With networks that typically span the whole country and plans that generally shield U.S. mobile phone users from paying extra roaming fees these days, being outside of your provider's reach isn't much of a problem on this side of the Atlantic (though there may be some changes afoot here, too). In Europe, though, where users travel between different countries on a regular basis, roaming fees can add up quickly. Now, the European Commission wants to cut the fees that telecom operators can charge. According to Reuters, the EU Parliament wants to reduce the rates telecom companies can charge to an even lower point than EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes proposed last year.
"The charge for a one-minute outgoing call when abroad", says Reuters, "would be 15 cents compared with Kroes's plan for a one-third cut to 24 cents. The cost of surfing the Internet would be slashed to 20 cents per megabyte from 50 cents."
Currently, the caps for roaming charges are 35 cents for outgoing calls and 11 cents for incoming calls. The new proposal would also cap the rates for Internet usage to about 20 cents per megabyte.
Unsurprisingly, the telecom industry is currently lobbying for smaller rate cuts while the EU Parliament is working on reconciling Kroes' and the parliament's proposal.
Kroes' proposal also includes a provision for 'decoupling,' which would allow consumers to switch providers when they cross the border. This would make international travel a lot easier (and cheaper) for Europeans and completely circumvent the roaming problem in the first place.
This is good news, but another problem with roaming is that it's not unusual to move through coverage zones for several operators in a short period of time. For data roaming and some operator's bulk rates, it's easy to run up several charges for 24 hour access on the same day, for example. There's a great opportunity there.