Final obstacle to ‘free’ EU roaming overcome

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The process of getting rid of mobile roaming surcharges across Europe for European subscribers has been given the all-clear by the European Council.

As if a decade of bureaucratic procrastination wasn’t enough, the European Commission still had to wait a few months for the European Council to give it the nod before the abolition of roaming charges was official.

“Today’s final vote in the Council clears the path for free roaming,” said Dr Emmanuel Mallia, the Maltese Minister for Competitiveness and Digital, Maritime and Services Economy, who is apparently the authority on things like this. “When Europeans go on holiday this summer, they can enjoy the freedom of being able to stay in touch and use the internet as if they were at home. The EU is making our lives easier in very practical ways.”

This development has been feted as emblematic of how much better all European lives are under the benign dictatorship of the EU/EC/countless other European bodies. The phrase ‘roam like at home’ is being chanted with religious fervour but It’s not strictly accurate, since there will still be roaming charges, especially for data, but capped at a much lower rate than has historically been the case.

In other EC telecoms news the Commission announced it conducted unannounced inspections of ‘companies active in the mobile telecommunications sector in Sweden’ for alleged anti-competitive behaviour. Telia, Telenor, Tele2 and 3 Sweden all confirmed on their press sites they had been visited and made brief statements on how cooperative they intend to be.

“The Commission has concerns that Swedish mobile network operators may have engaged in anti-competitive conduct preventing entry into the consumer segment of the Swedish mobile telecommunications market, in breach of EU antitrust rules (Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union),” said the EC statement.

Reading between the lines the EC seems to suspect the four Swedish MNOs of collaborating to make it difficult for a fifth to enter the market. The suspicions may prove unfounded, and it’s hard to see why anyone would want to go up against four established incumbents, but if they are found guilty the consequences could be dire.

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