A year after the European Commission stepped in to introduce the Eurotariff, limiting the cost of overseas (roaming) call charges for European consumers, T-Mobile have announced they are slashing the cost of mobile internet (data roaming) charges by 80% from £7.50 per megabyte to just £1.50. In addition, they are also set to reduce the cost of text messaging from 40p to 25p. This follows O2’s announcement earlier this year that they would be substantially cutting the cost of mobile data charges to their Pay/Go customers.
Although the Eurotariff for overseas call charges did not affect the cost of texting and mobile web browsing when it was initially introduced, network operators have been under continued pressure from both Brussels and Ofcom, the UK’s telecoms regulator, to reduce their charges in other areas. For example, the cost of sending a text message in the UK costs an average of 5.6p compared with 21p overseas, despite there being little additional cost to the network provider. Ofcom are also lobbying the operators to stop the unfair practice of charging consumers a full minute of roaming for what may only be a 20 second conversation.
The European Commission, spearheaded by Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information, Society and Media has also pushed for the introduction of an “EU roaming package”, allowing consumers to download data across Europe for effectively the same price as they could in the UK.
Earlier this year, a July 1 2008 deadline was imposed for voluntary reductions in data roaming charges, with the threat of further European regulation in the form of price caps if that deadline was not met. But with only O2, Orange and T-Mobile having announced price cuts, and a good deal of resistance from the industry in general, it looks inevitable that Europe will be forced to step in once again.