EU reaches deal for zero-rates mobile roaming

Deal brokered between Council and Parliament will allow EU citizens to ‘roam like at home’ from June

The European Union has reached a deal that will allow people to use their mobile phones across the 28-country bloc without paying roaming fees.

Thee-way negotiations between the European Parliament, Commission and Council ended on Wednesday morning with a deal to slash rates telecom companies charge each other, according to the office of EP rapporteur Miapetra Kumpala-Natri.

One of the EU’s big pledges has been to eradicate roaming fees for consumers by June and Council’s Maltese presidency wanted a deal before March.

They agreed to cap wholesale mobile data prices at €7.75 per gigabyte from June 15, decreasing to €6 as of January 1, 2018. The fees will slide to €4.5 per gigabyte in 2019, €3.5 in 2020, €3 in 2021 and then to €2.5 in 2022, Kumpula-Natri’s office said. cited an informed source as stating that senior EU diplomats thwarted opposition from Germany and France, who had argued that reducing the fees mobile operators could charge endangered their business models.

The Council’s position, agreed last year, was to cap data prices at €10 per gigabyte followed by a yearly reduction to €5 in 2021. However, Kumpula-Natri wanted rates to start at €4 per gigabyte, dropping to €1 within four years, while the Commission had a fix capped at €8.50.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hailed the announcement as great news for European consumers and businesses, and an example of Europe getting closer to its citizens.

Member of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola welcomed the agreement on wholesale roaming prices, which means that the EU has cleared the last hurdle required to abolish mobile phone roaming charges across the EU by the summer of 2017.

"This has been a long process – too long in many respects, but we are finally here. The decision was the final important step towards finally banning mobile phone roaming charges across the EU and comes after years of painstaking work and negotiations. It is time that this outdated business practice is finally consigned to history,” said Dr Metsola.

As of 15 June of this year, consumers will pay the same price for calls, texts and mobile data as at home, wherever they are travelling in the EU at no extra charge, subject to a fair usage clause.

“This is an issue that has been pushed in the European Parliament for years and something that people in Malta and Gozo have called for for a long time, and I am so pleased that this will finally become a reality soon. Now that the roaming charges issue has been settled, it is time to look at the next step – reducing charges for intra-EU calls when in your home State,” added Dr Metsola.