The European Parliament has approved the European Union’s regulation on wholesale roaming caps, clearing the way for so-called “roam like home” across all 28 member states from June 2017.
The overwhelming vote in favour follows an informal agreement earlier this year between different EU institutions, but it was a necessary step before the rules are introduced on 15 June, in less than 10 weeks.
Under the deal, wholesale data roaming charges will be capped at €7.70 per gigabyte from June but they will then fall on 1 January each year to only €2.50 per gigabyte from 2022.
Andrus Ansip, the EU’s vice-president for the digital single market, welcomed the vote: 549 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were in favour, and only 27 against.
“As of 15 June 2017 people will be able to switch on mobile services, especially data, without fear of high bills while travelling in the EU,” said Ansip. “This is a great achievement for all of us. Notwithstanding the final OK from member states, this agreement on wholesale roaming prices will be the final step to end roaming charges for all travellers in the EU.”
Finnish MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, who led the debate, said: “This is a great victory for European consumers. We can now celebrate the fact that from 15 June on there will be no more roaming fees. Users travelling in across Europe will be able to check emails, use maps, upload photos on the social media, phone and text home without extra cost.”
The ruling will apply to the UK as well as to the other 27 countries in the EU: the UK has given formal notice of its intention to leave, but will remain a member until approximately March 2019.
Ansip added: “After nearly ten years, the EU is now putting a definitive end to the roaming anxiety that has plagued Europe since the beginning of the mobile era. Exorbitant roaming prices were an anomaly in a continent where people move freely between countries.”
The informal agreement between the European Parliament and the European Council on wholesale price caps defines how much telecoms operators can charge each other for using their networks to carry cross-border roaming calls. Wholesale roaming prices indirectly affect consumers’ final bills.
That agreement set wholesale caps of 3.2c per minute of voice calls, 1c per SMS, and a more complex step guide to data caps. These will decrease over five years, from €7.70 per GB as of 15 June 2017 to €6.00 per GB (as of 1 January 2018), €4.50 per GB (as of 1 January 2019), €3.50 per GB (as of 1 January 2020), €3.00 per GB (as of 1 January 2021) and €2.50 per GB (as of 1 January 2022).
Ansip told MEPs before they voted that reducing wholesale roaming prices was “the main step” to the introducing of roam like home. “Without this, many operators would not have been able to eliminate roaming charges without increasing their domestic prices. This was technically complicated and involved finding an adequate political balance.”
He added: “The new caps on wholesale roaming prices agreed with the council … will allow operators to provide roaming at domestic price. At the same time, they will ensure that the networks visited can recover their wholesale costs.”
The rules apply to consumers who either normally reside in or have stable links to a member state, who are using a SIM card from an operator of that country.
According to the European Commission, “if necessary, operators can ask their customers to provide proof of residence or of such stable links to the member state in question. Roaming providers may apply fair, reasonable and proportionate control mechanisms based on objective indicators to detect the risks of abusive or anomalous use of roam like at home beyond periodic travelling.”
The rules do not apply to customers of operators from outside the EU, including non-member European countries such as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.