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Roaming charges in Europe could be gone by next year

European roaming charges could end next year, as EU officials vote to fast-track plans that could also welcome foreign networks to Britain.

Show me the place where the smart phones roam, and I'll show you somewhere calls cost the same as at home. The EU is a step close to ending mobile roaming charges when you're abroad in Europe, which could end unwanted bill shock in the next year.

European officials have voted to fast-track proposals to ban phone companies from charging extra for calls, texts and data when you're on the continent, while also paving the way for foreign networks to come to Britain.

The ditching of roaming charges is part of an effort to unify Europe into one big telecoms market, The Telegraph reports. Detailed proposals will be drawn up in the next six weeks and pushed through in time for next year's European elections, and if all goes well they could be enacted in July 2014.

EU officials reckon that after roaming charges are consigned to history, we'll use our phones more on our holibobs and so make up for the estimated 2 per cent fall in revenue for mobile phone networks.

A single European phone market -- and possibly a single telecoms watchdog, like a Euro-wide Ofcom -- would open the way for foreign networks to compete for your business here in our green and pleasant land. Networks here and across the continent could also form alliances, although some of our networks are already tied to Europe: O2 is owned by Telefonica, and Vodafone is an international brand.

"Scrapping all roaming charges in EU countries is a real win for consumers," says mobile expert Ernest Doku of uSwitch. "Not only will we be better protected from bill shock, but the doors will be open to foreign networks looking for a piece of the market in Britain, which could mean cheaper mobile deals too. But Brits still need to be extremely careful when using mobiles in non-EU countries where there is still no protection at all."

Britain's first 4G network, EE, told me the network will comment when proposals are formalised. 

Is it about time roaming charges were put out to pasture? Have you ever been hit by a shock bill? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or roam on over to our well-travelled Facebook page.