In its slow but steady battle against the preposterous roaming charges forced upon consumers who travel around the European Union, the EC has announced its latest major breakthroughs: SMS & data.
Touted for cuts for more than a year, this pesky duo will now be capped at 0.11 euros (9p) for sent SMS - down from a 0.29 euro average - and one euro per megabyte (83p) for data - a potential reduction of almost 10x the current EU average. A proposal is also in place to cut connections if a user's data costs top 50 euros (£41) with all changes coming into force from 27 July 2009.
"The real cost of transmitting an SMS on roaming is less than one cent," said EC Commissioner Viviane Reding (pictured) stamping on the whining from greedy telcos. "I believe there is ample room between one cent and 11 cents which is the ceiling which will be fixed... Operators will be able to provide 25 to 50 cents per megabyte and we set one euro per megabyte. Operators have plenty of margin."
Too right, if only we could all enjoy such gargantuan percentages...
Then again, with horror stories of £30,000+ roaming bills why has this taken so long? Well, it all comes down to the good faith/naivety of the EC in giving telcos the option to voluntarily cut roaming costs. "I call on operators to deal with the problem of high prices for text messages and data," Reding proclaimed in October 2007. If they failed to act (just as they had with requests for voluntary reductions to roaming call rates) an enforced cap would be introduced.
Guess what? Once again operators milked it until the last minute and now that flat rate reduction has been passed.
Yes, the ruling does mark a promising step forward but I still believe it doesn't go nearly far enough - particularly with regards to data. After all, telcos are forever trying to get us to use services such as web browsing and email then they employ roaming prices which can only be described as pure lunacy.
That said, expect to hear your local network provider taking the moral high ground over the next few months as they declare their wide eyed joy at being able to provide you with cheaper SMS and data roaming costs - just remember: don't believe a word of it...
EC Roaming Declaration (Initial draft)