The scandal of mobile phone roaming charges, attacked by the EU Commissioner last year, is apparently coming to an end. But the price cuts are too small, come too late and are, at this moment, limited to one multinational operator, Vodafone.
The FT, May 9:
The threat of EU legislation has spurred Vodafone into slashing the cost of using a mobile phone abroad as the world's largest mobile phone operator confirmed on Monday that it planned to reduce roaming charges in Europe by 40 per cent.
Vodafone, the world's largest mobile phone operator, said on Monday that it planned to cut the cost of roaming by at least 40 per cent by April next year, with the average cost falling from €0.90 to less than €0.55 a minute.April 2007 is too late. Why not introduce them immediately? The reduction is only for calls between Vodafone nets and affiliates. It is not always possible for a Vodafone clitravelingling in a foreign country, to join the right network. And the price cut is too small: relative costs for calls between national networks are not 5 to 10 times higher than for calls within those networks.
But, after complaining, let us greet this symbolic breakthrough, congratulate the European Commission, while encouraging it to go forward and impose objective prices, taking into account the problems of inhabitants of smaller European countries, who are among the main victims of this roaming charges robbery. (See my previous post in At Home in Europe: EU roaming charges: Reduction overdue!)
And now: The UMTS roaming charges...
I belong to the growing category of Eurotravelers, who use daily their portable computer (or blackberry) to access the internet via UMTS cableless services. "Hotspots" galore. But the Vodafone emitter-receiver card is only an affordable help ... in your own country. Where normally your ADSL main desktop computers are also located. As soon as you cross the borders, access to these UMTS hotspots becomes very expensive (charges of €20,- an hour!), even if you get a slight rebate as a foreign Vodafone client. Clients of other networksevene ven more charged and have to use code-cards that do not work or charge their creditcards via complicated transactions.
This is absolutely unnecessary! And there is no relation, whatsoever, to the extra costs, UMTS providers have to make for foreign clients. It is true, corporations with an enterprise network (intranet) get big reductions for their internet communication traveling agents. Blackberries are even thoroughly conceived for this kind of use. But the independent small entrepreneur is unable to profit from those arrangements.
If we were, finally, to take seriously the 2000 Lisbon objectives, a liberalisation of these communication systems, is long overdue.
It is spiteful, that the EU, in attributing the licenses to countries and imposing on them to sell them all to private companies, has not reserved a single all-European UMTS network, to weigh upon the private beneficiaries in order to discipline their behaviour on transnational transactions, like it has done for transnational banking charges after the introduction of the euro.
Link: FT.com / By industry / Telecoms - Vodafone to slash mobile roaming charges [Open source]