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3 wants EU to regulate data roaming charges

Mobile operator disagrees with GSM Association

Mobile operator 3 says it wants the EU to regulate the mobile-data roaming charges.

When Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for information society and media, announced she was considering regulating mobile-data roaming pricing, industry organisation the GSM Association claimed regulation wasn't necessary since operators were already lowering prices. It also said that taking steps to improve transparency and that regulation, would in fact, jeopardise the future of mobile broadband.

But 3 thinks the opposite is true, that regulation is necessary for future growth. Today, most carriers are perfectly content charging a few customers a lot, instead of charging many users less, according to William Pedder, director of corporate affairs at Hutchison Whampoa (Europe), which owns all of or a majority of 3 in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Austria and Scandinavia.

"The situation is absurd, operators are actually preventing subscribers from using their own service by charging extortionate amounts for data roaming," said Pedder.

3 isn't in favour of regulating all aspects of the market, only the wholesale part, which is what operators charge each other. If you regulate that part of the roaming market, the rest would fall into place, according to Pedder.

3 thinks a fair wholesale price would be €0.25/mb downloaded . Earlier this year it signed a deal with Dutch operator KPN, which also owns BASE in Belgium and E-Plus in Germany, to charge each other that amount.

"Operators could charge 25c (20p) and still make a profit, since the actual cost is significantly below that, said Pedder.

Today, end users in Europe pay between €0.25 and €16 per megabyte, according to the European Commission.

Pedder questions if there is a political will in the EU to regulate the mobile-data roaming market, but at the same time he thinks more cases of bill shock will change that, and encourages users to put pressure on local politicians.

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