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MOBILE TELEPHONY : 3 GROUP WANTS TO EXTEND ROAMING PRICE CONTROLS.

Some third generation (3G) multimedia mobile broadband telecommunications operators would like to see the proposal for a regulation on roaming tariffs extended to cover new multimedia services as well as text messages (SMS).

The 3 Group telecoms company, made up of operators active in the 3G market in six EU countries (Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Sweden and the UK) wants the EU to make 'drastic' cuts to wholesale roaming prices (billed between operators). a'There are operators who still see roaming as a top of the range service, and it is therefore obvious that traditional operators are creating significant margins,' said Christian Salbaing, the deputy chairman of Hutchison Europe, owner of 3G.

The proposal, presented by Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding on 12 July, and now in the hands of the Parliament and the Council, aims at lowering the price of calls made or received on a mobile telephone while abroad. For text (SMS) and multimedia messaging services (MMS), the Commission prefers to invite national regulators to keep a close watch on changes in roaming prices.

During a meeting between the commissioner and members of the Industry and Research Committee of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 26 September, Alexander Alvaro (ALDE, Germany) asked whether SMS and e-mail messages sent via mobile telephones could be included in the proposal (see Europolitics 3158).

In order for their argument to carry more weight, the 3 Group recently addressed a letter to MEPs demanding a ceiling on wholesale prices of 0.25 per minute compared with the current average rate of 0.90 per minute.

But, following the lead of other operators, the 3 Group wants to see the draft regulation on retail prices dropped. 'In my opinion its not necessary,' argued Mr Salbaing, claiming that it should be replaced by adequate market competitiveness to keep consumer bills down.

And yet, explained Salbaing, this argument should apply to SMS and digital data. Firstly because SMS cost very very little (his group has proposed setting the maximum wholesale price at 0.05) and secondly because, in the case of digital data, wholesale prices could be more than 10 per megabyte, he explained. As a result, downloading a piece of music cross border could cost the operator more than 20. The letter to MEPs effectively says that these prices are preventing new operators from being able to offer these new services at attractive prices.

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Title Annotation:Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Sweden and the UK
Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Oct 30, 2006
Words:400
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