End of Roaming? Also the end of mobile market competition?
March 2014 - In recent weeks, European Commission officials and Members of the European Parliament have announced the end of mobile roaming tariffs for consumers in the European Union. The key Committee in the European Parliament will vote on it next week. Today a coalition gathering 17 pro-competitive mobile operators serving over 35 million EU users warns on the damaging effects that the proposed text could have on the European telecoms market. This coalition – uniquely among telecoms industry participants – fully shares the goal to abolish mobile roaming tariffs for users in the European Union. However the latest version of the text proposed by the European Parliament prevents pro-competitive operators from offering attractive ‘roam-like-at-home’ packages to consumers across Europe and entails major risks of distorting the market in favour of the largest mobile operators/groups. Should the text be approved in its current form, it is likely to lead to the disappearance of dynamic smaller players who serve as a force for competition and who are committed to deliver ‘roam-like-at-home’ packages to all European consumers. The current text foresees the end of retail mobile roaming surcharges in the EU by 15 December 2015. A coalition of pro-competitive mobile network operators and virtual mobile operators (H3G, Bite, Fastweb, CoopItalia, PosteMobile and the European Association of Full-MVNOs) is extremely concerned that the text only focuses on the end of ‘retail’ roaming prices without ensuring revision of the corresponding regulated ‘wholesale’ roaming caps (the maximum prices an operator has to pay to the visited network operator when its users are roaming abroad). Successive waves of European regulation have lowered the level of wholesale roaming caps, and it is widely agreed that wholesale roaming caps serve to stimulate lower retail prices. Without any further reduction of wholesale caps, it will be economically impossible for operators to offer ‘roam-like-athome’ (bundles aiming at offering roaming at the same retail price as domestic services) services across the European Union, instead having to rely on overpriced wholesale roaming charges from large mobile operators. The members of the coalition are also concerned about an insertion at the initiative of the European Commission referring to “other arrangements to address wholesale market problems”. This could be used as a Trojan horse for the European Commission to accept or promote roaming alliances between large operators (potentially anticompetitive and harmful to smaller players), or to postpone a review of the level of the wholesale roaming caps which Parliament requires by mid-2015. The consequence of such wording would be to distort the market in favour of the largest mobile operators/groups, undermining the ability of competitive operators to compete equally in the market by offering ‘roamlike-at-home’ packages. The coalition believes that the current text could adversely affect competition in the European telecoms market as it could restrict market players’ ability to compete in the market. As such, we
believe, the European Parliament is at risk of missing an opportunity to effectively abolish roaming in the European Union by ensuring more competition. The approach also entails risks that domestic tariffs for European consumers will increase (roaming might not be subject to surcharges anymore, but the overall level of tariffs would increase, and non-roaming customers might effectively foot the bill for roaming customers). The ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) Committee of the European Parliament is expected to vote on the 18th of March, followed by a plenary vote on the 3rd of April. In summary the coalition: 1) Is NOT against the abolition of retail roaming tariffs 2) But wholesale tariffs should also be reviewed and further reduced 3) Current proposals of the European Parliament regarding this topic constitute a real danger to push our coalition members out of the market Roaming coalition: covers over 35 million users across Europe and represents EAFM members (including Liberty Global (incl. ao. VirginMedia UK), EI Telecom, Intercity Zakelijk, Teleena, Telenet, Transatel, Omea Telecom/VirginMobile and Voiceworks), three Italian MVNOs CoopItalia, FastWeb and PosteMobile but also pro-competitive MNOs such as H3G (IT, UK, AT, IE, SE, DK),Bite Lithuania and Bite Latvia.
European Association of Full MVNOs
Rodolphe Van Nuffel Secretariat firstname.lastname@example.org +32 2 503 22 65
Morgane Taylor Secretariat email@example.com +32 2 503 22 65