Roaming wild by this summer

The GSM Association, which represents more than 690 operators, says the cost of roaming calls in Europe fell by a quarter last year.

The Association ,which is of course lobbying against the EU’s proposed caps on roaming charges, says prices declined to E0.62 a minute last year from E0.83 in 2005 – thus proving that the (unregulated) market is indeed working.

The fall is being driven by a range of innovative tariff plans for ordinary consumers, the Association said. Such deals would become illegal under the European Commission’s proposals.

Meanwhile the EU sounds undeterred by the industry; the legislation to cap roaming charges is on track to be enacted by this summer, according to the Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. “Things are going very smoothly in the right direction.”

Meanwhile O2 UK has extended its My Europe roaming scheme to cover 31 countries. The service abolishes charges for incoming calls regardless of which network the call is received on; outgoing calls are charged at a flat rate of 25p per minute, a 70% discount over O2’s standard roaming rates; it costs an extra £5 a month on a 12-month deal, though there’s also an ad hoc £10 one-month service.

And T-Mobile is to reduce its roaming charges for business travellers by more than half for countries in Europe and North America where it has network coverage. T-Mobile’s data roaming charges will fall from £7.50 per MB to £3 per MB for business travellers in 10 countries. A similar package for consumers is later this year.

“Consumer and business voice roaming rates have already been simplified, and data was the next step,” explained T-Mobile roaming head, Max Miller. “As the costs continue to come down at other overseas operators, we’ll continue to reduce prices for our customers.”