EU Sets Target Price of €0.11 for SMS Roaming

The retail price of text messaging while roaming should initially be capped at close to €0.11 (US$0.17) per message, but then fall toward a long-term goal of around €0.04 per message, the European Commissioner for the Information Society said Tuesday, unveiling plans to regulate the market for mobile phone messaging in Europe.

The price of accessing the Internet via a mobile phone while travelling outside one's home country is also far too high, she said, and warned that price caps for data traffic may also be imposed if mobile operators don't bring prices down by themselves in the coming weeks.

Over the next few months, the Commission will draft a revision to the existing roaming regulation, which covers charges for voice calls, extending it to include precise caps for retail and wholesale SMS (Short Message Service) roaming prices, and possible caps on data roaming prices.

The aim is to propose legislation by early October, get it agreed with national governments by the end of the year, and by the European Parliament in early 2009, so that the revised law can come into effect before next year's summer holidays, Reding said.

"Mobile operators clearly don't have the will to self-regulate," Reding said in a news conference, pointing out that SMS roaming prices have remained static since last October, despite her warnings that she would take action if they didn't cut their prices.

Average roaming prices across the E.U. are €0.29 per SMS, Reding said. The Commission launched an SMS pricing Web site giving a breakdown of pricing for operators across the E.U.

Belgian mobile operator Proximus charges the highest price: €0.75 per SMS while roaming.

Meanwhile, Austria's Mobilkom has what appears to be the best offer: a prepaid package of 100 SMS messages for €10. This price of €0.10 per SMS while roaming is lower than the target figure Reding advised operators to aim at.

She said Mobilkom's offer is exceptional. "This is one operator out of 90 (that made a significant price cut). I'm not impressed at all," she said.

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