End of roaming charges: Council confirms agreement with EP
Another step in ending mobile roaming charges was taken on 8 July 2015, when member states at the Permanent Representatives Committee approved the deal with the European Parliament. The new law will also include the first EU-wide rules to safeguard open internet access, also known as net neutrality.
End of roaming fees in mid-2017
Under the agreement, roaming surcharges in the European Union will be abolished as of 15 June 2017. However, roaming providers will be able to apply a 'fair use policy' to prevent abusive use of roaming. This will include using roaming services for purposes other than periodic travel.
For roaming that goes beyond fair use, a small fee may be charged. This fee cannot be higher than the maximum wholesale rate that operators pay for using the networks of other EU countries. The limit for fair use will be defined by the Commission by 15 December 2016.
To make the end of roaming charges sustainable throughout the EU, the current wholesale rates need to be brought down. To achieve this, the Commission will be mandated to review the wholesale roaming market and propose a new law by 15 June 2016. In addition, safeguards will be introduced to address the recovery of costs by operators.
Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg's Prime Minister and Minister for Communications and the Media and President of the Council, said: "The agreement on abolishing roaming by June 2017 shows that the European Union can bring concrete benefits to European citizens. Europe can deliver."
Cheaper roaming already in 2016
Roaming fees will already come down on 30 April 2016. The maximum surcharge will then be €0.05 per minute for calls, €0.02 for texts and €0.05 per megabyte for data. These amounts correspond to the current maximum wholesale rates. For calls received, the maximum surcharge will be the weighted average of maximum mobile termination rates across the EU, to be set out by the Commission by the end of 2015.
The current EU roaming retail caps refer to what operators can charge their customers. In other words, they cover the domestic price plus the surcharge. Also after 30 April 2016, the sum of the domestic price and any surcharge cannot in any case be higher than the current retail caps (€0.19 per minute for calls, €0.06 for texts and €0.20 per megabyte of data).
Protecting open internet
For the first time, an EU law will stipulate that operators will have to treat all traffic equally when providing internet access services. The text also enshrines the principle of users' right to access and distribute content of their choice on the internet.
Operators may use reasonable traffic management measures to keep the internet running. Such measures are to be based on objective technical requirements, not on commercial considerations. Blocking or throttling will be allowed only in a limited number of circumstances, for instance to counter a cyber-attack or deal with exceptional or temporary traffic congestion.
Agreements on services optimised for specific content will be allowed where optimisation is necessary, but operators will have to ensure the general quality of internet access services. Such specialised services include for example telesurgery and connected cars.
The open internet rules will be applicable from 30 April 2016, which is the overall date of application of the new regulation.
"Enshrining the principle of safeguarding the open internet in EU legislation is no less than a historic step," Prime Minister Bettel said. "We preserve the possibility for innovation to happen. This is a future-proof agreement."
How will this become a law?
The agreed text will undergo technical finalisation. It then needs to be formally approved by the Council and the Parliament. The Council is expected to formally adopt it in the autumn 2015. This does not need to take place in the Telecom Council: any Council configuration has the power to adopt the legal act.
The regulation will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal.