Paris, France, June 15 – The European Union rang in the end of cross-border roaming charges for mobile phone users in the 28-nation bloc on Thursday, hailing it as “one of (its) greatest and most tangible successes”.
The move, more than a decade in the making, comes in time for the summer holidays when millions of Europeans will be on the move, and is a public relations success at a time when the EU is under pressure from Brexit and other problems.
The EU “is about bringing people together and making their lives easier. The end of roaming charges is a true European success story,” said European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.
“From now on, citizens who travel within the EU will be able to call, text and connect on their mobile devices at the same price as they pay at home. Eliminating roaming charges is one of the greatest and most tangible successes of the EU.”
It remains to be seen whether Britons will continue to enjoy same-cost mobile calls and data downloads in Europe after Britain’s departure from the EU, negotiations for which are due to start next week.
But the existence of roaming charges – an important source of revenue for telecoms companies – was long seen as a “market failure” by Brussels.
“Each time a European citizen crossed an EU border, be it for holidays, work, studies or just for a day, they had to worry about using their mobile phones and a high phone bill from the roaming charges when they came home,” Juncker said.
“Roaming charges will now be a thing of the past.”
Juncker noted the abolition of the practice had “been a long time coming, with many actors involved”.
Nevertheless, “by working closely together, the European Union has delivered a concrete, positive result for European citizens”.
Brussels estimates the end of roaming fees will cost European telecom operators 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion).
But the share of revenues from roaming charges already significantly declined in recent years as charges for calls and text messages dropped 90 percent since 2007 and data charges declined 96 percent since 2012 under EU regulations.
Data traffic, meanwhile, has grown 100-fold, according to the EU.