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Euro data roaming price cut too shallow

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Comment From 1 July 2012, accessing the internet using your phone or tablet while you're travelling around Europe will get less expensive.

But don't expect to by downloading media files on the cheap. Even come 2014, it's still going to cost a packet.

Following the agreement reached between European bureaucrats from the EU, EC and EP, data will cost European no more than €0.70 (£0.58) a megabyte from 1 July.

To put that in context, downloading a 750MB video file - you're grabbing it off your Nas box to watch one evening - will cost you €525 (£438) at that rate. You could get a memory stick couriered over from a chum for less than that.

A four-minute song from iTunes will cost you €6.72 (£5.61) - almost as much as the album it comes from.

Of course, that's still a better pricing structure than the ones networks currently have in place. Virgin, for example, charges £1.00 (€1.20) a megabyte in Europe. Three charges £1.28 (€1.53) per megabyte.

O2 wants £3.07 (€3.68) for every megabyte, but it charges no more than £40 - just over 13MB - and lets you clock up to 37MB more traffic before halting data traffic. There's an optional £120 spending cap with a 200MB overall limit.

Earlier this month the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on the Internal Market, Energy and Transport called these prices - and the very similar charges made by the other operators - "unacceptably high". We agree.

The Eurocrats began looking at European roaming charges because of concerns that high pricing was limiting the public's ability to access online services. The thinking is that if there's a barrier to this activity, it's going to harm European businesses trading online.

Punters want to shop online, and they want to access entertainment and other services over the net too. They want to be able to use these facilities wherever they happen to be. But High prices are a big disincentive to do so when they are travelling.

Tourism being such an important part of the European economy, the powers that be want Europeans to carry on using the phones and tablets when they're holidaying in the region.

It's clear from the movie download example, they're still not going to be watching films online while they're away.

The new Euro roaming rules invoke further data price cuts: to €0.45 (£0.38) on 1 July 2013 and then to €0.20 (£0.17) a year after that.

Then the video download will cost €150 (£125) to download. Clearly, still way too much.

Limiting yourself to more lightweight data services won't cost you that much, of course. But check your email regularly, your Twitter and Facebook accounts likewise - as so many smartphone users do nowadays - plus access the web to check out local facilities, public transport details, weather details and such, and it's very easy to rack up download counts.

We take these services for granted at home. We should be able to do so abroad. Likewise the other data transfers we take for granted: app and content downloads, media streaming and VoIP.

Sim-swapping is fine for some but not always convenient. Not all locations you may be travelling to have Wi-Fi on tap. Roaming is more convenient and accessible than either. It should be as inexpensive too.

So while the new rules are welcome and will help continue to prevent so-called "bill shock" - coming home to find a colossal invoice from your mobile provider on the door mat - as past EU roaming regulation has done, it's not going to anything to encourage travelling Europeans from enthusiastically making use of any but the most basic online services. ®

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