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Kroes wants to abolish roaming charges but not national regulators

Neelie Kroes urged for unity in the European telecoms sector in final keynote

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has expanded on her plans to create a single telecoms market within the EU and has confirmed that she does not want to get rid of national regulators.

The European Commissioner for Digital Agenda and VP of the European Commission noted that the EU has already taken action on mobile roaming by removing barriers, making prices fairer, and introducing choice. However, she wants to develop quick solutions that further build on what has already been achieved and to abolish roaming charges altogether.

“I don’t want to needlessly centralise into new institutions,” she said in a speech published Monday. “I don’t want to grab powers or rights “just because”. Even if that were desirable, and even if ultimately successful, it would take too long to achieve, by which time it might anyway be out of date.”

She said that instead she wants to review all the barriers the telecoms market currently faces and bring them down “pragmatically, achievably and fast”, arguing that the EU economy “cannot afford to wait”.

Kroes added that the European Commission is sourcing the ideas of those working in the industry, and that the EC wants to be transparent and open about its plans.

According to Kroes, operators find it too hard to break into new markets as they need separate authorisations under separate systems for each country of operation.

“A “passport” would mean that if you can operate in one member state, you can operate in any member state without extra bureaucracy; just like in other sectors that enjoy the single market boost, from banking to broadcasting,” she said.

“But to travel across borders, you don’t just need a passport: you need a road. The same goes for telecoms: you need a network. We will make it easier to run a network across borders, with better interconnections and new access products.”

Kroes also said that “the spectrum map of Europe is so uncoordinated, it looks like a plate of spaghetti” and that handset makers largely ignore the European market when planning the launches of their new devices. This makes it harder to plan and bid across borders: when each country’s auction or sale takes place at different times, under different conditions, she added.

Operators shouldn’t have to deal with a mess of different rules, regulators and remedies in each member state either, Kroes argued.

“And we should have consistent rules to safeguard the open internet, so bright ideas don’t get blocked or throttled. But without banning premium services – so the sector can innovate to provide new ideas, and consumers have the chance to enjoy something extra.”

Instead of worrying about a predicted two per cent drop in revenue as a result of roaming charges being abolished, smart telcos will look hard at the opportunities presented by a customer base that’s far more willing to use their phone abroad, according to Adhish Kulkarni, CMO at mobile marketing firm Lumata. He believes that consumers are now more likely to buy additional bundles to use apps, surf the mobile web, or call and text when abroad.

“Operators could also explore new revenue sources by providing additional services through local partners,” he said. “It’s when significant market or legislative changes take place that operator’s investments in loyalty marketing pay off. Not just because customers are more likely to trust or stick with you, but because you have another important and valid reason to talk to them, as well as an established channel through which to do so.”


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