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GSMA scores 2, concedes 3, with EU

But who is playing for consumers?

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MEPs have reached an informal agreement on European roaming, conceding the cost of data and 30-second billing to the mobile-industry, but standing firm on caps and the price of a text message.

Officially the agreement is between the EU presidency, currently held by the Czech Republic, and the MEPs comprising the Industry Committee. But the GSMA's Position Paper, seen by El Reg, makes it clear which amendments the mobile industry considers worth fighting for.

On pricing, the GSMA supported the Committee's plan to freeze pricing caps next year, which apparently would: "allow operators to focus on providing deals that generate and meet consumer demand" as opposed to "dedicating resources to the preparation and implementation of successive price cap limit decreases". The presidency was having none of it, and the agreed plan will see prices falling until 2011 when they reach €.35 a minute for outgoing, €.11 a minute for incoming calls.

On 30-second billing the GSMA and the Committee were split - the Committee proposed that roamed calls would be charged by the second from the outset, an idea rejected by the GSMA as unsustainable. Again the Presidency rejected the proposal, siding with the GSMA to allow operators to charge a lump sum for the first 30 seconds of a roamed call, giving the GSMA an even score.

But the GSMA lost badly on SMS charges, where everyone else agrees that €.11 is a sensible cap on roamed text messages while the GSMA not only believes that such a cap "is particularly harmful and difficult to justify", but also that its introduction "will negatively impact [operators'] ability to invest in mobile broadband technologies". But to no avail as the cap is now scheduled for 1st July 2009.

Equally adamant is the GSMA on the need to delay the introduction of a warning when roaming customers reach €50 of data - the GSMA says such a thing can't be implemented before July 2010, while the EU expects to see it happen by March that year. Putting the GSMA two down will little hope of recovery.

On the cost of data the GSMA is remarkably ambivalent, noting only the usual protest about €1 being a much more sensible cap - and even that is footnoted that Hutchinson, P4 and Telenor actually support the idea of a €.50/MB limit (splitters!). Which makes it all the stranger that the negotiated agreement states €1 should be the cap for wholesale data - more than many operators are currently charging - but that will fall to €.50 by 2011.

A final tally then of 3-2 against the GSMA. Not a perfect result but one that the industry is running out of time to fight. The final vote won't be until the end of April, but it increasingly looks as though the industry has run out of energy and is now prepared to concede just about anything to get the EU off its back. ®

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