industry see the light and take action to avoid further intervention from the EU. More regulation in this field should be the last resort, and the commission must make the case for the necessity of extending the limit."

"Too many people are receiving a shock if they access data abroad, and these prices must be brought down."

He said operators could still win a regulatory reprieve via voluntary price cuts.

Once this battle is out of the way, Reding has her sights on an even bigger mobile industry cash cow: Termination charges, which the largest operators cherish as guaranteed revenue. Analysis here. ®

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