Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ovum: Commission still plans to regulate roaming despite operators' price cuts

Jeremy Green at Ovum writes that the recent "agreement by six European mobile operators to cut their wholesale roaming tariffs - the rates that the operators charge each other for allowing visiting customers to use their networks - seems to have done little to satiate the European Commission's appetite for regulatory intervention."

Green writes that "the six operators - T-Mobile, Orange, Telecom Italia, Wind, TeliaSonera and Telenor - announced on 1 June that they would all be cutting wholesale roaming tariffs to €0.45 per minute. Delightfully, the reductions are not due to come into force until October, presumably because that is how long it will take the operators to change the relevant entries in their rating tables."

Green points out that the "proposed future wholesale price of €0.45 is coincidentally the same as that announced by Vodafone early in May. Vodafone's wholesale price reductions are intended to come into force no later than April 2007. Hutchison Whampoa, parent of several 3G operators around the world, has called for a reduction of wholesale tariffs to €0.25. Given its limited coverage, the group is almost certainly a net buyer of wholesale roaming services."

Green then states the:

move seems to have cut little ice with the European Commission. A spokesperson for the Commission said that the price cuts merely demonstrated that the operators' earlier claims that there was no scope for reductions were wrong. Commissioner Viviane Reding insists that she will press ahead with plans to regulate retail roaming rates; Reding has said that roaming should be no more expensive than domestic calls, a principle vigorously opposed by mobile operators.