Smaller European operators oppose EU roaming directive

A coalition of 14 European mobile operators has warned of the damaging effects that the European Commission’s plans regarding the abolition of roaming charges could have on competition in the region.

The coalition includes Liberty Global, Hutchison Whampoa and a host of smaller mobile operators and MVNOs that together serve over 35 million subscribers. They claim that they do not oppose the goal to abolish mobile roaming tariffs for users in the European Union. However, in regard to plans put forward by the European Commission to end roaming surcharges in the EU, the coalition 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 legislation is now expected to be implemented in December 2015, according to the operators.

The coalition claims that waves of European regulation have forced down the level of wholesale roaming caps and that 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-at-home’ (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 coalition said in a statement.

It is also concerned about an insertion in the text provided by the EC 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 anti-competitive 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 coalition added.

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“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 ‘roam-like-at-home’ packages.”

Joining Liberty Global and H3G in the European coalition are EI Telecom, Intercity Zakelijk, Teleena, Telenet, Transatel, Omea Telecom/VirginMobile, Voiceworks, Bite Lithuania and Bite Latvia as well as Italian MVNOs CoopItalia, FastWeb and PosteMobile.

The Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee of the European Parliament is expected to vote on the text on March 18th 2014, followed by a plenary vote on the April 3rd 2014.

In January this year, the European Commission told that the legislation on European roaming charges would be delayed, but at the time was hopeful it would be introduced in September or October 2014, rather than July as originally planned.

“We won’t have the sign off from the national governments of the EU member states in July,” an EC spokesman told to “It’ll certainly be in 2014, but it’s much more likely we’ll see it finalised in September and October.”

The spokesman said that the EC is confident that the package will remain intact structurally but admitted that it is likely that there will be some compromises made on its way to gaining approval from EU committees and member state governments.

“It won’t look exactly how we wrote it, but we’re confident that it will stay roughly together the way we wanted it and that we’ll get it finished by October,” he said.

“We’re not too concerned if that’s a little bit delayed, what matters is that we get the final agreement and we’re on track to do that in September.”

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