HomeInsightsCouncil of the European Union adopts general approach on new rules for wholesale roaming markets in EU

On 2 December 2016, the Council adopted a general approach on new rules for wholesale roaming markets in the EU, paving the way for the abolition of roaming fees for consumers in 2017. The agreed text is the starting point for negotiations with the European Parliament. The Council says that it “supports a quick agreement” so that roaming fees can be abolished in June 2017 as agreed.

The draft Regulation lays down limits for what operators may charge each other for the use of their networks to provide roaming services. These caps cover voice calls, sms messages and the use of data.

The aim is to set the caps at a level that will help make the end of roaming charges sustainable across the EU, even though mobile use, travel patterns and price levels vary a great deal from one Member State to another. To achieve this, the new rules aim to preserve incentives to invest in networks, and avoid distorting competition in both home and visited markets.

With regard to caps for data, the general approach introduces a declining path, with the maximum charge starting from €0.01/MB in mid-2017 and dropping gradually to €0.005/MB in mid-2021. Diminishing caps reflect the expectation that the cost of providing wholesale roaming services will fall over the coming years, the Council says.

The wholesale price cap for data is a crucial element in this review. The use of data on mobile devices has been increasing exponentially in recent years and is expected to continue to soar. With the end of roaming fees, data consumption abroad is expected to follow a similar trend.

For phone calls, the maximum surcharge would be €0.0353/min, and for text messages, €0.01 per message.

The general approach includes a new mechanism at wholesale level to ensure sustainability in exceptional circumstances. If operators are not able to recover their costs, they may ask their national regulator for permission to apply a surcharge on top of the caps. However, even when exceptionally applying a surcharge, the total wholesale charge for data cannot exceed €0.0085/MB.

The Commission will have to report every two years on how the rules work and, if appropriate, propose new rules.

The reform must be in place by 15 June 2017 so that roaming fees can be abolished as laid down in last year’s Roaming Regulation. To achieve this, the Slovak presidency will be starting trilogue talks with the Parliament in December. Both institutions must agree on the final text before it can be adopted. To read the Council’s press release in full, click here.