Mobile carriers snap back at European roaming reform

The GSMA, which represents hundreds of carriers, says European Commission VP Neelie Kroes' effort to eliminate roaming fees is causing regulatory whiplash in the mobile network industry.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise Processors | Semiconductors | Web browsers | Quantum computing | Supercomputers | AI | 3D printing | Drones | Computer science | Physics | Programming | Materials science | USB | UWB | Android | Digital photography | Science Credentials
  • Shankland covered the tech industry for more than 25 years and was a science writer for five years before that. He has deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and more.
Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, speaking at LeWeb 2012.
Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, speaking at LeWeb 2012. Stephen Shankland/CNET

A consortium representing mobile network operators didn't like what it heard last week when a top European Commission official called for an end to the roaming fees consumers must pay to use their mobile phones outside their home countries.

Neelie Kroes, the vice president of the EC leading the digital agenda, said she wanted an end to roaming fees by Easter 2014. "I want you to be able to go back to your constituents and say that you were able to end mobile roaming costs," Kroes told members of a European Parliament committee in a speech on Thursday.

But the GSMA -- a consortium that represents more than 800 carriers including Vodafone, Telecom Italia, AT&T, T-Mobile, Orange, Everything Everywhere, Verizon Wireless, and China Mobile -- pushed back on Monday. Group members often call for less governmental regulation, and they made that point in a statement Monday:

The GSMA encourages the commissioner to keep her focus on the big picture and to make bold and long-term recommendations. In this regard, it is unfortunate that the commissioner should have used her recent platform with parliament to talk about roaming.

Roaming has seen three successive waves of regulation, with Europe's regulators and mobile companies intensively implementing the latest requirements. The commissioner should immediately clarify her intentions with regard to roaming, to avoid the industry investing in a roaming solution that has been superseded before it is launched.

The statement refers to price caps on roaming fees for data usage that the EC implemented through legislation in 2012 (PDF). That capped data-roaming fees at a maximum of 0.70 euros (91 cents) per megabyte. Earlier legislation implemented caps on roaming fees for voice calls and text messages.

"Everyone loves the benefits of EU price cuts to roaming," Kroes said in her speech. "It is the one thing even 'Eurocritics' agree the EU did well."