Mobile firms get more time on data roaming

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The Independent Online

Mobile network operators have another few months' grace on the question of roaming data prices, before the decision about regulation is made, the European telecoms commissioner says.

Viviane Reding, whose rulings on voice roaming cut the cost to consumers by up to 70 per cent, said last week that proposals to regulate the pricing of pan-European text messages will be put before the European Parliament in the autumn.

"The mobile industry is just greedy," Ms Reding said. "When I made the voice roaming decision, the industry said very clearly that the market was cap-able of arranging things, but after a year's oppor-tunity we have seen the average EU roamed text message go from 23p to 22p today, and I'm really not impressed."

But the jury is still out on the other main area of focus – access to data services such as mobile internet. Data roaming is a less mature market, and prices have already come down from £4.11 per megabyte in January to £3.50 today. "The decision to do something on SMS is without doubt, but on data we are still seeing what is happening," Ms Reding said.

The Danish regulator, who presides over Europe's most competitive market, is recommending a target price of £1 per megabyte, but such a massive drop is unlikely in the near fut-ure. In the meantime, the emphasis is on improving operators' transparency on data pricing. "People don't know what they are going to have to pay and there needs to be a safety net," Ms Reding said.