EU ministers back higher wholesale data caps

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

EU Council votes through proposals for caps twice has high as those proposed by the European Parliament

The EU Council has backed a move to lower the caps on mobile roaming charges across Europe, but has pushed for limits more than double those that were recommended by the European Parliament.

The European Parliament had suggested a cap of €4 per gigabyte, declining to just €1 in 2021, but the Council of Ministers, which is made up of member states, agreed to caps of €10 per GB, which will halve in 2021.

Roaming across the EU is set to become free for consumers from June 2017, a key pledge of the current regimes “Single Digital Economy” scheme, but telecoms operators have raised concerns over the impact it will have on their revenues.

Slovakia, which holds the rotating presidency, had suggested caps of €8.50 per GB with a glide-path put in place. This was approved by 16 to 12 member states in a vote in October, but was approved by ministers on Friday.

The move to block the lower wholesale fees caps were led by states who benefit heavily from tourists, including the UK, Italy, Greece and Spain. Despite the stark divide between the two bodies, Slovakia now has permission to open talks with Parliament over the caps on data, SMS and voice traffic.

Talks will open later this month, according to the presidency, and the EU is aiming to conclude these by March in order to bring in the rules by the 17 June deadline.

"Who does not wish to remain connected and to communicate when traveling or on holiday? Abolition of roaming charges is in the eyes of many the most concrete achievement of the Union," said Slovak minister for transport, construction and regional development Arpad Ersek.