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Cost of roaming texts, calls and data services to fall from 1 July - briefing

22 April 2009
by eub2 -- last modified 23 April 2009

A text message sent from abroad in the EU will cost no more than EUR 0.11 as of 1 July, instead of EUR 0.28 today. The times when consumers had to expect "bill shocks" for downloading a picture or a movie with a mobile phone while roaming in the EU are over. The European Parliament, in its plenary session in Strasbourg, today voted by a large majority in favour of new EU rules on SMS and data roaming, proposed by the European Commission in September 2008. The Parliament also voted for further cuts in the price of mobile phone calls while roaming in another EU country. The present cap for a mobile phone call made abroad will progressively drop from EUR 0.46 to EUR 0.35 per minute by July 2011, and from EUR 0.22 today to EUR 0.11 for mobile calls received while roaming abroad. Mobile operators will also be required to bill roaming calls by the second from the 31st second at the latest, which will end the current practice under which consumers are overcharged by up to 24%. As the Council of EU Telecoms Ministers has already signalled its agreement with the new roaming rules, today's vote paves the way for an entry into force of the new rules just in time for the summer holidays. European consumers are expected to save up to 60% on their bill for using a mobile phone abroad in the EU.


The new EU roaming rules endorsed by the Parliament today will:

  • cap the price that consumers can be charged for sending a text message while abroad at €0.11 (excluding VAT), compared to a current average of €0.28 (with prices per roamed SMS above €0.35 in the Netherlands and in Portugal).
  • substantially reduce data roaming charges (the cost of surfing the web or downloading movies with a mobile phone while abroad) by introducing a wholesale cap of €1 per megabyte downloaded, compared to an average wholesale price of € 1.68 per megabyte, with peaks in Ireland (€6.82), Greece (€5.30) and in Estonia (€5.10). The wholesale cap will fall to €0.80 in 2010 and to €0.50 in 2011.
  • protect consumers from "bill shocks" by allowing customers to choose a cut-off mechanism once the bill reaches €50, unless the consumer opts for a higher limit. Operators will have until March 2010 to put these transparency measures in place. Recently, a German consumer who downloaded a TV programme while roaming in France was faced with a bill of €46,000.
  • further reduce price caps for mobile roaming calls. Now at €0.46 for calls made and €0.22 for calls received abroad, the caps will go down to €0.43 for calls made and €0.19 for calls received abroad on 1 July 2009, to €0.39 and €0.15 on 1 July 2010 and to €0.35 and €0.11 by 1 July 2011 (all prices per minute, excluding VAT).
  • introduce the principle of per-second billing after the first 30 seconds for roamed calls made and from the first second for calls received while abroad. At present, consumers are paying around 20% more than the time they actually consume when making or receiving calls.

Following today's Parliament vote, the new EU Roaming Regulation will become directly applicable law throughout all 27 EU Member States on 1 July 2009.

The new roaming rules, which add to a first EU regulation on voice roaming adopted in 2007, will apply until summer 2012. The European Parliament has asked the Commission to report on the functioning of the new rules again by summer 2010. The Commission could then propose further rules, if required, by the end of June 2011. "The development of the roaming market will be kept under close EU scrutiny over the next three years", said Commissioner Reding. "I very much hope that the mobile industry will understand this message. The ball is now in their court if they want to show that there can be healthy competition in the roaming market. The best proof of this would be if attractive voice and data roaming packages appear on the market very soon.”


Since the present European Commission took office, the use of mobile telephony in the EU grew from 84.6% to 119% of the population.

The EU's telecoms market counts 500 million potential users of fixed and mobile telephony, Internet broadband and mobile data services. To solve structural problems of competition and regulatory consistency within this market and to stimulate new investment, the European Parliament, in its May plenary session, is expected to vote on a major reform of the EU's telecoms rules initiated by the Commission in November 2007. The new rules include the establishment of a European Telecoms Regulator called "BEREC" (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) by January 2010.

For an overview of current roaming tariffs per country in the EU, see The EU Roaming Website


The new EU Roaming Rules in detail

1) SMS roaming

a) The situation today

Retail average SMS prices

b) The new EU rules on SMS roaming:

Maximum retail price allowed per SMS sent while roaming abroad in the EU (excluding VAT)

1 July 2009
1 July 2010
1 July 2011

2) Data roaming

The new EU rules on data roaming (2009)

Wholesale cap per megabyte of data transmitted while roaming abroad,

1 July 2009
1 July 2010
1 July 2011

3) Voice roaming

The situation under the EU roaming rules 2007

b) Retail cap for mobile roaming charges ("Eurotariff"),
excluding VAT
(last column now superseded by new EU roaming rules 2009

30 August 2007

30 August 2008

30 August 2009
Eurotariff for
calls made from abroad



Eurotariff for
calls received whilst abroad




c) The new EU roaming rules on voice roaming (2009)

Retail cap for mobile roaming charges ("Eurotariff"),
excluding VAT
(first column advances entry into force of caps foreseen
by EU roaming rules 2007)

1 July 2009

1 July 2010

1 July 2011
Eurotariff for calls made from abroad
Eurotariff for calls received whilst abroad

Source: European Commission

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