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EU roaming market: competition remains underwhelming

Quarterly Mobile Monitoring Service – Western Europe
Published: 2013-10-31

In the hopes of decreasing mobile roaming rates within the EU countries and creating competition in the mobile roaming market, the European Commission (EC) introduced several measures from price regulation to structural changes. Since 2007, prices per minute for outgoing and for incoming calls were reduced by 51% (€0.49/min to €0.24/min) and 71% (€0.24/min to €0.07/min) respectively. On the other hand, SMS rate was reduced from €0.11/SMS in 2009 to €0.08/SMS as of July this year. Finally, per MB of data was down to €0.45/MB from €0.70/MB last year. EC also introduced the concept of alternative roaming providers (ARPs) to encourage a wider range of players in entering the mobile roaming market.

In general, operators comply with the regulation through different roaming offers. Most common offer among EU mobile operators is the “Like Home” service where subscribers use their domestic rate when roaming in any EU country. Other operators offer tiered bundles of capped SMS, call, and data like Orange Switzerland’s Travel Pack 10, 50, and 200; the numbers denote the set cap for each pack, say, if you choose Travel pack 10 you are entitled of 10 call minutes, 10 SMS, and 10 mobile data allowance. Others take advantage of their sub-regional affiliation in offering roaming tariffs like Globul Bulgaria’s Travel Balkan package which gives subscribers discounted rate when they travel to Balkan countries. Lastly, growth in mobile Internet usage – thanks to the popularity of smartphones and tablets - encouraged data roaming only offers like Three UK’s unlimited mobile data. However, these offers reflect mere compliance rather than competition. As per BEREC’s (Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications) investigation, operators’ roaming rates in general have played only a little lower if not equal to the regulated price. Additionally, recent amendment to the EC’s roaming regulation suggests that operators with “Like Home” offers could have immunity from opening their roaming services to ARPs. This may thwart competition as subscribers lose the option to switch to ARPs that could make investments to ARPs less attractive for the operators.

Published: 2013-10-31

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