If you're traveling between countries in the European Union, there's good news for your wallet: it won't be quite so thoroughly mugged by international roaming charges starting today. After a vote by the European Commission last month, wireless roaming charges for text, data, and voice usage are being forcibly reduced across its 28 member states. Today's policy change will lower maximum roaming charges to 45 European cents per megabyte, 24 cents per outgoing call minute, 7 cents per received call minute, and 8 cents for a text message, plus value-added tax in all cases. Data gets the most dramatic reduction, with an average savings of 36% over last year.
But wait, that's not all! Sometime next year, the regulatory policy will be expanded, with the aim of eventually removing international roaming charges completely (within the EU only, of course). Telecom corporations aren't exactly thrilled at the changes, but they don't have a lot of say in the matter. Other telecom policies which are sometimes considered anti-consumer, such as contract-sustaining early termination fees, will not be altered for the time being. The initial report from the EU predicted at 2% drop in initial revenue after the change, followed by increased revenue as travellers shift their usage patterns in response to less abusive roaming policies.
If you're traveling to the European Union from the United States or any other country, the new policy doesn't apply to you or your domestic wireless carrier. Picking up a prepaid SIM card or burner phone while in the EU is probably still your best bet for cost-efficient mobile access.
New lower price caps for mobile roaming from 1 July: data 36% cheaper; roaming in Croatia 15 times cheaper
From 1 July 2013, the European Union's Roaming Regulation will lower the price caps for data downloads by 36%, making it much cheaper to use maps, watch videos, check emails and update social networks while travelling across the EU. Data roaming will now be up to 91% cheaper in 2013 compared to 2007. During this period the volume of the data roaming market has grown 630%. These two trends mean both consumers and mobile operators have significant new opportunities thanks to EU efforts.
The EU has achieved retail price reductions across calls, SMS and data of over 80% since 2007.
Each year, Europeans make several million visits to Croatia, which joins the EU on 1 July. This year visitors to Croatia will enjoy spectacular savings as the cost for data decreases almost 15 times and sending a SMS or making a phone call elsewhere in the EU will be 10 times cheaper.
Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "The EU has to be relevant to people’s lives. The latest price cuts put more money in your pocket for summer, and are a critical step towards getting rid of these premiums once and for all. This is good for both consumers and companies, because it takes fear out of the market, and it grows the market.
The new prices caps, which enter into force on 1st July 2013, are:
Downloading data or browsing the Internet - 45 cents / Megabyte (MB) (charged per Kilobyte used) + VAT. (36% reduction compared to 2012)
Making calls - 24 cents / minute + VAT (17% reduction compared to 2012)
Receiving a call - 7 cents / minute + VAT (12.5% reduction compared to 2012)
Sending a text message - 8 cents + VAT (11% reduction compared to 2012)
Operators are free to offer cheaper rates, and some have already begun to remove roaming premiums altogether for voice and SMS, or offer a roaming-free area region across one section of Europe or another.