Roaming debate rolls on

The story of EU roaming rates continues, with the GSM Association publishing a formal response to the EC’s consultation process. The GSMA asserts: “…implementation of the Commission’s home pricing principle could see operators facing a situation where they are offering outbound roaming services at up to 19 percent below cost.”

In a press release, the GSMA also picks up on the recent announcement by major European operators such as Vodafone and T-Mobile that they would cut roaming prices through a range of initiatives by as much as 40%. Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association, said: “The European Commission’s draconian proposals run the risk of limiting access to roaming and reversing the steady and significant declines in the price of domestic and international voice calls that have occurred over the past decade. Roaming tariffs are falling rapidly. Competition, not regulation, is the way to deliver lower retail prices.?

The industry certainly does seem to be making efforts to bring roaming prices down, but they are only doing so because the very real threat of effective regulation looms. However, from a customer experience point of view, none of the proposals I have seen make much progress towards one of the key issues in this debate – simplifying tariffs for consumers. Price, of course, is a major issue, but the average consumer also has virtually no knowledge of what they’re going to be charged when they’re using their mobile abroad. If anything the operators’ proposals for bringing down prices look set to cause more consumer complexity by requiring subscriptions to new price plan options, such as Vodafone’s Passport.

I firmly believe there is a huge opportunity for a major European operator to score a marketing victory, recruit a significant number of high-spending new customers and dramatically increase usage of voice and data services while abroad. To do so, they should simply provide a flat-rate tariff which works across all the European territories where they own or have partner networks. Make location irrelevant. Wherever you are in the EU, you can use voice or data confident in the knowledge that you won’t be charged on the basis of your location – you’ll pay the same price, have access to the same bundles of free minutes and texts as if you were standing outside your own front door. Isn’t that what cutting the wires was supposed be about in the first place?

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    One year later and except for Three’s action to abolish roaming charges when customers roam to sister networks abroad, not a lot has happened. I still pay €1.50 per minute when I roam. I wonder how the GSMA statement “Roaming tariffs are falling rapidly” and reality should fit together!?

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