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Reding turns attention to SMS, data roaming

It looks like EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding is turning her regulatory eye onto SMS and data roaming services, following the first benchmark report on international roaming by the European Regulators’ Group.

The report confirms that implementation of the roaming regulation has generally gone smoothly and consumers are paying less for calls made and received overseas.

However, Reding said that the report also highlights that prices for SMS and data roaming services, which are currently not regulated, “remain high with a very diverse pattern across Member States.”

The Commissioner said that a decision would be made by the end of this year on whether the charges for these services also need to be regulated.

Perhaps in anticipation of regulation, Spanish carrier Telefonica, which owns the O2 group of companies, proposed to cut the cost of mobile data services when roaming by as much as 40 per cent earlier this week.

Consumers in Spain, the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic will benefit from a range of new data roaming tariffs aimed at those travelling within Europe ahead of the summer holiday season in July.

“This initial ERG report published today confirms the general trend towards lower roaming prices but it would be premature to draw firm conclusions at this stage,” said Reding. “However, on the basis of the figures in the report, I remain concerned about prices for SMS and data roaming services. We will watch developments very closely and respond appropriately by the end of 2008.”

The ERG Report covers the six months from April to September 2007 and includes data from 150 mobile providers in all Member States. But while the Commission welcomes the fact that operators have not tried to compensate for the effects of the Roaming Regulation by increasing prices for non-regulated roaming calls, the authority expressed concern that customers are being charged on a per minute basis instead of for the actual time of the call.

This is an element that will also be considered for regulation by year end.

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