Despite challenging economic conditions in light of weakening GDP growth – largely as a result of declining exports such as in the Czech Republic or domestic issues like droughts in Romania and Hungary, mobile voice traffic in Eastern Europe grew by an average of about 5% from 2011 to 2012, compared to 3% in Western Europe over the same period. On a country level, Estonia and Bulgaria showed the highest growth at around 12% and 10%, respectively. The Czech Republic showed an 8% increase in traffic volume, followed closely by Poland and then Slovakia with 7%. Meanwhile Hungary, Romania and Slovenia barely registered any significant growth whereas Latvia marginally declined. Compared to previous years however – in which Eastern Europe showed over 13% yearly growth – there is a noticeable decline in growth across the region, reflecting the general economic environment as well as saturation levels.
Despite the lack of uniformity in the implementation of the EC directive No. 531/2012 on the national levels across Eastern Europe, the implications of the regulation are already beginning to take effect. In the longer-term, it should help streamline prices across borders to the benefit of consumers while fostering greater communication and competition across an integrated European market. However, this may come to some countries faster than in others due to the different pace at which it is being implemented. Whether it will eventually lead to a situation where roaming charges will be phased out altogether remains to be seen.